Wednesday, June 17, 2009

LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER (Tony Richardson, 1962, UK) Colin is running in place, burdened with his treadmill existence of angst and isolation while the world passes him by. Arrested for burglary, Colin is imprisoned in a juvenile detention facility whose purpose is to redeem the young hooligans by physical activity and mind-numbing tasks of conformity. They painstakingly disassemble antiquated gas masks into basic parts, an apt metaphor concerning the school’s deconstruction of their volatile individuality into fundamental components: a gaseous sublimation into British society. But Colin is an exceptional runner, a trait augmented by his often absconding from authority, and he soon understands that this ability could help him escape the ghetto of his lower class foundation. Director Tony Richardson films in the grim and dirty streets of Britain, his protagonist a victim of environment, crushed by the pondering social hierarchy, a victim of hopeless repetition. The cancerous death of Colin’s father eats away at his spirit, and though he sees the finish line, he understands the human sacrifice and makes his terminal decision. The beautiful black and white cinematography brings the film to life: from the littered streets, claustrophobic flat, and fog shrouded woods we breath Colin’s atmosphere of discontent and exhale his emotional schizophrenia. Tom Courtenay portrays Colin with the right balance of zealous rebellion and moral insight: though he seems annoyed by his father’s dying plea, he also shows a gentleness by covering his father’s ashen face with the bed sheet…an act that never occurs to his mother: she is only concerned with the insurance money and her new lover. Colin soon lives a life of luxury at the reformatory compared to his home, and he becomes the Governor’s favorite because he can win fame and recognition for Ruxton, especially winning against a private school. As Colin easily outpaces his rival, Richardson uses montage to create a psychological battle, an interior monologue that weighs Colin’s own values against those of “selling out”. As the Governor cheers him on and victory is certain, he decides to be his own king…and not become a sacrificial pawn. (B+)

No comments: