47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on 30 January 2010
Don't believe any of the stupid and insulting reviews of this film left here by people who are obviously out of sympathy with what it is trying to achieve. This represents the high-point of British film-making: a film about British people made FOR British people - in stark contrast to the junk we tend to produce today, sending ourselves up for the jollification of American onanists. Harris was never as impressive as this again and Rachel Roberts gives a heart-breaking performance as his landlady/love interest (sort of). The supporting cast is impeccable and as for the ending....absolutely devastating. No sense of it being rushed at all - absolutely perfect and right.
Be warned, though: this film is sugar and anaesthetic-free, largely unleavened by humour (and none the worse for that, I'd say). Anyone interested in BRITISH film-making (as opposed to 'films made in Britain') needs to see this film.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This Sporting Life is directed by Lindsay Anderson and written by David Storey. It stars Richard Harris, Rachel Roberts, Alan Badel, William Hartnell, Colin Blakely, Vanda Godsell and Anne Cunningham. Music is by Roberto Gerhard and cinematography by Denys Coop.
Frank Machin (Harris) gets the opportunity to utilise his brute strength and angry nature out on the Rugby League field. It looks a match made in sporting heaven as Machin quickly establishes himself as a star in waiting, but off the field he is less successful at life's challenges...
You taking the jam out of someone's sandwich without asking for it?
Pigeon holed as Brit Kitchen Sink Drama or Brit New Wave, This Sporting Life is regardless a very unique and powerful film. It was director Anderson's first full length feature and also Harris' break out performance. What transpires over the course of the two hour plus running time, is a tale of mud, blood and emotionally fractured characters. Set to a grim back drop of a damp Yorkshire city, with coal mines and factories the means of employment, the streets are paved with stone and the terraced houses charred by the soot of the chimney smoke.
Just a big ape on the football field.
This back drop marries up perfectly with Machin's life, where even out on the pitch he comes to understand that he's in a vortex of unfulfillment. There are some bright spots dripped into proceedings, hope dangled like a golden carrot, especially with one beautiful sequence as Frank plays with Margaret's (Roberts) kids, but bleakness is never far away, the story demands that. Margaret is his landlady and object of his brutish desire, she's one of life's warriors but struggling to keep up the good fight. Widowed and still burned by her husband's death, her relationship with Frank is heart aching in its hopelessness. Has the polishing of a pair of boots ever been so sad as it is here?
Harris is a revelation, a tour de force, feral yet anguished, all coiled up in one hulking frame. Roberts, likewise, is terrific, a measured and layered turn that helps to bring the best out of Harris. Around the central pair are a roll call of grand British actors aiding the quality of the production, while Anderson and his editor Peter Taylor use brilliant bold-cut transitions to let the flashback narrative work its magic. From the whack of an arm thundering into Machin's teeth at the beginning of the film, to his punching of a spider on the wall at the end, this is a 1960s British classic of some considerable worth. 9/10
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 10 August 2010
Having been a Rugby League player himself David Storey, author of both the original novel and the screenplay, knew what he was writing about. But the sporting background, characterised by the often brutal nature of the Rugby League game, is properly subsumed by a story of two people - the miner/player Frank Machin (Richard Harris) and the still young widow Margaret Hammond (Rachel Roberts) with whom he lodges - whose relationship is fatally flawed by the inherently violent nature of the former and the inherently repressed nature of the latter. The setting of a grim Northern town rings true, the match scenes, filmed in Wakefield, are vividly staged, the performances of the principals are outstanding and the rawness and passion of the story climaxes in a genuine - and heartbreaking - tragedy. This has some claim to be the finest of the North of England-based New Wave British films of the period.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 25 November 2004
Uncompromising, claustrophobic, grubby, pitiless, deadly - this film succeeds in describing the essence of the industrial North before the winds of social change emanating from Swinging London really started to make themselves felt. It is almostly certainly cinema's most 'honest' portrayal of the British working-class milieu in the early-'sixties. For this reason alone it is well worth seeing, but it also features fine acting performances, not only from the two leads, but also from a surprisingly strong supporting cast, which includes a number of household names from the era.
One word of caution concerning this particular presentation: whether due to the original mono soundtrack or the DVD manufacturers/distributors, the audio is poor throughout the film and dialogue occasionally difficult to follow. Subtitles are however provided.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 26 July 2014
This terrific film is probably the grimmest of the 'kitchen sink' dramas from this era, and it was probably the last. The public grew a bit weary of them I think. But it's wonderful, brilliantly acted and written, and still potent. I think it's a bit patronising to say the film shows the shallow Americans 'what we were all about' because they had their own great films from around this time that reflected their culture. They couldn't have made this great film, and the Brit's couldn't have made their classics. Apples and oranges. The print is stunning. The only minor distraction is Richard Harris's oddly heavy makeup. But it's a great film, and he's great in it, as is the entire cast. And yes, it is a sugar free zone, big time.
