Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Eight Isn't Enough 

Michael Sragow finds eight good films, and countless condescending duds, in a year at the movies

Wednesday, Jan 6 1999

Page 4 of 4

Without Limits The second screen biography in as many years of the late Steve Prefontaine, the legendary distance runner often called the James Dean of track, is that rarity: an edgy inspirational movie, no goop allowed. Pre, as he was nicknamed, was a notorious front-runner -- he would race full-tilt from the starting line rather than strategize his way to victory. Director Robert Towne (who co-wrote the script with a friend of Pre's, Kenny Moore) depicts his rebellious hero as an icon of youth who shows he has the mettle to grow up, then dies before he gets the chance. With the supernally intense Billy Crudup in the central role, it's almost a secular Passion play. Pre nails himself to a cross of his own making: his belief that he can achieve anything through resolve alone. The movie develops its own nonmoralistic trinity, with Pre as Will, his University of Oregon coach Bill Bowerman (Donald Sutherland) as Reason, and Pre's Catholic girlfriend Mary Marckx (Monica Potter) as Faith. Their conflicts get articulated in dialogue but played out in motion, usually on the track; you might say that Pre's Gethsemane comes after a heartbreaking loss in the 1972 Munich Olympics. Without sentimentalizing runners, Towne treats their eagerness to push past the boundaries of known pain as the purest of quests. Crudup and Sutherland are extraordinary -- they remove any hint of cliche from the student-mentor relationship. This movie gives us sport not just as competition or as spectacle, but as existential ballet.

About The Author

Michael Sragow


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"