Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Deep End

I've just watched an extraordinary 1970 British film called 'Deep End'. It received widespread critical acclaim when it was released and was a huge success at the Venice Film Festival. But in spite of this, it became almost completely forgotten in the years that followed and until recently, nobody was sure if any prints had survived.

Fortunately, a copy was found recently and the BFI have just released a cleaned-up version on Blu-ray and DVD.

Here's a trailer:

I say 'British' film, but in fact it was financed by the USA and West Germany, written and directed by a Pole - Jerzy Skolimowski - and mostly shot in Munich, with a superb soundtrack by the 'Krautrock' band Can. However, it feels authentically home grown, capturing the depressed, 'morning after' feel of the early 70s perfectly.

The film stars Jane Asher and the 16-year-old John Moulder-Brown. I'd never heard of Moulder-Brown and for people of my age, Jane Asher was that nice middle-aged lady who made cakes and used to go out with Paul McCartney. I had no idea what a fantastic actress she was, or how devastatingly sexy she could be.

Indeed, the whole film is one of the sexiest things I've ever seen on screen, as Jane Asher's Susan teases and plays with the pubescent passions of 15-year-old Mike. If I'd met Susan when I was 15, I wouldn't have stood a chance.

Here is the opening scene. As you'll see, there's some dodgy lip-synch going on with the baths' manager. That's because many of the actors were Germans, who must have been dubbed later:

'Deep End' also contains an extraordinary cameo from 1950s screen goddess, Diana Dors, who manages to create a wonderfully grotesque scene that is both comic and deeply unsettling, with an unusual reversal of gender roles.

Dors appears here at the beginning and end of this clip, but if you don't want to see all six minutes, skip to 4:04:

Finally, before I end up posting the whole film, I particularly liked this scene. The interplay between Jane Asher's Susan and Erica Beer's cashier works very well, but the red paint almost steals the show:

I was planning to write a long post about 'Deep End'. However, I found this excellent Guardian article by Ryan Gilbey which says what I was going to say, but far more eloquently. This review by Christopher Weedman is also worth reading.

It's strange how British this film feels, given that it was conceived and filmed by a Polish director who had never filmed in Britain before. Like Emeric Pressburger before him, Jerzy Skolimowski managed to take a universal theme and make it seem both quintessentially British and utterly alien at the same time.

The result is a triumph.


zmkc said...

Oh go on, post the whole film.

Sarah said...

Sounds interesting. I'd never heard of it either. I know that Jane Asher has been in several films and tv stuff though.

Martin said...

I briefly had a girlfriend who was the image of Jane Asher, although her hair was fair, not auburn. We went to the funfair, and she was violently sick after a turn on the Ferris Wheel. Things went downhill from that point.

Interesting clips from a film I'd never heard of, until reading this post. Thanks.

Roger said...

Skolimowski made at least two other fine fimsin the IK- Moonlighting and The Shout, based on a strange short story by Robert Graves, and his early Polish films are well-worth seeing too

MikeP said...

I saw it when it came out, and have been wondering whether it would stand up (oooer missus), but I think I'll give it a go. I have to say, though, that the cake-peddling version of Jane Asher has always come a rather distant second in my mind to the Deep End version.

sukipoet said...

anyone for some football?

never heard of this film but will check out Netflix and order

Little Nell said...

This was discussed by Jane Asher on BBC Radio 4’s Film Programme 18th July, still available as a podcast. What ever happened to John Moulder Brown, We saw him in a TV mini-series when were living in Germany in the 80s but he doesn’t seem to have done a lot in recent years.

Steerforth said...

Thanks Nell - I've just listened to the broadcast and it was really interesting to hear Jane Asher's perspective.

Martin - I'm sorry to read about your date. The first girl I ever kissed was violently sick minutes later. I hope it was the alcohol rather than me.

Thanks Roger for mentioning 'Moonlighting' - I remember it featuring a post-Brideshead Jeremy Irons.

I'm impressed that Mike actually saw the film when it was released. It doesn't sound as if many people got to see it, thanks to the distributors.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this; a great start to my Saturday. Think Meg Ryan's fake orgasm in 'When Harry Met Sally' was good? Nothing on Ms Dors.

Roger said...

'I remember it [Moonlighting] featuring a post-Brideshead Jeremy Irons.'
...who was remarkably convincing, according to Polish friends.

Thomas Hogglestock said...

You have me interested, but I can't find it on Netflix. boo.

Christopher Weedman said...

"Deep End" is a really terrific film and one of my favorites. Thanks for recommending my article on the film!

James Russell said...

It has the feel of 'If', Lindsay Anderson's public school classic. Can't wait to watch the whole thing, preferably on the big screen, with lots of people smoking... What on earth was wrong with the 'first customer' in that first clip? He was obviously upset about something