I really enjoyed this. It’s not a perfect film by any stretch, but oh wow is it so much better than so many that have recently come before it.

china, 2010, english


The Everlasting Flame

What a breath of fresh air this is. It’s definitely still in the Greenspan mode, but as though we’ve suddenly been whisked into the present from a dim and distant past. That’s the thing about the Greenspan films, they never ever change. Each one of them has been identical in style and substance to all of the others.

That kind of consistency is why some international travelers prefer to go to a chain they have at home rather than explore something new and local. You may not be getting anything special, but you know exactly what you’re going to get. It’s reliable. I am not that kind of traveler. I want to experience something new, even at the risk of it being underwhelming, or even bad.

This is neither. It’s not a particularly special film really, I would say it’s fine. But compared to the Made-for-TV nonsense that has proceeded it, it’s fine art. The director, Jun Gu, has taken all of the lessons of the best of Greenspan and modernized it. Here we get a wider focus, looking at not just the specific athletic achievements, but also at the games as a whole. We see the opening ceremony, but we also see the behind the scenes of what it took to make that ceremony happen. We follow the stories of gold medal winners, but also of athletes who try and fail to win.

That last part might be the most consequential to this film’s place as a narrative of sport. One of the most annoying things about the Greenspan films is that you can immediately tell that the person being featured won. On the very, very rare occasions where that turns out not to be true, then they did something else equally of note. Jun Gu seems to have chosen the athletes she follows before the games, and so some of them don’t even make it out of their respective early rounds. It’s the first time I can remember seeing that since the superlative Tokyo Olympiad.

More than that, this film acknowledges the breadth and depth of the games. So many more sports are shown, so many more countries get airtime. What a wonderful late box treat.