From the Archive: Downhill Racer
Baseball and football movies are thick on the ground, but without crowds to go wild or a big game to close on, skiing movies tend to be a pretty dicey proposition. Luckily, Criterion has dug up what might be the best one, and you can pick it starting tomorrow—just in time for ski season.
Downhill Racer takes Robert Redford through the thrills and doubts of the downhill ski circuit circa 1969. Over the course of 100 minutes, he bristles under authority, makes the acquaintance of an appropriately appealing Swedish woman, and tears through some of the Alps’ better scenery—all a good deal more cinematic than anything you’ll find on a gridiron.
Like The Hustler, it stretches the underdog sports premise into a conflicted meditation on the nature of success. Redford’s great, and so is Gene Hackman as his coach, but for our money the real credit goes to the writer, James Salter, who got the gig by writing some of the era’s best books on machismo. (Further reading here.)
Watch close and you might even pick up a few slalom tricks.
- — Russell Brandom