' Cinema Romantico: A Scene For Today

Sunday, August 05, 2012

A Scene For Today

--The scene a little ways into Robert Towne's "Without Limits" (1998) starts on a close-up of a yellow legal pad on which legendary Oregon track coach (and Nike founder) Bill Bowerman (Donald Sutherland) scribbles numbers. Steve Prefontaine (Billy Crudup), arguably America's greatest long distance runner, sits across from him, watching, curiously. He brushes a bit of dust off the table where they sit. Finally Bowerman looks up.

Bowerman: "13:12 for the three mile. Satisfied?"
Prefontaine: "I'm satisfied I did the best I could on Saturday."
Bowerman: "Because I think you could've gone six seconds better. The first quarter cost you."

--The look here on Crudup's face is just classic. The disbelief, the confusion is so righteous it's kinda funny.

Prefontaine: "How do you figure?"
Bowerman: "4:18 was too quick for the first mile so you dropped to 4:27's for the last two. lf you'd gone out slower, say a 4:24, you could've repeated the 4:24 and come home in 4:18. Made your last lap your fastest. That would've added up to 13:06. Compared with the 13:12 you ran your need to take the lead from the start cost you a good 6 seconds."


Movie Pre & Bowerman
--Pre takes the notepad and examines it and now Crudup's face twists into a bemused smirk. The line reading that follows is one word but it is EPIC.

Prefontaine: "Okay."
Bowerman: "Pre, the Olympics are in two years. Blink of an eye. You'll face the best middle-distance runners in any games l can recall. Ian Stewart."

--Crudup gets serious again, but his face still has that confusion. He's so set in who he is that he can't figure out where the hell his coach is going with this whole spiel.

Prefontaine: "Yeah. Kip Keino. Gamudi."
Bowerman: "They all have strong kicks. Any of them would've had you dead to rights on Saturday."
Prefontaine: "Maybe on Saturday, Bill, but not two years from now."
Bowerman: "Can I ask you a question, Pre? Off the record?"
Pre: "Weren't we on the record, Bill?"

--Off the record...weren't we on the record? Bad lines, yeah, but people do say them and I actually like them in this context because it suggests how EVERYTHING with Pre is on the record. Ya got something to say? Say it. Don't hide behind "off the record."

Bowerman: "Where does this compulsion come from?"
Prefontaine: "What compulsion?"
Bowerman: "Front-running."

--Crudup smiles again, and it's a knowing smile. It says: here we go again. I've had this talk a hundred times. I'll have it again. I'll set the record straight.

Prefontaine: "Look, Bill, running any other way is just plain chicken shit."

--Sutherland's face is not so much angry as bewildered.

Bowerman: "Chicken shit?!"

--Pre keeps his cool.

Prefontaine: "Chicken shit. What else do you call laying back for two-and-a-half miles and then stealing a race in the last 200 yards?"

--Bowerman can't even fathom this question.

Bowerman: "Winning!"
Prefontaine: "Well, I don't want to do that."
Bowerman: "You don't want to win?"
Prefontaine: "I don't want to win unless I know l've done my best. And the only way l know to do that is to run out front and flat out 'til I have nothing left! Winning any other way is CHICKEN SHIT!"


Real Pre & Bowerman
--At this Pre takes the bench he's sitting on, lifts it up and then slams it down to make it the exclamation point. Bowerman looks away to calm himself down. Pre returns to that bemused smirk. This is an argument he's going to win if only account of his (awesome) idealistic stubbornness.

Bowerman: "What do you think a track coach does, Pre?"

--Bowerman's looking at Pre but Pre's not looking at him. Everything Pre says in the next exchange is detached, uninterested.

Prefontaine: "He teaches you how to run."
Bowerman: "Run what? A factory? A bowling alley?"
Prefontaine: "A race."
Bowerman: "In order to..."
Prefontaine: "Win it."
Bowerman: "Yeah. That's pretty much what I thought to."

--Bowerman doesn't get it. He shakes his head.

Bowerman: "I'll never understand you, Pre."
Prefontaine: "It it's any help, Bill, I don't understand you either."

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