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Monday, June 15, 2009

THIS SPORTING LIFE (1963)

Lindsay Anderson moved from documentaries to features with this famously brutish portrait of a rawly ambitious rugby player whose success at the game unbalances his life off the field. The set-up is not so different from a hundred & one Hollywood boxing pics (RAGING BULL/'80 is an all but acknowledged offspring), but the physical hazards of professional rugby (imagine American football without protective gear) certainly adds interest, as does the quick money/chump-change lifestyle and inter-personal wreckage back at home. As the sorrowful widow who rents out a room to Richard Harris's violent player, Rachel Roberts is both unforgettable & unfathomable. You can’t take your eyes off her, even at her most psychologically opaque. You do get the feeling that scripter David Storey, lensman Denys Coop & Anderson have watched a lot of Elia Kazan movies, especially ON THE WATERFRONT/’54, largely to their profit even if Richard Harris gets all but doused with visual allusions to Marlon Brando’s Terry Malloy. The final scene plays out like a rugby re-do of the WATERFRONT finale. Still, Harris gets his own licks in, too, check out his unexpected vocal with the band at a local club.

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