Long Run. The / B-, A-
Universal/2000/113/ANA 1.85

    The Long Run opens with stunning black and white slow motion images of a race run some time in the past complimented by wistful music and dominated by the sound of heavy breathing. It's very effective. While the film is enjoyable, the possibilities suggested by the poetic opening are never quite realized.
     Training for the Comrades Marathon, a grueling 90 kilometer race that captures the imagination of many South Africans, is the focus of The Long Run.  Berry Bohmer is a long time running coach who works as a foreman at a major brick factory. The German immigrant coaches workers at the factory with the ultimate goal of participating in the great annual race.

Compulsive training. ŠUniversal

   When Berry gets laid off from his job it also means he is no longer coaching the runners who are to compete in the Comrades Marathon. It's a severe blow. But as luck would have it, Berry discovers another runner, a lonely women refugee who uses running as a connection to her inner self. Berry watches her from a distance, studies her and then convinces her to train under his guidance for the Comrades.
    Berry's people skills are questionable at best.  Berry loses his job, loses  his runners, his house, his new runner and sure enough in the predicable arc of the film, he and his new find Christine inevitably return to each other. It's the classic structure of a film about athletic training and competition: discovery, training, falling out, and reunion. The film slows down some just when the engine gets revved up. It's ironic that a film about long distance runners should have a slightly flabby mid-section. Runners shouldn't have any fat on them. In the end, The Long Run runs a predicable race.
    There are nice small moments in the film, like Berry's expectant chef hovering over Christine. The South African countryside is magnificently filmed. There's one scene of cumulous clouds on a blue sky that could be a perfect painting.  The training sequences are more about building a relationship between the characters. After all, how many times can Berry call out "Faster!" Stahl gives the character of Berry an interesting depth.
     Armin Mueller-Stahl has visited South African training territory before in The Power of One, helping to shape a young boxer. He's convincing as Berry, but his performance doesn't quite go the last mile.  Christine is played by Nthati Moshesh with innocence and strength. Paterson Joseph is Gasa, the man who takes over Berry's job, and he's a bit too smug and smarmy to create a real character. There's a very earthy performance from Ann-Mart Van Der Merwe as Anna, Berry's daughter, but there's too little of her.
    A beautiful transfer! Color and detail are excellent. Effectively punchy image. Interesting slightly blown out look at the brick factory site with dust in the air turning into tightly controlled grain and coating the entire image. The clothing is a magnificent explosion of color, tightly controlled throughout. Deep blacks, fine color range. Very beautiful contrast range. Nice shadow detail in Berry's study.  Every corner of the town is ablaze with color.  Dolby 2.0  surround is open and clean with excellent matrix. The party scene at Berry's is an excellent example of the fine ability of the surround to precisely locate information. Some strange artifacts show up briefly on a black journalist's jacket. Some slight transition edginess with Berry silhouetted against the sky. A thoroughly appealing DVD transfer!

Reviewed on a Sharp 9000VX DLP Projector




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