This Sporting Life (1963)

23 05 2008

On the complete other end of the “60s British realism” spectrum from Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is this. Outside of the angst, black and white cinematography, and Rachel Roberts, they’re fairly different. Where as that film uses it’s “angry young man” facade to get to something more complex, this film uses it as pretty much everything. Not to say that this is bad, but coming off of a viewing of Reisz’s classic, it feels particularly shallow. To Anderson’s credit, though, he seems to have a greater confidence with the camera.

Frank Machin joins a local rugby league to release his emotional baggage, but in the process he collects more worries. He lodges with Mrs. Hammond, a sensitive widow, who he has been harboring a crush on for quite some time. However, Machin, due to his rugby experience and short temper, is too violent to ever make a genuine human connection. In the mean time, Mrs. Weaver, the wife of the league’s owner, begins to show her feelings for Machin, which only adds to an ongoing laundry list of concerns.

This more of a straight-forward 60s British rebel film, perhaps even to the point of being the genre’s purest example. This creates a lot of problems, the most obvious being that the film is built around a juvenille concept of someone “fed up” with society. This is an understandable way to feel but in Machin’s case, his dissatisfaction feels to have been developed by an outsider. Now, thankfully, this isn’t a heavy-handed after-school lesson but it still shows very little interest in comprehending its protagonist. Instead, he drifts from scene to scene with lots of anger, which is fun to watch in its own way but the film never rises above superficial outbursts.

On the other hand, this is a bit more stylistically distinct than Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. It has a similar formal sensibility but the structure, perhaps gimmicky, is actually quite ahead of its time. Nicolas Roeg wouldn’t begin to make a name for himself in the UK’s film industry until the late 60s but it seems that the narrative techniques that made him famous, are on display here. Of course, it’s a far manner that is far more crude and far less polished, but there is something poetic going on here. Of course, any possible advancements made in this film have been made irrelevant with time. Technically, it’s nothing special but at least it does make something that isn’t so fresh seem worthwhile.

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24 05 2013
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