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New book and film illustrate passion surrounding Seattle Sounders

The intense fan support for the Sounders has helped lead to a book and film on the team. The intense fan support for the Sounders has helped lead to a book and film on the team. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

The Seattle Sounders already have the biggest home crowds in MLS, averaging around 43,000 fans a game, and lately that passionate support has been rewarded with some deep-dive creative projects. Writer Mike Gastineau just released his book "Sounders FC: Authentic Masterpiece," and on Tuesday and Wednesday a new film on the team, Scott Levy’s "American Football," is showing to sold-out crowds at Seattle’s large-screen Cinerama theater.

You can read an excerpt from "Sounders FC" on SI.com on Friday.

I saw a full-length version of "American Football" on Tuesday, and there are moments in this film that are absolutely terrific. The opening scene is shot in the Seattle locker room after the Sounders’ brutal 3-0 opening-leg loss to Real Salt Lake in the 2011 MLS playoffs, and the visceral intensity of coach Sigi Schmid’s postgame rant is something I’ve never seen captured on video in MLS.

“I knew I had the beginning of the film,” said Levy, who financed the effort with his own money, when he saw the footage of the locker-room scene, one of his first shoots on the project.

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Also fantastic are many of the in-game video sequences, which were shot with a special lens for the Cinerama screen, which is nearly 70 feet wide. Set to music and often slowed down for dramatic effect, the action scenes (shot from behind the goal) give you a far different feel of the game than the typical wide-angle shot from high above the sidelines that you see on TV broadcasts. You can tell that Levy was influenced by the cinematography in the film, "Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait," which he told me was true. Some of the depictions of goal sequences -- like Zach Scott’s equalizer in the 2012 U.S. Open Cup final -- are remarkable.

The interviews with players and other Sounders figures are a little hit or miss. The same pursuit of emotional personal history flashpoints that results in compelling stuff on Schmid and his parents falls a bit flat with other interview subjects. But that’s also the result of some access limitations -- Levy told me he only got 30 minutes with each player -- and Sounders fans will likely appreciate getting to know some of their favorite players a little better.

"American Football" concludes with another searing fly-on-the-wall scene from the Seattle locker room, this one after the painful elimination to Los Angeles in last year’s MLS playoffs. With this year’s postseason starting next week and the Sounders hoping to win their first MLS Cup, you’ll come away realizing how important this time of the year really is in MLS.

Levy told me he plans on showing the film at some festivals and other public venues in Seattle, in addition to releasing "American Football" on BluRay later this year. Here’s the trailer, which has NSFW locker-room language, i.e., a lot of F-bombs.

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