Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

'60s British cinema: Dirk, Losey, Accident, again

Nice to see ACCIDENT on television again - thanks, Talking Pictures. Been a few years since I last saw it, though the dvd is filed away - we liked Losey's 1967 drama, scripted by Harold Pinter, a lot back then, it was almost the kind of movie we took for granted then, but it seems like an arthouse classic now. This is what I wrote on it here in 2013 :
Joseph Losey's ACCIDENT remains a key '60s movie for me - I well remember seeing it for the first time with my best pal Stan when it was on general release as a double feature - the supporting movie was JUST LIKE A WOMAN another forgotten '60s comedy, good cast though headed by Wendy Craig. ACCIDENT though was the culmination of those Bogarde-Losey films: THE SLEEPING TIGER in 1954 and that quartet which more or less defined the '60s: THE SERVANT, the too little see KING AND COUNTRY, the mod op-art delight MODESTY BLAISE (maybe my favourite cult movie with the divine triumvirate of Vitti, Bogarde & Stamp on that mad, mod op art island, with those witty asides as Dirk goes over the top as the supercamp villain Gabriel in the blonde wig... but I digress as usual). The Losey-Stanley Baker films are fascinating too, I particularly like the 1959 thriller BLIND DATE (LoseyBaker labels) and EVE and THE CRIMINAL ...

ACCIDENT, scripted by Harold Pinter, begins and ends with the sounds of a car crash, and we go back and forth to discover what really happened. There is that long marvellous central sequence depicting a languid lazy summer afternoon at the comfortably upper-middle class Oxford residence of professor Stephen (Bogarde) and his pregnant wife Rosalind, perfectly played by Vivien Merchant. Guests include William, one of the professor's pupils - a golden boy, aristocrat Michael York, and his girlfriend Anna an Austrian princess, Jacqueline Sassard.
An interloper is another rival professor Charley, Stanley Baker at his most aggressive. They shell the peas, go for walks, lie on the lawn, hands slowly touch, as we begin to see the tensions and undercurrents here... Stephen is having a kind of mid-life crisis and is attracted to Anna, the glacial girlfriend who is manipulating these men. She is sleeping with Charley but knows how Stephen feels about her. Rivalies between the men come to the surface over dinner as William falls drunk into his plate - Charley is also a tv presenter, he is good on tv - and taunts Stephen who also wants to be on tv, and in fact has an appointment with a producer, played by Pinter himself. We also see Charley's distraught wife Ann Firbank, watering flowers in the rain, while the pregnant Rosalind watches all - Stephen also has a date with an old girlfriend, silently played by Delphine Seyrig - we hear their disjointed conversation played over that restaurant scene. Her father is Losey regular, Alexander Knox. Upper class rituals are explored - rugby, punting on the river ....
 We know right away that William has been killed in the car crash, as Stephen takes the unconscious Anna out of the car and into his house. Who actually was driving ?
Do they sleep together too ? Does he take advantage of her dazed state? One thing that mars ACCIDENT for me is that Sassard is too blank a presence at the centre - she also had a big role in '68 as a similar object of desire in Chabrol's LES BICHES, though it was her last year in movies. (I also saw her when younger in FAIBLES FEMMES, a French comedy with the young Alain Delon, in 1959). Projector favourite Austrian Romy Schneider, who was originally cast, would have been ideal here, with that teasing, feline quality of hers and would have made so much more of the role. We never get to see or understand what Sassard is feeling or thinking. Baker and Bogarde of course are both pitch perfect, squaring up to each other again a decade after their Canadian adventure CAMPBELL'S KINGDOM, a perfect Rank Organisation movie in 1957. ACCIDENT would be their final film with Losey, who was next making films with the Burtons and going off to Europe (Losey label), as indeed would Dirk. ACCIDENT's reputation has grown over the years, though like Antonioni's BLOW-UP it is a polarising film, some people actively hate it, but like BLOW-UP and THE SERVANT it is for me a major '60s film, and one of Pinter's best scripts. Cinematography by Gerry Fisher, and music by Johnny Dankworth. 


  1. An excellent review of ACCIDENT, one of my favourite Losey's and one of Dirk's best performances. I have it on dvd, too and I watch it every couple of years.

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