This Sporting Life
Richard Harris, Rachel Roberts, Alan Badel, William Hartnell,
Lindsay Anderson’s first feature plunges into the muck of manhood: it opens in the midst of a blunt, muddy clash of bodies on the rugby field. A tooth-crushing punch batters footballer Richard Harris and knocks loose a series of fragmented flashbacks, to the mines and to a boarding house where a pretty widow (Rachel Roberts) resists Harris’s ungainly advances, until a violent need erupts. These temporal dissociations create the effect of a narrative, and a life, with little forward motion. Harris gives a Brandoesque yet distinctive performance as a bruised, hulking man, harboring secret sensitivities, angry and not particularly young. “He’s just a bit dazed,” his handlers say after the knockout; meandering through a bleak northern landscape, his murky stream of consciousness shapes the film’s subjective form of realism, the roar of the crowd mingling with voices in the mind.