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This Sporting Life

Richard Harris , Rachel Roberts , Lindsay Anderson    Unrated   DVD
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Product Description


Prolific British filmmaker Lindsay Anderson weaves this small, evocative tale of young life at the crossroads in early 1960s Northern England. A rough, sullen young man (Richard Harris) working in the local coal mines begins to make a name for himself as a star rugby player, but even as he begins to fall in love he cannot escape the harsh realities of the bleak life around him. The rugby sequences in the film are striking, but no more so than the depiction of downtrodden people living in the shadow of industry and corruption that too often crushes their spirit. Harris in one of his first roles, is remarkably effective as an unlikable but sympathetic figure trying against hope to savor the small joys life has to offer, and the film also features the debut of renowned actress Glenda Jackson. One of a series of working-class, character-driven British imports, This Sporting Life is one of the best on the field. --Robert Lane

Product Description

One of the finest British films ever made, this benchmark of "kitchen-sink realism" follows the self-defeating professional and romantic pursuits of a miner turned rugby player eking out an existence in drab Yorkshire. With an astonishing, raging performance by a young Richard Harris, an equally blistering turn by fellow Oscar nominee Rachel Roberts as the widow with whom he lodges, and electrifying direction by Lindsay Anderson, in his feature-film debut following years of documentary work, This Sporting Life remains a dramatic powerhouse.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful English drama Feb. 9 2004
This drama offers a gripping story and outstanding performances. The affair between a frigid widow and a professional rugby player who carries the violence of the football field into his personal life is painfully detailed and will have you captivated throughout the whole film.
A powerful film characteristic of the British dramas of the 50’s and 60’s based on working class life in rural England. Director Lindsay Anderson is one of the major contributors to this genre.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harris' Finest Performance Oct. 8 2003
While viewing this film again recently, I was curious to see if it has lost any of its edge since I first saw it almost 40 years ago. It hasn't. In fact, in light of almost daily revelations of inappropriate (if not illegal) conduct by professional and even by so-called amateur athletes, it has perhaps even more relevance today. In my opinion, Richard Harris (Frank Machin) delivers his finest performance as a coal miner in Northern England (Yorkshire) who gains fame and fortune as a professional rugby player. I am reminded of Scorcese and De Niro's presentation of Jake La Motta in Raging Bull. (Both athletes fail in their personal relationships for precisely the same reasons they succeed in competition.) Rachel Roberts plays Mrs. Hammond, the only person Machin sincerely cares about, other than himself. Most of the time, she endures his use and abuse of her but in one memorable scene, she confronts him as the arrogant bully he is. He appreciates her only after....
David Storey wrote the screenplay based on his novel (same title) and, under Lindsay Anderson's crisp and sure direction, each member of the cast delivers a superb performance, including Glenda Jackson in what I think is her debut role. The colorful, often violent action on various playing fields is effectively portrayed, in stunning contrast with the drab lives of those who cheer on the teams. Credit Denys Coop for the cinematography. In essence, this film explores the nature and extent of one man's raw ambition and almost animalistic determination as his natural talents enable him to seize opportunities available to few others. Comparisons of This Sporting Life with Raging Bull are not a stretch. (Presumably De Niro saw this film prior to portraying La Motta. Did Harris see Brando in On the Waterfront before portraying Machin?
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By K. Gordon TOP 50 REVIEWER
A lower-class young man (Richard Harris) makes his mark as a particularly violent, tough rugby player, while trying, in his awkward, coarse way to seduce his landlady (Rachel Roberts).

Strong moments of acting, photography, and interesting use of fractured time mark Lindsay Anderson's feature debut. This was a key film of the British New Wave cinema that helped moved English film towards gritty realism. (Ironic, considering Anderson's greatest films; 'If...." and "O Lucky Man" are quite far from that kind of naturalistic realism).

Almost all critics consider it a masterpiece, but on first viewing both the performances and the writing were too theatrical for me to grant it quite that level of perfection.

But I plan to re-see it. As often with films one hears about for years, I may have been over-hyped, and missed some of its greatness. And even as is, I found it a strong, impressive and very worthwhile first feature, worth seeing if you have any interest in any of the elements; the cast, the moment in English history, Lindsay Anderson's great career as a director, etc.

Criterion does their usual great job, with a beautiful transfer, and tons of supplemental material, including a wonderful 50 minute, irony filled autobiographical film by Anderson called 'Is That All There Is?', made not that long before his death.
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The greatest sports movie ever made. The story of a miner in Yorkshire using his sporting skill in an attempt to escape the harshness of the industrial north east of the mid sixties.
This great sport, Rugby League, was born of the toughness and physicality that these hard men faced in their everyday lives.
Richard Harris is brilliant in the lead role of Frank Machin, and the Rugby League scenes are the most realistic portrayal of sport ever bought to the screen.
A true masterpiece and a snapshot of the cruel realities that shape other peoples lives.
An essential addition to every serious collector of dramatic sports cinema.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great film Nov. 19 2002
The movies actually about a Rugby League player, not a Rugby player - had it been a Rugby player I definitely wouldn't have watched the movie. A very good film with lots of tough scenes.
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