“Number One” (1969)
Considering the amount of complex psychology involved in both the achieving and the rudimentary maintenance of high level performance in sports, it is surprising how little of this is reflected in Hollywood’s occasional forays into the world of athletics; that is unless one considers the film industry’s usual lazy path in the exploration of the human experience in favor of easy and proven formula (even if this approach proves repeatedly insubstantial, as there is no safer method in maintaining one’s professional status in the film industry than in resisting the risk of originality). Why bother with the unglamorous reality of individual or group anxieties consistent with high stakes competitiveness when there are fertile fields of coarse melodrama, adultery and colorful substance abuse to enliven the usual offerings of artificial treacle enhanced tales of either miraculous inspiration of tear-jerker heartbreak? With the field of cinema sports reduced to convenient and relentlessly repetitive and shallow formulaic contrivance, it is little wonder the popularized conception of the “dumb jock” was seldom challenged.
“Number One”, which proposes a deeper look at the base insecurity of the competitive ego, is the kind of film whose occasional moments of interest only serve to magnify the disappointment in the fact that what is substantial is limited to the momentary. Frequently the film halts for what are probably meant as lyrical interludes of reflection, (including the umpteenth dissolve heavy montage of a tryst before a roaring fireplace), a directorial penchant which beckons impatience considering how sparse the attention granted penetrating character development which would fortifying the few truly affecting scenes in the film.
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