Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Bloomfield (1971)

          Midway through his long acting career, emphatic British thesp Richard Harris made an unimpressive directorial debut with this soccer-themed drama, a UK/Israel coproduction for which Uri Zohar shares directing credit. (Chances are Harris handled actors while seasoned filmmaker Zohar supervised technical aspects.) Harris portrays an aging English footballer who plays for a team in Tel Aviv, and the picture explores his anguish upon realizing that his playing days are nearly over. The sloppy script, to which Harris made contributions, employs a contrived device whereby the player has a meet-cute with a 10-year-old fan, then spends most of the day preceding his final match sharing adventures with the boy. Interspersed with this material are scenes involving the protagonist and his long-suffering girlfriend, a sensitive sculptor.
          Bloomfield—released in the US as The Hero—is so schematic that every heavy-handed note signifying the protagonist’s fall from grace is complemented by an equally heavy-handed note signifying the boy’s innocence or the sculptor’s promising future. While the picture is not without insight, subtle nuances are in short supply. Virtually no explanation is given for why the story takes place in Israel, so the viewer must assume that Eitan (Harris) had a celebrated career in European football before getting recruited to goose attendance at Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield Stadium. Similarly, very little emotional backstory is provided, so the viewer must assume that Eitan is a lifelong competitor who let other aspects of his personality go fallow while pursuing athletic glory. In lieu of helpful context, Eitan comes across as a narcissistic whiner, bitching about opportunities that others would relish, such as the offer of a lifetime coaching contract.
          The familiar extremes of Harris’ acting style don’t help, because it’s barely 13 minutes into the movie before Harris embarks on one of his signature screaming rages, punctuated by pained moans and ominous glares. The directors of his best films found ways to channel Harris’ alternately incendiary and sullen persona into effective drama, but that doesn’t happen here—and the failure to make Eitan sympathetic weakens other aspects of storytelling. For instance, Romy Schneider’s turn as Eitan’s girlfriend  feels bogus because it’s hard to accept that a woman so self-assured would tolerate his bullshit. Worse, Harris and Zohar regularly lose their grip on the movie’s tone. Most scenes are played for intense drama, but periodically the movie shifts to lighthearted lyricism for musical montages.

Bloomfield: FUNKY

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