Saturday, September 18, 2010

Everyman Blues

This Sporting Life (1963) - Anderson
Richard Harris is Frank, a miner turned rugby player trying to woo the cold widow Margaret (Rachel Roberts) of the lodging house. Frank is a good man, but not totally innocent when he wants to get ahead. Grieving Margaret won't budge at his advances though, no matter how hard he tries. He becomes successful, buys things for the widow, goes to ravish parties his boss throws after the games, even takes up on the seduction of his boss's old wife. But he soon finds that he is looked down on by the poor and the affluent alike: "You are just a big ape in the football field!", Margaret pronounces it for him on everyone's behalf. He can't have one thing he wants the most, the affection of the widow.

Harris shines in this film about everyman trapped in the rigid hierarchical society- a man who thinks he got a handle on things even though he has no control over anything. It's amazing how much he resembles young Brando: his hulking physicality, boyish vulnerability, add Paul Newman's soulful eyes and there you have Harris.

There are a lot of great scenes with Harris. My favorite would be him singing at a club- arms crossed and awkward, he exudes his vulnerable charm the best. Anderson makes the most of Harris's great performance, accompanying with almost documentary like, natural filmmaking. This Sporting Life is a heartbreaking film. The ending really got to me.