Boxing announces itself as two combatants, enclosed in a square ring, using nothing but their fists to pummel each other into oblivion. Where, you might ask, is the appeal in that? We might mention first that Virgil and Homer featured it in their epic poems; G.B. Shaw had a lifelong obsession with it, writing a book on the subject in between his plays, and going so far as lacing up a pair of gloves himself; and James Baldwin, a complete stranger to the sport, was moved nonetheless to pen a rueful essay on sympathetic heavyweight Floyd Patterson. Boxing, to be sure, has long found a way of bewitching its observers, compelling them to memorialize, by way of philosophic introspection and metaphor alike, their experience of seeing violence waged in the ring. But violence is only half the picture. What permits boxing to emerge out of its purview as a bloodsport and become something like a broadly-recognized motif, is its seemingly innate possession of those grand, humanistic themes that have populated the great novels: the tales of redemption, bravery, sacrifice, ungodly willpower, flirtation with death, and so on – such elements more than earn boxing its cultural keep. Boxing, in other words, is the stuff of movies.
In October, Anthology concludes its two-part film series celebrating the longstanding and ongoing ties between boxing and cinema (ties that, as film scholar Dan Streible has demonstrated in his book “Fight Pictures” – as well as during a special presentation in Part 1 of the series – are ones that stretch back to the very beginnings of the film industry). This second chapter features a particularly eclectic selection of films, including debut works by such disparate filmmakers as Stanley Kubrick (DAY OF THE FIGHT), Charles Dekeukeleire (COMBAT DE BOXE), and Walter Hill (HARD TIMES); two very different chronicles of Muhammad Ali (by legendary photographer and filmmaker William Klein and video artist Anton Perich); innovative documentaries from Portugal (BELARMINO) and Austria (I JUST CAN’T GO ON); and Hollywood classics THE CHAMP, THE HARDER THEY FALL, and REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT.