In acknowledgement of the 2020 Olympics, which would have kicked off in Tokyo this week, the Criterion Collection is streaming its monumental collection 100 Years of Olympic Films on their streaming platform, the Criterion Channel. The collection includes 53 films and covers 41 editions of the Olympic Games, from Stockholm in 1912 to London in 2012. Every weekday for two weeks, I'll highlight a different moment and film from the last century of Olympic films.
French Alpine skier Jean-Claude Killy dominated skiing in the late '60s. A king of the Alpines, he grew up in the Alps in the mid-to-late '40s, which was a good time to disappear into a mountain cloud. His father, a former pilot for the Free French in WWII, opened a ski shop and later a hotel in their Alpine village. I like to imagine it as some Grand Budapest Hotel-type shit, but that's just me.
Claude Lelouch and François Reichenbach's frigid and sultry sports doc 13 Days in France (also called Grenoble) is one of the best documents of the event that made Killy a global star, the 1968 Grenoble Winter Olympics. At Grenoble, Killy won a shocking three gold medals, in the downhill, slalom, and giant slalom categories. Lelouch and Reichenbach's doc is supported by an indulgent soundtrack from composer Francis Lai, which includes three variations of a song dedicated to Killy, called "Killy."
It's a song about beating time and becoming famous. I once got a sample of a nice French facial moisturizer that created a fine and bright sheen across my cheeks. This song feels like that sheen. Here's the first version:
The 1968 Grenoble Olympic Games was turning point for the Olympics. For the first time, ABC broadcast nearly all of the games in color. (Previously, in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, only the opening and closing ceremonies were broadcast in color.) ABC's highly watched color broadcasts zoomed into Killy, as well as Peggy Fleming, who won the United States' only gold medal that year, in figure skating. Killy and Fleming became stars in America, and the two would go on to perform in TV specials together.
The second version of "Killy" is the late-night version. The song's organs caress your lower back as its tinny melody kisses your face. Très French:
The third version of "Killy," an orchestral version, is "Killy" at its and his grandest. The Greek gods who surrounded the original Olympic Games float down to our level on this one. It's music for a person who just won three gold medals:
13 Days in France is currently streaming on the Criterion Channel.