Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

A near classic from 1962, in which Tom Courtenay plays Colin Smith. Smith is a troubled youth from the outskirts of London who spends his days pinching things to get by. After his dad passes away, he finds himself in more trouble than usual. He is picked up for a crime and sent to a boys reformitory school. The headmaster (Michael Redgrave) sees talent in the lad. He wants Smith to lead the track team in their first ever competition with a public school.

The film starts with Smith at the school and tells the backstory through flashbacks. Smith finds himself struggling to do the right thing. Eventually he is put into a decision of how he is going to live his life.

Tony Richardson directed The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner after having a brush of success with A Taste of Honey. His visual style is very distinctive with the stark black and white of England in winter. Richardson would later follow this up with Tom Jones which netted him a couple of Oscars and be credited with the discovery of Albert Finney. Courtenay is quite a find for the lead here. He has a Ewan McGregor swagger that adds quite a bit to what could be a very cliche role.

The story is limited on some fronts. Certain characters are only given the one dimensional view, but overall Richardson is quite effective in his storytelling. For 1962, this film is very well put together. I think I've only seen one other director (Stanley Kubrick) who had at the time such striking vision for cinematography. (You can argue Hitchcock if you want) LOTLDR is worth watching just for the visuals on screen. I'm now moving Tom Jones up on my Netflix.


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