on 1 May 2015
Machin is the star ascendant in the proud form of Rugby League in this period piece, evoking a northern England still divided from the richer south but then the site of the manufacturing and mining heartland, one product of which was this tough sport for macho men.. Yes this is a sports film, but not only that; it is about the blessing of talent and the disaster attendant on not looking after it, on not realizing either that, to quote the awful modern phrase "there's no I in team", which would be news to Machin. He bursts onto the screen as the arch individualist, he thinks that he deserves everything and may break the rules on and off the pitch. He behaves similarly in his relationship with Rachel Roberts's long-suffering widow girlfriend, with her he is boorish but unknowingly dependent on a God-given talent that is all that he has. He thinks he is special, a sort of ubermensch , one who need not obey rules made for littler characters.. He learns for too late that the gods destroy those who fly too close to the Sun, or indeed close to the wind. At the start Machin is the star, but once time and fate have done their bit, the inevitable fate is sealed. The grim north is well evoked, actors like the fine Colin Blakeley and Alan Badel also shine in a compelling film, applicable to more than sport.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A working class-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 a bit 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.
22 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 22 February 2001
"This Sporting Life" remains a cornerstone of British cinema. Lindsay Anderson's remarkable understanding of the original source material echoes with the political turmoil of the early sixties at the same time as it reminds us that the British New Wave was its own voice. Contrary to critics of the period who denounced this film as derivative of nouvelle vague filmmaking, Anderson and his remarkable team shot the world of class and culture as none had done before. The ragged use of black and white, coupled with a lack of slickness that only compunds the reality of the piece, places us squarely in the squalid and often gritty world of men's locker rooms, desperately lonely rowhouses and heartless luxury. Richard Harris creates a character achingly out of reach of his own emotions and thoughts and Rachel Roberts succeeds as the widow who, sadly, knows nothing but emptiness and tragedy. Both of these actors do the finest work of their careers and they are supported by a quietly powerful ensemble that helps to explain why this period in British filmmaking continues to resonate.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
It is remarkable to think that master (albeit sporadic) film-maker Lindsay Anderson's 1963 film This Sporting Life was actually his feature debut. Following in the wake of other so-called 'kitchen-sink' productions such as John Schlesinger's A Kind Of Loving and Karel Reisz's Saturday Night And Sunday Morning, Anderson's film similarly contained some of the established trademarks for the genre, namely an 'unfashionable' northern setting (in this case Wakefield in Yorkshire) and tales of marital infidelity, but further developed the canon by its use of innovative film-making techniques. Reminiscent at times of some of the early work of the likes of Godard and Cassavetes, Anderson's film is visually stunning as cinematographer Denys Coop's camera achieves visceral (rugby) action close-ups and is peppered with staccato jump cuts. Indeed, the film's visual distinctiveness is one of the major factors which lead me to rank the film, along with Scorsese's Raging Bull, as one of the greatest sporting portrayals ever to reach the big screen.
Of course, the other major factor in this assessment is the standard of the acting on show. Both the film's main protagonists, Richard Harris as once miner, now up-and-coming rugby league player, Frank Machin and Rachel Roberts as his landlady, and eventual femme fatale, Margaret Hammond turn in bravura (and career-best) performances. Harris is uncannily like Marlon Brando (in his On The Waterfront/Streetcar Named Desire, i.e. best, period) in the film - even down to his physical (particularly facial) appearance. Similarly, one can observe acting traits and nuances in common between the two actors - perhaps traceable back to their respective 'method' training, Brando courtesy of Stanislavski, Harris courtesy of Joan Littlewood. However, arguably eclipsing Harris is his co-star Roberts, whose intensity of performance is certainly at least Harris' equal (and just wins it for me in terms of its authenticity) - she is equally brilliant during the underplayed, early scenes as she maintains her aloofness to Frank's jack-the-lad character, and during the later scenes of tempestuous passion and despair.
Whilst these two central performances would carry any film, This Sporting Life also boasts an impressive array of supporting acting turns. Alan Badel is particularly good as the slimy, but authoritative, rugby club owner Gerald Weaver, as is Vanda Godsell as his wife Anne. Excellent character parts are also provided by the inestimable Arthur Lowe, in typical blustering form as club official Charles Slomer, William Hartnell as Frank's initial trainer `Dad' Johnson and Leonard Rossiter as local newspaperman Phillips.
As Harris' Machin travels full circle from being the working man on the street to a Bentley-driving, local celebrity hobnobbing it with local high society, it transpires that he is unable to come to terms with the denial of the real target of his obsession, Roberts' Margaret. Thereafter, Anderson's film delivers a devastatingly powerful conclusion to accompany this man's fall from grace.
on 20 May 2015
A gritty tale set in the north of England, around the game of Rugby League. Given real authenticity by one of our greatest actors, full of edge and danger, Richard Harris, the like of which we don't see anymore