Rollerball (1975)

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Rollerball (1975)

Post  BoG on Mon Mar 01, 2010 11:43 pm




The world of Rollerball may nearly be here. On this future world, there are apparently no nations, only corporations. There is also apparently no war, no crime and no poverty. This description should mean that this is a paradise world. Perhaps, on the surface, it seems that way. But, if we dig a little deeper, perhaps peel away a layer, we may find some unsettling hints of...mass control. The instrument of that control? Oh, yes, a game called Rollerball. It's a brutal spectator sport - a more intense version of Roller Derby & Football rolled into one on a circular track, including the use of motorcycles. Virtually the entire populace watches it. Want to know all the details?
click> THE RULES OF THE GAME

Jonathan E - that's the name, captain of the Houston team (we also see battles against Madrid, Tokyo & New York City). Houston players come and go, but the star remains (played by Caan). Picture all of today's spectator sports rolled into one; now picture all of yesterday's sports stars (Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, Barry Bonds) rolled into one - that's Jonathan. I say 'yesterday's stars' because Jonathan should have retired by this point and suddenly, there is a 'request' he do so. Or is it a demand? Despite Jonathan's status as a superstar, it is evident that certain corporate executives hold complete power - and complete control.

I didn't like Caan's performace when I first watched this many years ago; he mumbled his way through and seemed too lethargic. But, that's the intent, I learned. Almost everyone on this brave new world is half asleep, numbed by strange narcotics and self-delusion. When a society has no struggles, no worlds to conquer, this film says, it stoops to the easy thrill, to apathy, to slow decay (Rome, anyone?). There is a subtle thrill involved when Jonathan begins to 'get' all this. We watch him slowly wake up and assume a heroic, even angry model of outrage.
Rollerball was one of several Sci-Fi films in the seventies attempting to extrapolate from current events and project a picture of our world in the near future (Soylent Green and ZPG were others). As more time went by, Rollerball began to look more & more insightful. It hasn't really dated; sure, some of the fashions here still say 'the '70s' but I can sort of picture this world a few years from now (the year of the film is 2018). Isn't our individualism being slowly stripped away and aren't we all more obsessed with mass consumerism? The era of the individual may soon be over.
JAMES CAAN and JOHN BECK
Besides that, the action scenes in the sports arena are gripping - we, the audience, start to buy into this violence just like the audiences in the film. BoG's Score: 9 out of 10. This is probably the definitive depiction of future sports (another was The Running Man -1987; oh, skip the horrible remake of this in 2002).

Watch "Rollerball (1975)" Movie]Watch "Rollerball (1975)" Movie



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Rollerball rules

Post  BoG on Tue Apr 06, 2010 4:32 pm

There's another bit of trivia related to Rollerball which stuck in my mind for many years: during the making of the film, during the hours people were 'off' or on break, many of the actors and production people would get together and play the game (or a version of it) on that track. This may have included James Caan himself, I'm not sure. The track was actually built and there, as it was, a real full scale version (this is way before computer FX and stuff like "Sin City") so, I guess, the thinking was 'why not?'

The point being, this game may have really been addictive, both for an audience and for the players themselves. I'm not too sure how much of a negative or positive commentary that may be on we human beings. I gotta admit, it does look like fun, if you know how to roller skate and can steer clear of much of the violent aspect (in other words, play a 'tag' version instead of a 'full contact' version).
The film really works (for me, at least) because of an internal logic and reality developed during the course of the film. By the midway point of the film, I believe a viewer thinks of the GAME as a real game, a real sport. This goes back to the comment above about how some of the crew and stuntmen actually played the GAME during breaks in the filming; they developed detailed rules and worked it all out. I read somewhere that some of this evolution to the GAME was worked into the film itself. The GAME works, for real. The world of the film works, as a result.
This also suggests the inherent weakness of many films today and their computer-generated realities. I think the audience is always aware that these modern films are computer-generated fantasies and cannot really lose themselves in the reality of the film.


Well, until such ground-breaking stuff like Avatar, anyway... or maybe not.


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Rollerball reminiscence

Post  BoG on Tue Apr 06, 2010 4:39 pm

A recent issue of CINEMA RETRO (vol.5 issue #15) has an interview with James Caan, who offers some interesting tidbits about this film. The physical requirements of his role required an actor who could handle a lot of that rough stuff; otherwise, it would have relied more on body doubles. Caan had a sporting background, which served him well here.

Director Jewison convinced United Artists to proceed with this film mostly on the strength of the box office successes 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange, as well as the 'fact' that Caan had committed to it (the actor had not really at that point).
Asked about his memories of Rollerball, Caan responded that he loved the skating, but the walking & talking he had a little problem with.
"We had great fun - it was certainly ahead of its time. And it took a lot for me not to be an emotional actor, but you're state-raised and that's the way you are. I had one review that was on the negative side, actually, from Women's Wear Daily of all places! It said, 'Well, we saw Jimmy Caan the athlete, but where was Jimmy Caan the actor?' Well, it didn't call for it, that's what I was - I was this athlete, so basically it was a compliment. I still don't get the shooting of the trees, but the skating was sure fun!"

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