Film Comment Back Issues 728x90 Film Society of Lincoln Center

Eighties Pick: Personal Best

By Chuck Stephens

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(Warner Archive, $18.95)

Personal Best movie Mariel Hemingway

Helluva pelican. Hardcore fans of Oscar-winning Chinatown screenwriter and legendary Hollywood script doctor Robert Towne’s 1982 directorial debut will know exactly what I’m talking about. One of the most erotic jock films ever made, Towne’s transfixed meditation on lithe young Mariel Hemingway (then just 20) seems born under the uncomfortably twinned signs of Kon Ichikawa’s Tokyo Olympiad and David Hamilton’s Bilitis: part slo-mo, art-film muscle pageant, part leering porno gawp. Seduced by real-life Olympic pentathlete Patrice Donnelly in the film’s first act (20 kundalini minutes of sweet, sweaty, libidinally stunning sexual intimacy involving the above-mentioned bird of the sea), rising track star Hemingway eventually clears the hurdles to bedding coach Scott Glenn. Which horrible Eighties haircut to choose? Regardless, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most startling and texturally stunning American cinema of that largely barren zone shortly thereafter to be known as the Reagan era. Score!

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