Saturday, September 01, 2012

More than a "Great ape on a football field"

Twelve hours later, I am still digesting LINDSAY ANDERSON'S "THIS SPORTING LIFE," the 1963 film that explores the complicated relationship between a rugby league player and his widow landlady.
RICHARD HARRIS is magnetic as Frank Machin, the player dubbed a "GREAT APE ON A FOOTBALL FIELD" because of his capacity for powerful aggression.
Machin's emerging sensitive side complicates his life, however, as he yearns for love without realizing the organic nature of its development and growth.
Harris smolders like a Brando, Dean or De Nero whenever he's on screen.
RACHEL ROBERTS is Mrs. Hammond, Machin's landlady and love interest. She has shut herself away from the possibility of love, besieged by guilt that her husband's death could have been suicide rather than an industrial accident.
Rugby league provides the backdrop, and it's perfect -- a working class sport that thrives when players unleash powerful aggression upon themselves.
Machin thrives in this environment, but flounders in the world he wishes he could inhabit -- the sitting room, the bedroom, the restaurant or anywhere else where he could impress upon Hammond that he is more than just "a great ape on a football field."
It's a truly remarkable film, and I am still coming to terms with it, hours after my first viewing.