“Ths Sporting Life”

There’s a sublime tension and at the same time a kind of coming together in Lindsay Anderson‘s This Sporting Life (’63), which was re-issued last week on a Criterion DVD. A 1963 kitchen-sink drama about a somewhat loutish, emotionally needy rugby player (Richard Harris) blundering his way through an unexamined life, it has the usual elements — British working-class despair, rage, sex, banging into furniture..

But there’s such balm and tranquility provided by Denys Coop‘s black-and-white cinematography that it all seems strangely beautiful. Monochrome as luscious as Technicolor, sometimes moody and murky or fog-lit, sometimes pierced by odd shafts of light or reflections of same. A rough-and-tumble world lit and captured with tonal perfection.

13 thoughts on ““Ths Sporting Life”

  1. Deny’s Coops cinematography… “a rough-and-tumble world lit and captured with tonal perfection.”
    Very true.
    Pity the same could not be said for Richard Harris’ performance. First frame to last, it was On The CoalFront. “I cudda had class… I cudda beena contenda… I cudda been somebody… instead I’m a Rugby League Player.”
    Lordy, Harris even has a moment when, late in the story and realizing he had blown his chance at love, he clutches his head and yells… “Margaret!!!!!”

  2. I caught this on TCM a couple months ago or so. It was pretty good I thought. I had zero expectations from it. Not sure I’d ever pick it up on DVD mind you, but it sure did look pretty even on crap cable TV.

  3. sounds similar vibe to “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning”, another Brit working class flim (with Albert Finney) from that era that I discovered and enjoyed thoroughly.

  4. I caught this on TCM a couple months ago or so. It was pretty good I thought. I had zero expectations from it. Not sure I’d ever pick it up on DVD mind you, but it sure did look pretty even on crap cable TV.

  5. Now you need to see the original Alfie. If you think it’s a saucy sex comedy, you’re in for a big surprise– as audiences back then were, too.

  6. If we’re shouting out for Brit comedies of that period, give “Billy Liar” a chance – Walter Mitty with a bit more of a bite. (Of course, if you want Tom Courtenay in a downer film instead – “The Lonliness of the Long Distance Runner” is quite good.)

  7. I love the original ‘Alfie’ … a rather dark, nastily truthful film, in my opinion. I could never stomach the idea of the pretty, brightly lit, surely worthless remake. And ‘Billy Liar’ isn’t exactly upbeat. For a very different kind of Brit black-and-white movie, check out “The Knack”. And any Ealing comedy with Peter Sellers or Alec Guiness. Never saw ‘This Sporting Life’ or ‘A Taste of Honey’, but they’re on my bleak Brit 60s movie list.

  8. Caine’s ALFIE is an extraordinary film; one of my favorites. The remake, whose vibe was more Austin Powers than anything, was one of the worst remakes ever. No small achievement.
    It’s the abortion scene in the original ALFIE that knocks me out. That no such thing happened in the remake — showing the regret and remorse of such an act — was not in the least shocking, but had nothing to do with its awfulness.

  9. Now you need to see the original Alfie. If you think it’s a saucy sex comedy, you’re in for a big surprise– as audiences back then were, too.

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