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This Sporting Life [Blu-ray]
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Richard Harris gives a career-best performance as the brutally competitive miner, strongly supported by Rachel Roberts as his bitter landlady, both of whom received Oscar nominations, with Roberts winning the BAFTA for Best British Actress. David Storey's compelling script was also BAFTA nominated, while director Lindsay Anderson was nominated for the Golden Palm for his unflinching look at working-class life set in the bleak landscape of Northern England. This Sporting Life is featured here in a High Definition transfer made from original film elements in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio.
Miner Frank Machin lodges with a widow, Mrs. Hammond. His competitive nature and powerful physique cause him to join the local rugby team and, as his career progresses, so too his brutal nature distances him from those around him. Success - and perhaps a new sense of insecurity - seems to make Frank harsher and cruder...
 Original theatrical trailer
 Four image galleries, including extensive promotional and behind-the-scenes shots
 Promotional material PDFs
 Commemorative Booklet PDF by Film Historian David Rolinson
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 unlikeable but sympathetic figure trying against hope to savour 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Unfortunately this system does not allow no stars!!
How many films are perfect anyway? I don't say that I could do it! Good DVD rendition.
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
It was writer David Storey's first novel and screenplay and it was director Lindsay Anderson's ('If') first feature film. It was the making of Richard Harris (who plays the central character Frank Machin) who won a Best Actor Award at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role and a BAFTA. His co-star, Rachel Roberts, won a BAFTA award and an Oscar nomination for best actress. Among the supporting cast, William Hartnell, got spotted by the first Dr Who producer, Verity Lambert, and was cast soon after as the first ever Doctor Who; and it was the future 'Dad's Army' star, Arthur Lowe's, first prominent role. Frank Windsor, who shortly afterwards began a long running 14 year lead role in 'Z Cars' and 'Softly Softly', plays the dentist. And finally, it was Leonard Rossiter's ('Rising Damp', 'Reginald Perrin') first film role with a significant speaking part - he plays the sports journalist.
Although it is beautifully lensed by its cinematographer, Denys Coop ('A Kind of Loving', 'Billy Liar'), this is not a pleasant film to watch. Richard Harris plays a psychopath feeding himself on the souls of others. But he is not the only one. It is a cruel world that he finds himself in. See how many psychopaths you can diagnose in this film! Unsurprisingly, it did very badly at the UK box office, and was redeemed only by critical success in the United States. But it is still an awesome film. Unusually, in Britain, it was harshly judged at the time as a film whose whole was less than the sum of its parts - an unfair adjudication that has since been comprehensively reversed. 5 stars.
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