Continuing with The Great New Years Resolution of 2019 Jeff and I plan to continue to meet once a month to watch a movie together. We alternated choices and I got to choose a movie after Jeff’s choice. Typically I tried to have something about my choice correspond to something about Jeff’s choice. This year I got to start us off.
I chose Chariots of Fire. I had never seen it but I knew it had won an Oscar and so I deemed it prudent to watch it at least once. It was based on a real story and apparently followed real life fairly accurately. It was a good movie but I am afraid that I can’t say that I deem it a great movie and the only reason was because our conversation rambled during our viewing.
I knew that the movie had not completely and utterly captured my attention when about one third of the way in we were playing too much of ‘where have I seen that actor before?’ The movie seemed to stretch on longer than it needed to in some parts. I had not read any reviews before hand but I enjoy seeing what reviewers think of it after I’ve seen it.
Roger Ebert is a favourite reviewer. I always appreciate his point of view. Some of his comments are as follows:
This is strange. I have no interest in running and am not a partisan in the British class system. Then why should I have been so deeply moved by “Chariots of Fire,” a British film that has running and class as its subjects? I’ve toyed with that question since I first saw this remarkable film in May 1981 at the Cannes Film Festival, and I believe the answer is rather simple: Like many great films, “Chariots of Fire” takes its nominal subjects as occasions for much larger statements about human nature. This is a movie that has a great many running scenes. It is also a movie about British class distinctions in the years after World War I, years in which the establishment was trying to piece itself back together after the carnage in France. It is about two outsiders, a Scot who is the son of missionaries in China, and a Jew whose father is an immigrant from Lithuania. And it is about how both of them use running as a means of asserting their dignity. But it is about more than them, and a lot of this film’s greatness is hard to put into words.
Both men are essentially proving themselves, their worth, their beliefs, on the track. But “Chariots of Fire” takes an unexpected approach to many of its running scenes. It does not, until near the film’s end, stage them as contests to wring cheers from the audience. Instead, it sees them as efforts, as endeavors by individual runners — it tries to capture the exhilaration of running as a celebration of the spirit.
The nostalgia is an important aspect of the film, which opens with a 1979 memorial service for one of the men, Harold Abrahams, and then flashes back sixty years to his first day at Cambridge University. We are soon introduced to the film’s other central character, the Scotsman Eric Liddell. The film’s underlying point of view is a poignant one: These men were once young and fast and strong, and they won glory on the sports field, but now they are dead and we see them as figures from long ago.
February will be Jeff’s choice and I am looking forward to seeing what theme he will choose to follow (even though he threatened to make the connection between the two movies so remote and obscure that I won’t be able to figure it out). We will see, we will see.