The Sports Film: Games People Play by Bruce Babington

By Bruce Babington

After masking the genre's early background and theorizing its normal features, this quantity then makes a speciality of particular cases of activities movies, reminiscent of the biopic, the activities heritage movie, the documentary, the fan movie, the boxing movie, and explores concerns similar to gender, race, spectacle and silent comedy. 4 significant movies are then heavily analysed — Chariots of Fire, Field of Dreams, the Indian cricket epic Lagaan, and Oliver Stone's Any Given Sunday. whereas recording American film's value to the style, the booklet resists the traditional over-concentration on American cinema and activities through its awareness to different cinemas, for instance the British, Indian, Australian, South Korean, Thai, German, New Zealand, Spanish, etc, with the various diversified activities they depict.

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When Billie Beat Bobbie can be seen as a paradigm of the difficulties of reconstructing ideologically contentious history in its being almost two separate films, one rather stridently presenting King as a major feminist icon, the other – more centred on Riggs – emphasising the comic grotesque aspects of a challenge match more media circus than meaningful sport or sexual politics. indb 34 15/1/14 15:03:48 THE SPORTS FILM watched where, by whom, under what conditions, with what meanings? The distinction is theoretically useful, but blurs in practice, where the separate impulses merge, so that films seemingly treating sport as pure activity cannot help touching on social meanings, while films undertaking sociological investigation can seldom resist embodying sport’s lyrical, ludic dimension.

Indb 28 15/1/14 15:03:48 THE SPORTS FILM golfing biopic, Follow the Sun: The Ben Hogan Story (1951) the period’s rigid lifestory form finds different emphases within basic patterns – rise to fame, comeback after injuries and so on. Here a novel concern is the pressured sportsman’s mental fragility, different, say, from Thorpe’s problems of racial identity, which precede his sporting life. Hogan’s psychological affliction is far from the extreme of the oedipally-incited one mentally unbalancing Jimmy Piersall in Fear Strikes Out (1957), the result of his father’s pressure on him to succeed at baseball.

In Golden Boy (Rouben Mamoulian, 1939) Joe Bonaparte is torn between talents for the ring and the violin. But in films like Rocky and Ali, and the Korean Champion/Hangui (Kyung-Taek Kwak, 2002) and Crying Fist/Jumeogi Unda (Ryu Seung-Wan, 2005) body and soul are indissoluble, the body’s activity soulful, boxing a heroic undertaking. indb 42 15/1/14 15:03:49 THE SPORTS FILM leafed metaphor for heroic, even spiritual triumph. The negative category includes The Set-Up, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Golden Boy, Champion (Mark Robson, 1949), Body and Soul, The Harder They Fall and Raging Bull.

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