If you compare it to 2001 or Clockwork Orange then yes, Jewison’s Rollerball look silly (there is a gulf between them artistically) but evaluated on its own it is a solid dystopian sci-fi film with many praise-worthy elements
Starts strong with the classical organ music to a spectacular roulette-wheel looking rollerball set piece—dialogueless. Starts with a 15 minute rollerball match after that
They play the corporate anthem instead of the national anthem- there’s a social critique
It’s not his fault, I mean he’s actually in the final scene of The Godfather Part II and James Caan is a massive star in 1975—I just giggle a little when I think of him practicing roller skating for this film while Pacino, De Niro, Duvall and John Cazale are shooting one of the greatest films of all-time
It is a gladiator story- and this and Ridley Scott’s 2000 film would make a decent pairing—“champion” is the word used to describe him. The motorcycle is the chariot.
Oranges galore—I like the consistency in the production design of this futuristic world – to that end they use the postmodern architecture of the BMW building in Germany for one
1984, Fahrenheit – lack of access to books- love the Ralph Richardson sequence with him as librarian
Caan is ok here- not great- he’s underplaying—a decision to go about it minimally– but sometimes he’s coming across as too vacant- he’s not quite Steve McQueen or Ryan Gosling
The highlight of the film is the executive party. That whole scene is great but specifically at 50 minutes there’s a tracking shot—two or three figures are discussing the rollerball players (“animals”, “robots” saying they’re “made in Detroit”) and they’re holding drink and at every single open door there’s another one. A stunner of a shot. The entire party is great- sort of a Bunuelian Exterminating Angel-like party. Just after it rolls into a La Dolce Vita-like ending party or La Notte with some of the drunk bourgeoisie going outdoors and stumbling around. This is interlaced with Caan’s conversation with a very threatening and robotic John Houseman. This is where we get the party-goes shooting trees on fire
Both in this scene and in the film the camera zoom is Jewison’s primary tool. It is effective – especially at the party because we’re following the eyeline between people, listening to conspiracies about Caan’s character, listening in on secretive conversations we shouldn’t
Great Suspiria-like red hallways in the back coming to the final game
The narrative and motivations falters in parts- Caan’s reason for resistance and the power he holds isn’t fully baked
Really bad freeze-frame ending— painful to think of this and like Butch Cassidy side by side as both freeze-frame endings and compare. This reminds me of the Jonah Hill bad slow-motion use in Wolf of Wall Street– just do another take.
Recommend but not in the top 10 of 1975 – not top 20