Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Pumping Iron (1977)

This documentary takes an insider's look at the sport of bodybuilding, specifically at Arnold Schwarzenegger's attempt at a sixth Mr. Olympia title in 1975. We also see the Mr. Universe championship.

I had a similar experience watching this as when watching Project Runway with my wife. The behind the scenes look shows less the final product, but the process and motivation of the participants. This can be enlightening. While I have been known to lift a weight and to even wear clothes, both worlds were a mystery, and somewhat foolish looking to me. Pumping Iron was an eye opener.

Here's what I found interesting: Arnold Schwarzenegger was already famous at the time of this documentary. Not Conan/Terminator/Kindergarten Cop famous, but he was renowned in the bodybuilding world and even did a fair amount of Hollywood (Streets of San Francisco, people!) I thought he was an unknown. Also highlighted was TV's Lou Ferrigno. For reasons I can't explain, I thought Lou was a short man made to look large by careful camera angles. Nope. The dude was in the 6'4" range, towering over Arnold.

Through the competition, Schwarzenegger is supremely confident, having won the previous five competitions, and was thought unstoppable. Lots of bravado abounds amongst the competitors, but Ferrigno comes off as humble, focused, and family oriented. His father is his coach. Arnold speaks of missing his father's funeral because he didn't want to interrupt his training. He later admitted this was a lie.

Spoiler alert: Arnold did win his sixth title before retiring. He came out of retirement in 1980 to win again, just to prove he could. His seven titles is no longer a record. Two people have eight each.

Pumping Iron is fascinating and very well done. This documentary is required viewing for weightlifters and bodybuilders, but might be more useful to the rest of us. AMRU 3.5.
"It's as satisfying to me as, uh, coming is, you know? As, ah, having sex with a woman and coming. And so can you believe how much I am in heaven? I am like, uh, getting the feeling of coming in a gym, I'm getting the feeling of coming at home, I'm getting the feeling of coming backstage when I pump up, when I pose in front of 5,000 people, I get the same feeling, so I am coming day and night. I mean, it's terrific. Right? So you know, I am in heaven."

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