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domenica 24 luglio 2011

Parable of desire. Jerzy Skolimowski’s Deep End.

French re release poster
As a poet my mind is trained along the path of poetic associations—I’m not afraid to wander away from direct narrative—I feel safe with a story that tempts you to believe or disbelieve (Jerzy Skolimowski)

Mike (John Moulder-Brown) is a fifteen year old good looking boy. He lands a job in a public bath, where Susan (Jane Asher), little older than him, works as assistant as well. She is beautiful and free spirited, while Mike is only little more than a kid, that has just started to be interested in the other sex. First day of work Mike is the object of the attentions of an older lady (Diana Dors) who almost rapes him while chatting of football. But Mike is not that much into these older women attending the swimming pool, looking for an affair; he likes Susan that never looses her chance to provoke him, with her wild beauty. Mike begins to be more and more obsessed with the girl, and when he learns that she has a boyfriend, he doesn’t give up. He follows her everywhere, just to learn soon that she is not what she appears to be. Susan is only flirting with him, she has a “beau” and another lover, a married swim teacher at the pool, plus she has been modeling naked and probably she works as a call girl in a her free time. Not with this standing, Mike obsession grows bigger every day more, until he manages to have the chance to be intimate but without succeeding to have sex due to be too emotional. When Susan wants to leave him alone because she wants to go to her lover, in a desperate attempt to stop her, he accidently kills her. Her body naked, floating in the water of the pool is gently embraced by Mike who probably is going to drown with her and die as well while finally possessing her.
Deep End was the second English language film of Polish auteur Jerzy Skolimowski. Shot in 1971, the movie is set at the end of the era of the swinging London and well captured the frenzy, swarming life of the younger people using also a score composed for the occasion by Cat Stevens and celebrated experimental rock  band The Can from Germany.
After his expulsion from Poland, Skolimowski shot first a film in Italy (The Adventures of Gerard, 1970) a commercial fare that he considers his worst film, then got the opportunity to work on a project: a coproduction between UK and Germany, whose result was Deep End. Magic of movies, the film was shot mostly on location in Munich, including an exterior in a park with the snow. What worked so well was not only the good services of art director Anthony Pratt, but because Skolimowski managed to capture the essence of a country in the chaos of changing times, using even an iconic actress like Diana Dors (the Brit Marilyn) in a small part in which she was able to display her talent, being not afraid to show her fattened and aged body, something very  few actresses would dare to do. Antonioni with Blow Up and Polanski with Repulsion were able to understand these times with  foreign eyes as well, but Skolimowsky’s film more than an ode, or an allegory, of the 60’s, delivers a farewell to them and an introduction to the 70’s. The idealism of that decade is left behind, the proclaims of peace, unheard, will leave room to the ones inciting to an armed struggle, to a fight that will leave a trail of blood all around the world with the shaping of terroristic, well organized, groups.
The ingenuity of Mike is allegorical for the ones of those years.  Unwillingly he will make use of violence to prove his love and his destructive power will overcame his desire. “Each man kills the things he loves”, specially when he cannot own them. Susan is the symbol of the modern woman to come, who will not compromise her freedom. The woman that nowadays is so scary for so many men. Powerful and secure, she has reached, in many cases, a dominating position and she has to rely on a man anymore. Mike looses control because he can’t understand Susan, her behaviour and her promiscuity. He is still a “mama boy” with strong sexual desires that will destroy him, instead to please him. Only when Susan is dead, he will be able to make love to her, because she doesn’t scare him and she is not a danger anymore. Grown up in post war conservative Britain, Mike has a lot of taboos and shyness about sex, probably imposed by a strong religious education, typical of the mid class, a situation so well depicted in Ian McEwan's excellent novel “On Chesil Beach”, only reversed. The tone of the film is apparently a coming of the age comedy, with a sudden change in the last five minutes in which the turn of the events makes it so dramatic and almost surreal. The narrative goes in circles, deeper and deeper in Mike’s obsession, like in a spiral that will lead him to his tragic fate. There are many signs, premonitions of the events to come, during the movie. Skolimowski makes a good use of the colour red as the symbol for the blood that is going to be shed in the end. The first image is a close up of a drop of red painting; red is Mike’s bicycle and the teacher’s car. In a scene Mike’s cut his hand and red is again the painting that some workers are using in a soon to come remodeling of the baths. Red are also Susan’s hair and so on. Small particulars suggested to the viewer that unconsciously feels uncomfortable wondering why all these gory details, until he’ll realize the dreadful “deep end”. The hand held camera follows the actors with apparent freedom, but all the takes are well planned and brilliantly executed, with long outstanding sequences with  no confusing images and useless shakings. This closeness to the players render a sense of intimacy and complicity in their actions, and a freshness in their performances possible only with the use of this method.
This is one of the most important films of the early seventies and one of Skolimowski best. An exceptional career that made him one of the most respected authors of international cinema, having been worked in such different conditions and countries, always with master ability. The movie has been painstakingly restored from Bavaria Media, the copyright owner, and is going in general release in video on DVD and BR in Germany and UK, while in France distributor Carlotta is re releasing it in theatres before HV.
The BR examined here is the UK one available courtesy of BFI in a combo edition including the DVD as well and part of their acclaimed Flipside collection. The glorious Institute was in charge of the new HD transfer at CinePostProductions. The BR is region free, the new HD master has been obtained by scanning at 2K the original interpositive. The movie looks excellent and very faithful to his original cinematography, grainy and dark specially in externals shot with natural light. The interiors look magnificent with the pastel like colour palette that well reproduce the atmosphere of those years and its trend in fashion and design. Those expecting a modern digital  aspect for this film, should look somewhere else, this is not the proper demo to show up with a fancy HT equipment. Sound is very good, restored from the original 17,5mm magnetic track of the main mix.
Extras are excellent, above all, the feature length (74 mins.) featurette, Starting out: The making of Jerzy Skolimowski’s Deep End an inside look, to the making of the film with stars and crew. It is very informative and full of interesting anecdotes on the casting, shooting and post production (Starting Out was actually the initial shooting title). The original UK theatrical trailer (the very same one included in this post), Deleted scenes (12 mins) that were cut and unfortunately thrown away after few years. The original script have been used as Skolimowski and his editor tell about the sequences left on the cutting room floor. Careless Love (1976, 10mins) a short by Francine Winham. A colourful booklet is included with nice pictures and critical essays. Deep End OAR 1.85:1 is retained anamorphic on a BD 50, 1920X1080 24 fps, audio PCM (48k - 24 bit). The movie il also available in a limited 3 discs edition, with bonus disc including Q&A with Asher and Moulder.
Skolimowski’s films are daring and provocative, most of the times they deal with the inner side of men and women; their needs to evolve and their difficulties to grow up. Social barrier and status are a limitation to overcome for them, and repressive societies, being them communist or capitalist, have their impositions and put forward claims that they cannot or don’t want to satisfy. The results are often disastrous and lead this people to destruction or alienation. Soon I’ll be posting again on Skolimowski’s earlier movies. His stalling career has been recently revamped by the critical acclaimed Essential Killing that earned two prizes at Venice Film Festival (Special Jury Prize for Skolimowski and Best Actor for Vincent Gallo starring in it), and it is available on BR and DVD by Artificial Eye in UK.

Film mass is ended you may go in peace
The Vikar


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