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.