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The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Michael Redgrave , Tom Courtenay , Tony Richardson    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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A bleak, but powerful 1960 British film that ranks as one of the most important United Kingdom imports of the decade. Director Tony Richardson (Tom Jones) tells the story of a rebellious social misfit and petty thief played by Tom Courtenay (The Dresser) who is picked to run on the track team at a reform school for boys. He finds he must balance his spirit and desire to win with his anger and frustration at the life he has led. At times a wrenching character study with no easy answers, Courtenay's performance is a touching portrait of a young man and the journey he takes as he tries to run not only for an unclear future, but from a past he cannot forget. A film indicative of the working class expressionism that came out of England in the early 1960s, Richardson's films stands alone as a downbeat, but insightful story of one man's struggle to determine who he is. --Robert Lane

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The British version of The Longest Yard June 4 2004
Format:VHS Tape
This was the story later used in the American film with Burt Reynolds, The Longest Yard. British actor, Tom Courtenay, in his first major film role plays the downcast, but likeable youth from the seedy side of town.
Courtenay's character is saturated with events in his life for which he has no control. He lives in poverty, his father dies, his mother's waiting in the wings-boyfriend is a jerk, and he has no job skills or future. He is ultimately placed in a youth detention facility where he finds, to his warden's joy, that he has athletic ability. He is ambivalent about this skill, but he can obtain privileges and possible early freedom if only he wins the running trophy for the warden.
The Burt Reynolds film, centered on his character developing an interest in his fellow prisoners to decide on how to respond to the warden's promised rewards and punishments. The British version focuses almost completely on the character's internal conflict. Ultimately, his decision is based on how he could best gain an aspect of control in his life. His decision is based not for his peers, and not for the authorities, but for his own sense of self. Aspects of the youth prison may seem funny by today's standard, but the story remains fresh and interesting. I highly recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Rebel with a Pause" Aug. 21 2002
Format:VHS Tape
This British film is a stark masterful portrayal of a young working class man, and the urban world he is trapped inside. The black and white photography lends a honest depiction of his tough bare existence. Colin watches his foolish widowed mother fritter away her meagre inheritance, and he seems to be as incarcerated in this world, as in the reform school he ends up in, after a bungled robbery. His stolen cash, stashed away in a drain pipe at the front door, floats out during a rainy day at the very feet of a detective making inquiries at his house. So it goes for Colin, a man trapped at every turn. His life gets a lift when he joins the cross country team at the reform school. The scenes of him running freely through the woods during meets are poetry on film. Colin lashes out against his fate and lot with one bold pause at the end. His expression as he stands there is priceless. This film's images will last with the viewer for a life time. This is great art.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I cant believe its still not on DVD! May 29 2003
By Yumi
Format:VHS Tape
This is one of the great classics that I watch every couple of years. It has no Hollywood cosmetics. The people look and feel very real and there is truth to their emotions. It's such a great movie I can't believe its not on DVD yet!
You certainly get the feeling you've ran a mile in his shoes and that it was worth the ride.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner Jan. 3 2002
Format:VHS Tape
Tony Richardon's grim evocation of the experience of one bottom feeder at the low base of Britain's crumbling class pyramid features editing as harsh - and cinematically effective, especially in the film's well-placed flahsbacks - as this story of hard-bitten young Colin Smith (grittily portrayed by Tom Courtenay). For a petty theft Smith is sentenced to borstal (reform school) where his speed in the long distance run elevates him, in the eyes of his inmate brethren, to become the "guvnor's blue-eyed boy", because the warden's goal is to win the special long distance running cup in the borstal's trial athletic competition against an upper-class public school. Smith finds himself trapped between the guvnor's self-serving, manipulative solicitude and the class-based peer pressure of his borstal mates. Courtenay plays out Smith's repsonse to his dilemma with breathless, bristling, teeth-clenched defiance that the film, grippingly, doesn't reveal until its withering dénouement.
Avis Bunnage lends a biting performance as Smith's mother: a woman hardened by her straitened life circumstance as the working class widow of a resentful factory worker, struggling on welfare to raise her children in a grimy, shabbily built, claustrophobic low-income dwelling. Alec McCowen, as the borstal's pyschologist, deftly adds depth to the story as a well-meaning advocate of fresh approaches to rehabilitating inmates, whose efforts are trumped by the warden's timeworn methods. As the warden Michael Redgrave communicates all that's right - and wrong - about the upper reaches of the class pyramid.
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