"16 Days of Glory" played an Oscar-qualifying run in Los Angeles in March, 1985, when it was reviewed by Michael Wilmington. Following are excerpts from that review.
The "16 Days of Glory" (Monica 4-Plex) in the film of the same title are the days of last summer's Los Angeles XXIII Olympiad; and they've been recorded in fine style--with pace, passion and authority--by documentarian Bud Greenspan.
The Olympics are a specialty of Greenspan's, and here he expands on the techniques of his PBS series: crisp, pointed narration, individual focus. The cinematography captures the kinetic beauty of the events with unusual warmth. It gives you the soft keen slap of the wind, heat and sweat caught in a golden shimmer and sheen of tensed light.
It's not an "Olympiad" to match against Leni Riefenstahl's or Kon Ichikawa's for sheer lyricism or power. But it has special advantages. Greenspan is a genuine Olympic historian. He's able to put each event in perspective, take us journalistically inside, bring out every drop of irony and human conflict in the more dramatic events: the gymnastic competition between America's Mary Lou Retton and Romania's Ecaterina Szabo; Yasuhiro Yamashita, Japan's storied national judo champion, in limping agony trying to fulfill his longtime Olympic dream; the personal decathlon duel between Britain's Daley Thompson and West Germany's Juergen Hingsen.
"16 Days of Glory" begins as if it might be ordinary, even forgettable. But, by the climax (Placido Domingo's soaring rendition of Verdi's "Hymn of All Nations"), it's gotten the physical poetry, vigor and humanity missing from most fictional features on sports--with, happily, less cheerleading than last summer's TV coverage.