Jan (Hardy Kruger) is running in the streets of London, to get to his date on time. When he arrives at his lover’s apartment, since the door is open he enters without hesitation. Calling for Jacqueline, Jan gets no answer, maybe the girl has gone out for few minutes. Waiting for her, Jan wanders around looking at the objects and many things in the flat, he finds an envelope with his name written on and a load of cash in it, smiling he hides it in his jacket. He puts on a record and sits comfortably on a couch listening at the loud music.
After few minutes, two cops show up and start to question him. The guy is an uncomfortable position since he doesn’t want to give away the name of his affair, and asks why he should answer all these questions. When two officers arrive, the situation worsen as the guy soon realizes the woman he was looking for, lies dead under the blankets on a couch and she has been murdered.
Jan starts to tell the police how he got to know Jacqueline and the sort of relationship they had. She was an high class lady with a good taste for art and married to an abusive alcoholised husband. But things are not what Jan thought to be, as the police uncovers for him few facts: the woman was probably a prostitute with lot of boyfriends. Jan is shocked by the revelation as his world is falling apart, he has to face a terrible fact as well, the police suspects him to be the assassin. Shot in 1959 after the critically panned and BO disappointing The Gipsy and The Gentleman, Blind Date marked the return to success for Losey, a fame that lasted almost for his entire career, and was the starting point for the decade to follow in which he delivered his most ambitious and famous films like The Servant, The Accident, The Criminal etc. a string of hits that ultimately led him to gain the Palm D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971 for The Go Between.
As most of Losey works, this one is only apparently a genre film. Using popular storytelling Losey doesn’t loose his chance to criticize the contemporary society and its establishment in particular. The love affair between the young artist and the older high class woman is the excuse to point out all the differences between the classes still existing in the post war Britain of the 50’s. The gap between them is so huge that can defeat even the most powerful life driving feeling: love. Social status and appearance are more important, once obtained, that one’s own satisfaction and happiness; “You have the most successful class system in the world” Losey said to interviewer Andrew Sarris in 1961. His political convictions always led his life, he was blacklisted in the early 50’s and lived after then all his life in UK, where he continued to work until his death in 1984. He declared mordantly to Gene D. Phillips in an interview dated 1976: “In a way my being blacklisted was one of the best things ever happened to me because it forced me to go to Europe to continue my career as a filmmaker. Otherwise I might have stayed in Hollywood merely making money instead of making pictures I want to make”.
But Losey’s thematic is not only about social injustice but it’s a poetic, surrealistic at times, exploration of human solitude and self confined. The heroes and protagonists of his movies are always alienated from the society and live in their own inaccessible world, from which they go out only to try to reach each other with an unavoidable failure all the times. In Blind Date both Jan and Jacqueline are lonely and live unhappy their separate lives. Two beings alone that are brought together by the desire of the flesh and for whom the few hours spent together have became the only chance to survive the greyness of daily life: for Jacqueline the recognition that her husband doesn’t love her anymore and for Jan the constant craving to reach that perfection in painting that wears out most of the artists.
Another theme common in Losey’s cinema, the consuming attempt of his characters to get what they really desire and that they are doomed not to achieve, because of their own limits and for those imposed by the modern way of life. So Blid Date pairs very well with the recently restored and critically rediscovered The Prowler, one of his earlier efforts shot in US in 1950, that I strongly recommend; another genre film that is both an exploration of greed and of the hidden pervert desires of a sick mind; in a hallucinatory context that makes it one of the most unusual film noir ever made.
Blind Date works more on a routine and commercial level, but there is an uncommon touch to depict its scandal situation, another distinctive sign of Losey’s cinema: the use of a subtle eroticism. Even if showing anything to the audience, Jan and Jacqueline love encounters have a strong impact on the viewer’s mind because of Losey’s ability to create an erotic tension made by simple gestures, glances and movements. Then when it comes to deliver a solution to the crime story, the movie excels with an unexpected and clever twist, providing to criticize the establishment again, this time with an accuse to the powers ruling the society; since the name of a politician is involved the police wants to settle immediately with a cover up accusing Jan as the murder to avoid any press rumours that could damage the “big man”. Only a detective will stand at Jan’s defence, one of those that are not well seen by his own superiors, and didn’t study in fancy colleges and had his parents coming from the working class. Another political statement made by Losey and well hidden between the lines: only the working class has a proper integrity while the higher one is corrupted, its social status is made by compromising truthfulness to defend the very same status, even when has been proven wrong or guilty; on an higher level dog doesn’t eat dog. Acting is extremely good, apart from Kruger, (who sung the main song of the soundtrack) Micheline Presle is both sexy and classy in the role of Jacqueline and Stanley Baker shines as the proletarian Inspector Morgan; he and Losey will team again for The Criminal and Eva.
Available in UK by Renown Pictures, the film is for the first time available on DVD. It has been re-mastered and restored, even if more than a proper restoration a large use of DVNR has been applied rendering the image a little bit too soft. Blacks are inconsistent possibly due to the film materials used. The film is shown 1.33 4X3, while main and end titles are 1.66:1. It is probable that the movie has been shot FF and matted at 1.66 for theatrical exhibition, I didn’t notice any severe cropping of the frame. Audio is good and strong, no extras at all not even a trailer, no subtitles.
I strongly suggest to the audience to go back to Losey’s films, and watch them, specially the mentioned ones. He was highly regarded as one of the most important filmmakers of his times, but after his death has been a little neglected and forgotten. The re releases of Blind Date and The Prowler are the most welcome and give the opportunity to discover his minor works, that minors are not.
Film mass is ended you may go in peace