These days I am catching up with the British New Wave classics of the early 60s. Karel Reisz's 1960 film Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is considered an important milestone of the same movement. It is no doubt a great achievement but it suffers a little in comparison with Lindsay Anderson's This Sporting Life which came a few years later, because the setting, the characters, the tone and the basic themes are common to both to a great extent. Anderson's film is much more stylish and also much more unrelentingly bleak and bruising and as a result packs a more powerful punch. In fact Reisz was initially roped in to direct This Sporting Life but he declined saying that it was very similar to what he had already done. He then acted as a producer and finally Anderson directed it.
Albert Finney plays a rebellious young man with a dead-end job at a tool factory whose personal motto of life is "I'm out for a good time - all the rest is propaganda!" and to fulfill the same he sets out on Saturday nights having fun and generally drinking himself sick. "Don't let the bastards grind you down!" he screams at his superiors at work and anybody who questions him or asks him to "settle down." To him settling down would mean accepting a life that his parents and in fact everybody around him has accepted as real - life spent in the kitchen and glued in front of the TV. In his rebellious quest he finds himself getting involved with a married woman (played by Rachel Roberts who was also wonderful in This Sporting Life) and when things get unexpectedly messy he is finally forced to make some tough decisions. The ending of the film is somewhat ambiguous but nowhere as bleak as in This Sporting Life.
Like Billy Liar Arthur is also struggling to keep his humanity intact in the grinding circumstances of the world he lives in. But unlike Billy he takes recourse in rage and anger to assert his individuality and freedom, even when this doesn't really take him anywhere for real. "What ever people say I am, that's what I'm not," he screams looking at the mirror. There is also a lot of anger directed towards the older generation who romanticise the past. "Them was rotten days" as one of the character says in the film after being subjected to some golden-ageism. Albert Finney really shines in the role as do the rest of the cast. The accents are a little tough to get into but once you get into the tone and rhythms of the voice patterns it becomes easier and in fact all those great dialogues I quoted above will make sense only when they are spoken in a proper accent. All in all, it is another forgotten gem from the British New Wave film movement.