Tuesday, April 27, 2010


"Prefontaine" (Steve James, 1997) The first of the two movies (the other being Robert Towne's "Without Limits") lionizing the patron saint of the running culture (especially in the Northwest) Steve Prefontaine. I've mentioned in the review of the other, some particulars and "Prefontaine" covers the same territory, but owing to who's telling the story and who gave rights to be portrayed, some of the emphases are different for bragging and story-rights. For instance, more is made of "the girl he left behind" in Coos Bay, "Pre's" relationship with fellow track team members (especially Mr. Shot-Put Guy), and the assistant coach. Because the film was produced by the producer-director team of the documentary "Hoop Dreams," the film is staged with scripted "interviews" with actors aged with not-too-convincing make-up, and a reliance on "found footage" of the real Prefontaine (and fortunately, Jared Leto looks just like him so there's no disconnect between the two sources). More emphasis is put on the college recruitment process (a main theme in "Hoop Dreams"). But it is pretty much the same story. Bill Bowerman as portrayed by R. Lee Ermey is more of a military hard-ass than Donald Sutherland's crazy-like-a-fox mystic in "Without Limits."

Towne's film is more assured, technically and scriptually, and the "Hoop Dreams" team can't avoid over-dramatising certain things...like changing Prefontaine's accident the night of his accomplishing the goal of staging an amateur track competition in
Eugene. Does "Pre" have to look one of the Black September terrorists in the eye across their balconies at the '72 Munich Olympics? Does Ermey have to emphasize the point at the final race by looking at the camera and saying "I want all the people to know that what they are looking is the kind of runner who comes along only once in a lifetime." Thanks for the tip, but a little unnecessary.

"Prefontaine" was filmed in
Tacoma, so quite a few Seattle sports reporters have quick-as-a-blink cameos.

But, when it comes to the finish line, "Without Limits" comes out a few lengths ahead as the better "Pre" film.

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