Sporting Life (1963)

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Sporting Life: Directed by Lindsay Anderson. With Richard Harris, Rachel Roberts, Alan Badel, William Hartnell. Despite success on the field, a rising rugby star senses the emerging emptiness of his life as his inner angst begins to materialize through aggression and brutality, so he attempts to woo his landlady in hopes of finding reason to live.

“u0026quot;This Sporting Lifeu0026quot; is in some ways a sinister version of u0026quot;Rockyu0026quot; – a tale of a tough-guy athlete taking his best shot at the big time. But while u0026quot;Rockyu0026quot; presents a fairly optimistic view of the world, this film is definitely of a darker nature.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eDark. Yes, thatu0026#39;s the key word for u0026quot;This Sporting Life.u0026quot; The movie weaves a sad tale of poverty, unrequited loves and human failings. Itu0026#39;s not entertaining to watch by any means, but if you brace yourself for the filmu0026#39;s depressing impact you will probably find it rewarding.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eSeveral commentators on this site have suggested that the movie doesnu0026#39;t work because the central character, Frank Machin – played by an excellent Richard Harris – is too thuggish and unsympathetic. I canu0026#39;t agree with that perspective, however. Machin is a bit of a beast, sure, but he also demonstrates sensitivity (he likes kids!) and tremendous loyalty to the people around him. He makes mistakes and behaves cruelly sometimes, but I think that itu0026#39;s a bit snobbish and bourgeois to dismiss him as a mere thug.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eHarrisu0026#39; performance as Machin certainly helps to ground a film that is perhaps too weak on the plot side to be a true four-star classic. The rest of the cast is excellent as well, ranging from Rachel Roberts as the tragic landlady Mrs. Hammand to William (u0026quot;Doctor Whou0026quot;) Hartnell as the lonely old man, Johnson. The acting all seems naturalistic and believable to me, though I suppose Iu0026#39;m not qualified to judge whether everybody got their regional accents right.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eDirector Lindsay Anderson, meanwhile, gives the film a bleak, cold and very realistic look. Somehow, he manages to make shadowy suburban streets look like the eeriest settings imaginable, and he also directs the rugby scenes with tremendous violence and energy.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eI just wish that u0026quot;This Sporting Lifeu0026quot; was a bit stronger on plot. Iu0026#39;m not exactly sure what itu0026#39;s missing, but I think itu0026#39;s merely excellent rather than a classic. And itu0026#39;s tough to watch such a dark movie thatu0026#39;s not quite perfect. Still, I would definitely recommend this to cinema buffs and casual viewers who wouldnu0026#39;t be too put off by the bleakness.”

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