Muhammad Ali, the Greatest
William Klein, France 1974, 35mm transferred to digiBeta, 120 min, English and French with English subtitles
Klein documents some of the key moments in Muhammad Ali's career by showing the people, the events and the media frenzy mobilised by his phenomenal rise. The first half, in black and white, follows Cassius Clay winning the World Heavyweight Champion title in his first match against Sonny Liston in 1964, ‘becoming’ Muhammad Ali after joining the Nation of Islam, and beating Liston again in 1965. The second half, shot in colour, takes place ten years later in Kinshasa, after Ali had been stripped of his title for refusing to serve in the Vietnam War, as he tries to win it back in his comeback match against George Foreman - the legendary ‘Rumble in the Jungle’. The evolution of Ali into an increasingly politicised cultural icon is narrated through encounters with a range of figures, from his boisterous fans and entourage to Malcolm X, and acute observations of fast-changing cultural landscapes in the USA as well as in Mobutu's Zaire.
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