(John D. Avildson, USA, 1976)
Finally catching up with this one, I found it to be considerably more idiosyncratic than its reputation would suggest. It wears its shameless myth-making proudly, playing through the absurdity of the story's arc with the kind of shambolic swagger that Rocky himself exhibits; he can't help but be endearing. You want to see the kid win.
It's in the final act that the story becomes most obviously schematic, and doesn't quite fulfill it's early promise, and yet even here, it's hard to fault the film as it follows The Italian Stallion to his inevitable triumph. There's a kind of elemental innocence to Rocky the character, which goes a long way in explaining the massive and enduring success of the film and the franchise it spawned. Rocky, although it exhibits a level of grit and an immersion in hardly-working-class milieu that is exemplary of the American cinema of the 1970s, is in many ways a kind of corrective to the stories of despair and ellipsis that marked the films of that era. Rocky's triumph was a re-claiming of the old myths of Americana - the self-made man, the land of opportunity, etc. The bruiser with the heart of gold, the essential goodness at the heart of even the most disreputable bum, the triumph of the working man. In such a resumption of illusion, there is a subtle undertone of menace; inside every escapist fantasy is a submission to a corrupt system. But as far as entertainment goes, it brings together elements of striking imagination and verve, larding the absurdly obvious with moments of genuine delight. Besides all the bullshit, there was something authentic about Rocky, at its core; it saw the despair of inner city decay for what it was, and it didn't try to deny it. The film is just self-aware enough to permit viewers to accept it for what it is, and love it.