This Sporting Life (1963)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama, Sports Drama  |   Release Date - Feb 7, 1963 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 134 min.  |   Countries - UK  |  
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The breakthrough film for both director Lindsay Anderson and star Richard Harris, this grim portrait of a tormented rugby player features what is likely the actor's finest performance and remains one of the few to explore the dark side of an athlete's life. Frank Machin (Harris) emerges from the coal mines of Yorkshire to wage war in the rugby scrum on his way to wealth and stardom. But the brutality that has taken him to the top corrodes all of his relationships, especially that with married paramour Rachel Roberts. In many ways a precursor to Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull (1980), Anderson records the relentless pounding of the scrum with a gritty immediacy, drawing a direct line from that bloody battle to the athletes' destructive off-the-field behavior. Along with Albert Finney, Harris was one of the first British actors to be influenced by the work of Marlon Brando and the techniques developed by the Actors Studio, and it would not be wrong to think of the character of Frank as a descendant of Stanley Kowalski. Like many of their contemporaries in the era of the Angry Young Man, both Anderson and Harris were also steeped in Italian neorealism, another strong influence on the film's style and tone. While Anderson would go on to produce more cerebral and explicit critiques of British society, none of his other films approach this one in terms of raw emotional power.