Posted at 6:27 PM on June 13, 2006
by Euan Kerr
Movie watching had to take a back seat to the World Cup, at least at the Kerr household, this weekend. It's just one of those problems that shuffles around every four years for some of us.
I've been reading "The Thinking Fans Guide to the world Cup" which is co-edited by a bloke who used to work here at MPR called Matt Weiland. He lives in London now, but he grew up in Minnesota.
In the preface he talks about going to a soccer camp every summer which always ended with everyone being crowded into a hall for the ceremonial showing of John Huston's 1981 film "Victory." It's a somewhat fantastical story about a multi-national soccer team formed in a POW camp during World War II. They agree to play a propaganda game against a German all-star team as part of a cover for an escape.
It's clear it's a fantasy much of the cast are world class soccer players, including Pele, the Argentinean great Osvaldo Ardiles, and the late England Captain Bobby Moore, and because Sylvester Stallone plays goalie. It's worth seeing just to compare the pro players acting with Sly's, and for the scene at the end when the crowd in Paris sings "La Marseillaise."
It's one of the few times when the experience of being in a soccer crowd comes close to being captured on film.
Soccer seldom does well on film. For any game to be exciting, you need to know the rules, and to some extent the back story. Sadly soccer films seem to feature flimsy stories and that makes them all seem the same. (Witness "The Big Green.")
A couple worth watching though if you are truly interested: "The Cup" and "The Firm." The former was the first feature film ever made in Bhutan. It's the sweet tale of a pair of soccer mad Buddhist monks and the lengths they go to get a TV to watch the World Cup in 1998.
"The Firm" (a British TV movie from 1988, rather than the Tom Cruise vehicle) is at the opposite end of the spectrum. It's about two gangs of soccer hooligans who consider joining forces. It's about the very ugly side of soccer passion which once was a part of the game, and thankfully has faded into the past. Gary Oldman plays one of the lead thugs, and it's hard to take your eyes off him.
Those are my picks. Anyone else have any recommendations?
Ah, but of course! And my beloved pointed out I missed Keira Knightly's entry into the US consciousness with "Bend it like Beckham."
There is also Wim Wenders 1972 film "The Goalkeeper's Fear of the Penalty" (apparently called "The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick" in the US) but it's been a long time since I saw that one.
And there's the early Robert ("Trainspotting") Carlyle film "Go Now" about an amateur soccer player whose life changes when he falls in love, and then is diagnosed with MS. The scene where he has to finally admit he can't play any more is haunting.