Friday, 29 August 2008
Blue Blood (2006) - ickleReview (DVD)
Boxing is a full Blue sport at Oxford University, alongside rowing and rugby. Those students who aspire to win a Blue by competing against Cambridge in the annual Varsity match see it as a great honour and are prepared to make many sacrifices to get it. This documentary by Stevan Riley (a former Oxford University boxer himself, although he never won a Blue due to a concussion) follows a number of boxing novices in their first season. There's Kavanagh, a spindly first-year Philosophy student; Charlie, a doe-eyed Fine Arts student who sings and paints nudes; Fred, a gritty Biochemist from a single-parent family who resents his father and takes to the sport like a natural; Boiler, a Mathematician rugby player desperate to win a Blue to impress his father; and Justin, an American Astrophysicist from the US Air Force Academy who fancies himself as a Christian Chuck Norris. They're coached by Des, a local builder.
The Varsity season gives the film a perfect teleology, although for many of the boxers, the experience of training and getting in the ring, of winning their Blue, seems more important than beating Cambridge at the end.
Having watched the boxing Varsity match myself a few years ago, it is a special occasion with a raw and passionate atmosphere. You cannot really appreciate how brave and brutal a sport boxing is until you see it live and up close. It's also much more about technique than fighting ability. Some of these boys are badly exposed due to their inexperience. There's a trip to Sandhurst to fight in front of the Army; and the annual Town vs. Gown match hosted in the Oxford Union debating chamber where students fight non-students.
It's odd seeing people I know on camera in a proper film. I played rugby with Boiler. I also recognized Andrew Buchan, Mark Hudson, and James Glancey (in the gym), Andrew Clements, Graham Barr, Ed Wilson, and James Grigg (in the crowd), and Guy Reynolds (who is briefly interviewed as Boiler's former rugby team-mate, and who captained the U21s in my second year).
Nugget: an excellent film that really immerses you in the spirit of Varsity, but also doesn't take itself too seriously.