' Cinema Romantico: Shout-Out to the Extra: Without Limits Version

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Shout-Out to the Extra: Without Limits Version



When The Beatles invaded, so to speak, America in 1964, it marked, as Greil Marcus put it, a “pop explosion”, and that pop explosion covered all manner of cultural ground. But when The Beatles invaded, so to speak, America in 1964, it also unleashed, as seen above, all manner of screaming girls, which was but one marker of that pop explosion engineered by the boys from Liverpool. Cultural forces like The Beatles can yield thoughtful, in-depth essays like those by Marcus and they can yield screaming girls who have never seen anyone so beautiful, never heard anything so remarkable, never wanted so desperately to be so close to someone. To see them is to have to scream.

I mention this because in the midst of his famed 5,000 meter race at 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, late American middle distance runner Steve Prefontaine was termed by British commentator David Coleman “an athletic Beatle.” And this is not inaccurate. By that time, particularly in his native Oregon, where so many sported shirts with his name, where so many chanted the famed abbrevation of his full surname in the midst of his races, not only wanting to will him to victory but to let him know that they saw him and loved him, he had become the closest thing America probably still has ever seen to a rock star on the track.

In Robert Towne's Prefontaine biopic “Without Limits”, superior to the documentary-ish “Pre”, he has minimal time to establish this transition from mere Person Who Runs to Rock Star. He does this via a lone race at Hayward Field where Pre defies Coach’s orders and takes the race from the front by running away from everyone else. His shattering victory and the cocky ebullience he exudes connects with the crowd, and the crowd goes crazy, as if momentarily Hayward Field becomes JFK Airport in 1964.

To signal this, Towne cuts from a confrontation between Pre and Coach where Coach tells runner to take his victory lap. Pre goes to do just that. And as he does, Towne cuts to a shot of the first row of the stadium, but he leaves, initially, all the faces blurred out save for one, as if the screaming horde, which is always comprised of individuals, has been reduced to just a single individual and what Pre means to her and her alone.


And this, I suppose, is fandom, which while so often being a communal experience, is also intensely personal. We may outwardly express our fandom in a manner identical to all those around us by screaming even as we inwardly know from what particular place that scream first begins to gather steam. Pre had so many fans, but in this shot he just has one, and she momentarily represents all of us 

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