Modernism II

film 2 of 2

Downhill Racer

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 8, 2015

Did they even write any dialogue for this thing? We’re finding ourselves in that paradoxical stretch of Hollywood history in which instability dominated, profits plummeted, and experimentation held benevolent sway. People tried stuff, and art, avant garde or plain independent—Redford is a very important figure here, and going forward—ideas get a foothold. Given how unverbal this film is, it is apt, and pleasing, to see how the visual register compensates and fills in. The velocity of the subject suggests a strategy of glancingness, but they apply this strategy to the off-road sections too. Nice.

Redford is an interesting cat. He’s very good, in a kind of maddeningly effortless way. He’s attractive, or is it narcissistic, or is that our pettiness and jealousy? That would seem to be the point, I guess. Anyway, his character is none too admirable, except that he’s none too admirable in the service of autonomy and self-determination. It’s exceptional people. It’s the countercultural youth. It’s the US since it started expanding and colonizing. All these ideas are very interestingly and helpfully explored. We’re more or less glad that he wins, but we’re not sure we should be.

That visit home to Colorado might be a bit overstated. The girlfriend, and her situation, certainly register though. The European girl! Altogether Downhill Racer communicates a nice sense of the sport, and of the pleasures of being and working and living outside.