Oliver Stone Oliver Stone: "Any Given Sunday" - The Spirit of the Modern Warrior

With rage and fury, director Oliver Stone has imitated football, turning it into a game of life. Almost the moment it's over, you can no longer remember just what the images looked like at the beginning of the film.

Von Nataly Bleuel

A choreographed frenzy of editing, furioso: warrior-like faces under helmuts, massive bodies, violence, speed, shreds of music, slo-mo, archaic power, breath, close-ups, fear, barfing and ballet, racing formations, long shots, screams, joy and a zipping, egg-shaped thing flying straight at you. Thunder and lightning. Cut, cut, cut. You can't remember anymore how we got here, but it all happened at such blazing speed. Suddenly, you're in a game you couldn't have cared less about before, the rules of which you never even wanted to understand, a game you've always thought to be pure brutal idiocy. A game the Americans call "football" and celebrate with the same quasi-religious zeal European men feel for soccer. But by the end, you get the feeling that this film about a game is actually about life. And values. Team spirit. And a society that believes it could relieve you of all of it.

Tony D'Amato (Al Pacino), an old trainer, has twice made champions of his team, the Miami Sharks. But that was a long time ago, and now, the Sharks are going downhill. They've lost two of their star players and their fans and sponsors are dwindling. Cold-blooded Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz) has inherited the team from her Dad; he was a true sportsman from the old school, but Christina wants - and must - play the game of big business. Along comes an ambitious young talent, Willie Beamen, black, a football god. Willie is clever and he wants fame, money, power - fast and at any price. Individual ambition vs. team spirit. Willie, the star: diamonds in his ear, sponsors for his feet, a beefed up MTV warrior. Willie raps in Big Willie Style and the team still struggles on. The archaic spirit of solidarity is tossed to the wind. A fight begins between the old and the young, the worn out and the energetic, tradition and what some call the "neoliberal zeitgeist".

In the end, Oliver Stone's overwhelming film is one of his most hopeful. It's been shot at alarming speed in the warm light of Miami, the cameras right on the bodies, the editing a turbulent formation cut to the choppy rhythms of samples snipped from hip hop, Metallica and Indian spirituals. The team spirit in Stone's acting ensemble must have been right. Everyone delivers his performance perfectly, no one upstages anyone else. You can count on Al Pacino as the coach with his brilliant variations on his philosophy, "Every inch counts." Ferocious - even though a few andante pauses couldn't have hurt, just for the sake of catching a breath here and there.

Oliver Stone was once asked by a critic when he'd be making a political film again. Films like "Nixon" or "JFK" aren't exactly hot properties in the US right now, he answered. A "new culture" reigns there, a rapid change of values, an enormous insecurity. Politics in the shadow of the economy. But with this football film, he's playfully drawn up a critical picture of the contemporary spirit: in politics, sports, entertainment or the economy. Individuality vs. solidarity. Money vs. pride. Media vs. message. Single warriors vs. the group.

"Any Given Sunday". USA, 1999. Directed by Oliver Stone. Screenplay by John Logan and Oliver Stone. With: Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx, James Woods, Dennis Quaid, LL Cool J, Matthew Modine, Charlton Heston, Ann-Margret, Aaron Eckhart and John C. McGinley. Camera: Salvatore Totino. 163 minutes.

Translated by David Hudson


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