Archive for Dirk Bogarde

Accidents Will Happen

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on May 18, 2008 by dcairns

Oops

Anecdote from the documentary series Hollywood UK ~

At the end of the Losey-Pinter collaboration ACCIDENT, there’s a shot duplicating the opening: a wide view of the Bogarde residence. Only this time it’s day and not night. The Bogarde children (girl, 3, and boy, 7) and dog play on the lawn.

In the script, Pinter had written that the little girl trips and falls. Losey then planned to pull out slightly, mirroring the push-in at the start of the film, while the sound of the original car crash is heard, part of the film’s strategy of dislocating sound and image and fragmenting time.

There was no way to get a three-year-old to convincingly trip on purpose on a gravel driveway. They don’t have the Robert Mitchum spirit, those three-year-olds. So a trip-wire was hidden.

Some of the crew were rather unhappy about this. Losey didn’t like it either, but saw no other way to get the shot. Like the firing squad in KING AND COUNTRY, they all prepared to do this horrible thing they knew was wrong. It’s a one-take deal, obviously (unless there are a dozen identical weans squirrelled away somewhere, just for the stuntwork.

Action! The unsuspecting kids and dog take off. The wirework works — almost too well. Down goes the hapless tot, down goes the boy, down goes the dog, almost. But the girl is first, so she registers on camera as the important one. The parents emerge and shepherd the kids indoors. The camera starts to pull out.

Then the dog, for reasons known only to himself, bananas off around the garden and charges straight at the camera. Fortunately he decides to run past it, perhaps to be reunited with a favourite crewmember, rather than, say, leaping up and licking the lens. Then Losey lays in the sound effect of screeching brakes and smashing metal and glass, causing many audience members to imagine that the dog has caused yet another car crash.

It’s a good shot though.

An excellent, slightly different account of the same shot can be found at Jim Emerson’s excellent Scanners blog.

Jazz Crimes!

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on May 12, 2008 by dcairns

Below, see Dirk on the dance-floor in Losey’s SLEEPING TIGER. I think Losey was a bit of a jazz buff and the scenes in “The Metro” club in this film are among the most exciting — although, this being a sort of juvie delinquent flick, jazz and interracial leisure activities are given something of a taboo edge, seen as DANGEROUS, although obviously more exciting than the domestic goings on chez Alexander Knox.

All of which makes it nicely perverse and subversive – keywords for Losey.

I love the glide past the horn player, round and back, that starts this scene.

Sleeping Tiger, Crouching Dirk

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2008 by dcairns

“Must be hard getting servants these days,” muses Dirk Bogarde -

- before tripping the poor skivvy and sending her crashing to the floor amid crockery and glassware -

- and leering over her misfortune in sexual fashion…

THE SLEEPING TIGER is a somewhat eggy juvie delinquent melodrama made by Joseph Losey, recently blacklisted in Hollywood and now using producer Victor Hanbury as a front – while no blacklist applied in England, it was thought wise for blacklistees to work pseudonymously to avoid any problems with American distribution. Within a few years Losey would be working openly under his own name, but he would never film in the States again.

Joe and Dirk both reported;y thought this film was sheer hocum, but got on well and saw each other’s potential, resolving to work together again on something worthwhile. THE SERVANT in 1963 would give them that opportunity in spades. Dirk plays Frank Clemmons, a troubled young criminal taken in by psychiatrist Dr. Clive Esmond, played with unbridled lassitude by Alexander Knox. Knox, a Canadian who worked in Hollywood before settling in Scotland, would soon play another woolly liberal for Losey in THESE ARE THE DAMNED.

Inspector Hugh Griffiths of the Yard casts a beady eye over some dodgy Joan Miro.

Mrs Esmond, token yank Alexis Smith, is soon smitten with the arrogant D.B. Catching him bullying the servant, she blazes, “I wish I were a man!” before snogging him violently. It would be ungentlemanly of me to suggest that the feeling was mutual.

Losey puts far more into this film than into his next British time-waster, FINGER OF GUILT / THE INTIMATE STRANGER. Although much of the film passes in short, montage-like sequences devoid of any tension or dramatic gristle, whenever there’s a longer scene of interpersonal conflict, he pulls the stops out and goes for maximum sizzle. Extreme angles and sinuous camera moves provide nicely modulated variation between snapping whipcracks and seductive oozings of emotion. The seeds of THE SERVANT are sewn. The film actually aspires to the theatrical, and through it reaches the cinematic, in fits and starts. There are genuine flickers of that Pinter Wonderland of menace and powerplay, often stifled at birth by the rather inane script. Every fade-out feels like a betrayal.

Since Dirk is committing robberies while under Doc Knox’s care, AND cheating with the Doc’s wife, we can’t help but feel that the liberal head-shrinker is a bit of a sap. Which leaves the film without a point, unless it’s a right-wing Daily Mail type point, since Dirk should clearly be in jail, Knox should be struck off, and Smith should take a cold shower.

“One day we should run up to Scotland,” suggests Knox, who lived there. Bogarde, who endured an unhappy childhood in Glasgow, makes a sour face.

Losey goes mad in the jazz cellar scenes, just loving it, daddy-O, and here we see what a really inventive director he is: the same dynamic style showcased in the scenes of domestic conflict, but sexed up with music and mood lighting and eroticism and WOW!

Far from being a second feature, SLEEPING T unites Losey with the editor of THE RED SHOES, the future composer of BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI and cinematographer Harry Waxman (THE WICKER MAN) all of whom acquit themselves admirably, when the sketchy plot allows them space to do so. Harry Waxman’s photography of nocturnal London streets is particularly fine, and Losey has him try even more trick mirror shots than are found in THE SERVANT.

I keep trashing the script, which is by blacklistees Harold Buchman and Carl Foreman, but as Gavin Lambert wrote, “There is a splendour about this film, which has one of the most absurdly extravagant plots on record, and never flinches from it.” Which shows that Lambert was way ahead of the curve as far as appreciating Losey in the UK. I just wish the film (which is a pretty nippy 89 mins) allowed the psychodrama time to build, while avoiding all the scrappy little scenes of fishing and horse-riding which do nothing for the plot (and really, how could they?).

Then, unexpectedly, the shrink has a Dirk breakthrough and our juvie is cured, alright. Several minutes of desperate vamping ensue as the plot seems to be over, then Dirk announces he wants to go to jail to pay his debt to society, but it’s really to escape the doc’s clingy wife, and now suddenly SHE’S the psycho one, and it all ends in a high-speed car chase with a thrilling syncopated jazz fusion abstract montage smash-up into a symbolic tiger billboard!

Moral: women are evil.

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