Monday, 10 September 2012

This Sporting Life at the Hyde Park Picture House

At the Hyde Park Picture House last Tuesday (4 September), This Sporting Life revived the feelings in me which I had when I first saw it on the big screen many years ago - it is stunningly powerful, with superb acting from just about all the cast. It's dour but brilliant. In spite of the odd, hybrid accent, which drifts into his native Irish at times, Richard Harris puts his heart, soul and athletic body into the part of Frank Machin, and Rachel Roberts is so impressive as Margaret Hammond! As with all classic films, you notice things you missed before - I recognised places I know now but didn't at the time of the first showing, I appreciated the innovative camera work and I took pleasure in recognising so many actors who made it after the first appearance of the film - William Hartnell (Doctor Who), Frank Windsor as a dentist, not a policeman, Leonard Rossiter as a sports journalist, not Rigsby, and Arthur Lowe as Charles Slomer, not Captain Mannering. 

Alan Badel (The Count of Monte Cristo, TV series in 1964) was truly aristocratic as Gerald Weaver, the moneyed sponsor in a camelhair coat, and he contributed strongly to the class element in the film - he's from another world completely to the grim one inhabited by Frank Machin. The match scenes were convincing, but the brutality was really played up - to go with Machin's ruthlessness: I would have enjoyed a couple more straightforward tries without players getting punched up, but then the film is pretty long already, and more scenes on the pitch would probably stretch it too much.

This showing will be, I hope, the beginning of a productive collaboration between sports and the arts in Leeds.