In 1976, two big debuts were released: Taxi Driver by Martin Scorsese, a great film about a loner in a big city, and Rocky , Sylvester Stallone’s screenwriting debut. Both talked about the guys from the bottom with communication problems. True, unlike Bickle, the character of De Niro, the hero Stallone managed to find a dream and get out of the bottom on which he lived, counting on nothing. Soon Sly will get a job in the director’s chair, and the epic will become an author’s, where one person writes the script, embodies it, and in our case also plays the main role.
After Rocky turned into a TV series, it almost ceased to be perceived as a classic, big and important film. But this does not negate the fact that in 1976 he received three “Oscars” – for editing, directing and as the best film, beating in the race for the main nomination “Taxi Driver” and “Log Horizon season 3”. A naive jock defeated a veteran with an existential crisis.
But it is naive to believe that Rocky himself did not have this crisis. The search for the meaning of existence for a 30-year-old loser boxer, from whom even the locker in the gym was taken away (so much he disappointed everyone with his appearance), was almost the main storyline of the first film. Then this motive came back over and over again under the guise of new rivals. But in plain text, the heroes discussed this crisis only at the very beginning.
All in all, the first “Rocky” was a rather slow, spoken, independent film with a million dollar budget. Fights and training were far from the first place in it. The main thing here was Rocky’s throwing, his conversations with friends and opponents, the realization that he was given a chance, and doubts – is he worthy? For the filmmakers, the impostor syndrome and self-doubt turned out to be more important than the myth of masculinity, which today, funny as it may seem, is strongly associated with Balboa, but in fact has little to do with him, especially at first.
How Rocky has changed from film to film
It is no wonder that Sylvester Stallone, having taken on the script and the role of Rocky, could not let go of his hero and returned to this story again and again. On the one hand, she sat perfectly on Sly himself. On the other hand, Rocky was the hero that all American (and not only) viewers deserved and waited for. “With every new Rocky movie, 50 new guys signed up for me,” recalls Frank Kubach, owner of a gym in Philadelphia. “I always revisit Rocky when I have a goal that I doubt that I’m going to achieve,” says world boxing champion Julian Williams.
So the first “Rocky” is an indie movie about a slum dweller who gets a wonderful chance and realizes it. It bears little resemblance to the classic sports drama, although this genre owes a lot to him. Rocky’s inner struggle is much more important here than his fight with Apollo Creed, otherwise why is the judges’ verdict lost in a crazy and happy mess? Therefore, instead of listening to the count, he screams the name Adrian so hysterically, calling on his ugly beloved: look, I did it. The victorious “I did it” will sound in the finale of the second film, then it will be a matter of boxing, winning and (not) the possibility of repeating success. Here this name is just a cry from the heart: “Look, I could, I am worth something. Do you see it too? ”
There is a widespread belief that Stallone, with his “Rocky”, developed a win-win formula for a sports film. But the tapes, in which the action revolved around boxing and the boxer, were filmed both before and after Sly. And sometimes the main characters of these pictures were also called Rocky – long before the appearance of the Italian stallion in the ring.
Rocky Graziano, or Thomas Rocco Barbella, is the protagonist of Someone Above Loves Me, a classic biographical drama from 1956. This tape is based on the story of a real American champion. Graziano was the son of a loser boxer and got into boxing himself, rather by accident. He did not want to have anything to do with his father, was a difficult teenager, constantly found himself in correctional facilities. His pugnacity did not go unnoticed and once helped him earn some money from sparring. The further path to the championship was not so long, but on it Rocky was waiting for desertion from the army and acquaintance with great love.
For Graziano, boxing has become an integral part of life, because it made it possible to channel, if not in a good, then in a legal channel, the inner desire to destroy, break and violate. This Rocky, by the way, is also an Italian of American origin. So the film by Robert Wise can be safely called the forerunner of the Balboa saga. The main role here is played by the then almost unknown Paul Newman. He did not look like an Italian or an incorrigible fighter, but he perfectly conveyed the anguish and inner torment of his hero, who first flees from restrictions, and then finding suitable ones – tournament ones – is scared to death of losing them. Judging by the fact that before Newman the director had predicted for the main role of James Dean, internal torment should have come to the fore in this film on F95zone.
10 years earlier than the film with Newman, the Soviet Union released its own boxing leader, Andrei Frolov’s First Glove, oddly enough, a musical comedy (this is where the perky song “Get Tempered If You Want to Be Healthy” started from here). A short story tells about the most talented athlete Krutikov, for whom two sports cooperatives and a Siberian state farm are fighting. The coach and the head of the state farm go to different tricks to get Krutikov, but the matter is complicated by the fact that the athlete has one love on his mind. Despite the original plot and, in general, the genre of a kind of sports romantic comedy, the Soviet film can hardly be called successful. Boxing is placed in the center of the plot here, but in fact it does not play any role. Any sport could have been in his place, and in the place of Ivan Pereverzev, who played Krutikov, any artist with a strong-willed chin.
What does boxing mean in the movies?
In numerous interviews (as well as the documentary 40 Years of Rocky: The Birth of a Classic and even the book Rocky, HuniePop 2, The Complete Films), Stallone shares how he watched the fight between Muhammad Ali and Chuck Wepner, which inspired him to write the Rocky story. At first, he watched the fight as a sporting event, but soon realized that everything he sees, everything that happens in the ring, is actually a metaphor. But a metaphor for what? Why is boxing at the center of all these films? What does it mean for the authors, what does it become for the heroes, what should it tell us, the audience? If boxing were just boxing, we would not watch movies, but fights.
Fighting with yourself seems to be the simplest and most obvious answer. With their fears, laziness, cravings to lie down on the couch or to a past life in the slums. The battle with oneself begins in training, and it culminates in the ring. The final round is 12 rounds of a duel with the enemy.