Academic journal article Film & History

"Down on the Floor and Give Me Ten Sit-Ups": British Sports Feature Film

Academic journal article Film & History

"Down on the Floor and Give Me Ten Sit-Ups": British Sports Feature Film

Article excerpt

Introduction

ONE could be excused for thinking that the British sports feature film is, when compared to those produced in Hollywood, something of a new, fledgling genre especially given the rather scant focus and attention afforded to it by academics, critics and audiences alike. This is underpinned when comparison to other genres, such as the romantic-comedy or British gangster movie, is made given that these genres have enjoyed something of a renaissance over the last few years. Perhaps Drew Hyland was correct when he wrote, 'there seems to be a long standing prejudice that however popular a phenomenon sport may be, however widely its influence may permeate our culture, it is simply not "serious" enough to be a legitimate subject of intellectual inquiry' (1990).

In an attempt to redress the imbalance a little, the principal aims of this essay are to examine and discuss the British fictional sports feature film (1) through its historical development and then offer some discursive points as to what is intrinsically 'British' about these films. (2) One of the points for discussion that I will bring to the fore and that I will expand upon is whether the sports film, especially the British sport film, constitutes a specific genre such as the Western or Gangster. Or is it something of a 'subgenre' of melodrama or a 'movement' rather like that associated with film noir. (3) This essay will address a number of points. I will map out a brief history of the sports film per se and then trace a history focusing upon those films I have identified as being British. The criteria I have chosen for this task are, in some cases, the nationality of the director or the nationality of the main actors or in what country the film was produced. By doing this I hope to highlight some of the issues that are pertaining to, and open to, debate when relating to the British sports film. I will investigate some of these issues by textual analysis of an independent British film that has sport as central to its narrative drive, namely, The Girl with Brains in her Feet (1997, Roberto Bangura). (4)

However, my approach to the fictional sports film, let alone the British sports film, is in itself rather pragmatic. I would argue that despite what I would consider some outstanding sports movies being produced and exhibited, there are many that richly deserve their obscurity and lack of audience and critical interest. Hence within the canon of film studies and criticism those films that could be identified as sports films are perhaps not regarded as drawing the same intellectual gravitas as other well established genre films. This opens up what is for me an interesting discussion into the appreciation and critical acclaim afforded to a film such as Raging Bull (1980, Martin Scorsese). Central to my discussion here is this question: is this a film acclaimed as a 'sports film,' therefore placing it within a specific genre establishing certain conventions or is it acclaimed as a film by one of the most prolific of those acclaimed as an 'auteur'? In other words, because Martin Scorsese directed this film, it merits critical attention and elevates it above a typical and 'ordinary' genre movie. One could be forgiven for assuming therefore that the integration of sport and film should be a match made in 'movie making' heaven. Sport has courted controversy, notoriety and a special place in the hearts and minds of people living in western society. Sport tends to affect or has affected almost every individual in some way or the other, particularly in the western world, at some stage of their lives. As T. Miller and G. Laurence suggest, 'sport is probably the most universal aspect of popular culture ... it crosses languages and countries to captivate spectators and participants as both professional and a pastime ... passions are invoked that go beyond most other experiences' (2001, introduction).

The fantastic appeal that sport conjures can influence social and individual behaviour in a way that is unique. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.