Astonishing Alpine location photography and a young Robert Redford in one of his earliest starring roles are just two of the visual splendors of Michael Ritchie’s visceral debut feature, Downhill Racer. In a beautifully understated performance, Redford is David Chappellet, a ruthlessly ambitious skier competing with an underdog American team in Europe for Olympic gold, and Gene Hackman provides tough support as the coach who tries to temper the upstart’s narcissistic drive for glory. With a subtle screenplay by acclaimed novelist James Salter, Downhill Racer is a vivid character portrait buoyed by breathtakingly fast and furious imagery that brings the viewer directly into the mind of the competitor. —The Criterion Collection
Michael Brunswick Ritchie (November 28, 1938 – April 16, 2001) was an American film director.
Ritchie was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, the son of Patricia (née Graney) and Benbow Ferguson Ritchie. His family later moved to Berkeley, California, where his father was a professor of experimental psychology at the University of California at Berkeley1 and his mother was the art and music librarian for the city.
He attended Berkeley High School before becoming interested in film, and was accepted at Harvard University following high school.
Ritchie attracted attention in his senior year at Harvard in 1960 by directing the original production of the Arthur Kopit play, Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
His work on Kopit’s play led to a job offer from Robert Saudek, the producer of the Omnibus television series. Ritchie also directed episodes of Profiles in Courage and… read more
Watch it for the incredible editing. Downhill Racer is filled with clever and brilliant cuts, right down to the sudden ending.
This is an interesting film to watch about the culture that develops around championship level athletes. Even though Chappellet is still making his name in the skiing game and hasn't really made any money at it, the main components are already in place for the creation of a monster. Of course, the film is set back in the 60s, well before the sports industry became as prosperous and central to our culture as it is today. The lead character is an arrogant jerk but that's overlooked as long as he has a chance at winning. I couldn't help but think about the Tiger Woods situation as I watched this film, even though there are huge differences in his circumstances and what's portrayed on screen here.
One of the best contemporary movie poster artists shares her influences and inspirations.
Stephen Frankfurt was something of a real-life Don Draper: a hot shot ’Sixties Madison Avenue ad executive who was profiled by the BBC in 1965
vibrant, piercing colours. whites and blues. his cold heart. cold, focused and driven. destined to be a champion. gorgeous, empty landscapes, there to be conquered. this movie portrays an extremely… read review
This is a superlative example of American New Wave and a great companion piece to “Two-Lane Blacktop.” Minimal in plot, it’s mainly a well-composed portrait of a reckless, brash, narcissistic but ultimately… read review
THE ART OF WINNING
It is not often enough that Criterion releases a thoroughly American production such as this, so I took particular interest in Downhill Racer. A young Gene Hackman… read review