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100 Years of Olympic Films, 22: Los Angeles 1984
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.37:1 Standard
  • English PCM Stereo
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • None

100 Years of Olympic Films, 22: Los Angeles 1984

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Bud Greenspan
1986 | 284 Minutes | Licensor: International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $399.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: December 5, 2017
Review Date: February 25, 2019

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SYNOPSIS

Spanning fifty-three movies and forty-one editions of supplement_home_videothe Olympic Games, 100 Years of Olympic Films: 1912–2012 is the culmination of a monumental, award-winning archival project encompassing dozens of new restorations by the International Olympic Committee. The documentaries collected here cast a cinematic eye on some of the most iconic moments in the history of modern sports, spotlighting athletes who embody the Olympic motto of “Faster, Higher, Stronger”: Jesse Owens shattering world records on the track in 1936 Berlin, Jean-Claude Killy dominating the Grenoble slopes in 1968, Joan Benoit breaking away to win the Games’ first women’s marathon in Los Angeles in 1984. In addition to the impressive ten-feature contribution of Bud Greenspan, this stirring collective chronicle of triumph and defeat includes such documentary landmarks as Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia and Kon Ichikawa’s Tokyo Olympiad, along with captivating lesser-known works by major directors like Claude Lelouch, Carlos Saura, and Miloš Forman. It also offers a fascinating glimpse of the development of film itself, and of the technological progress that has brought viewers ever closer to the action. Traversing continents and decades, reflecting the social, cultural, and political changes that have shaped our recent history, this remarkable movie marathon showcases a hundred years of human endeavor.


PICTURE

Moving on through the set, slowly but surely…

The 22nd dual-layer disc in Criterion’s 32-disc Blu-ray box set 100 Years of Olympic Films presents Bud Greenspan’s 16 Days of Glory in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The 4K restoration comes from the 35mm original negative and has been encoded here at 1080p/24hz.

The length of the film (shy of 5-hours), and Criterion’s insistence on cramming it all onto one disc, plays a little into the shortcomings of what is otherwise a nice-looking restoration. The restoration is, like most other films in the set, shockingly thorough. Not once do I recall a single blemish, outside of archival material that appears sporadically throughout (film footage of Jesse Owens from the 1936 Berlin games, along with video footage from previous years), and the image is always stable, no jumping and no pulsing present. It’s a shockingly colourful film, with lots of pinks and purples, with plenty of neon-ish tones as well (ah, the 80’s!) The greens of the fields, the reds of the various uniforms, even the browns of the track, all look good. Black levels are also mostly strong, though some details get lost in a few darker or night shots, which I would attribute more to photography and the lack of decent lighting than the restoration or even the encode.

Still, the encode isn’t as good as it probably could be. For the most part detail is decent, various close-ups looking sharp and crisp, but I found a lot of the long shots to come off a little flat and missing texture. There’s just a real lack of definition in areas of the crowds and I suspect some noise reduction was applied to control grain. Grain is still there, and appears fairly fine, but a few low-lit shots can look a little noisier and there are plenty of shots where grain is barely there.

In no way is this presentation a mess, though, and I don’t want to see it as such: this is nothing like the mess that was Criterion’s presentation of the 5-hour version of Fanny & Alexander. It still looks good, it just ultimately lacks that great filmic texture that other presentations in this set have, and I think that just comes down to the encode, nothing to do with the restoration. Every other aspect of the presentation otherwise looks solid.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The film includes a lossless PCM 2.0 stereo soundtrack. The film contains a lot of interviews with several athletes, and these have a sort of flat, television sound to them, as does the narration, and all of this is primarily centralized to the front center speaker (though an interview by the beach spreads the sounds of the waves to the other speakers). But the event footage is far more dynamic, with the cheers and applause of the crowds spreading out to the other speakers, as well as various sound effects from the event on screen at the moment. The soundtrack is also free of damage and distortion.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Again, the only disappointing aspect to this set is that there are no on-disc special features to speak of; this title could have at least included the alternate 148-minute theatrical version. The set does come with an incredibly thorough 216-page hardbound book, featuring material on the restorations by Adrian Wood along with essays covering the films, all written by film scholar Peter Cowie. It is also filled with photos from the various events. This film receives one of the lengthier essays in the book thanks to the film’s approach to the games: Greenspan inserts personal interviews with a number of the athletes, which set a new standard for the Olympic films to follow. Cowie also covers some of the events, though this essay is ultimately more about Greenspan’s impact. (The grade given here refers to the supplements for the set as a whole, which, in this case, is just the included book.)

5/10

CLOSING

A solid restoration is somewhat weakened by Criterion cramming the entire 284-minute film onto one disc, but the end result is still pleasing.




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