Archive for Accident

Double Trouble

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2011 by dcairns

I had two reasons for watching Joseph Losey’s MR. KLEIN, but one of them I can’t talk about. The other one is this here Late Movies Blogathon, into which the film sort-of fits, being a highlight of Losey’s final re-invention of himself as a European arthouse wizard (having been a gifted C-list Hollywood smuggler, then an ambitious British straddler of the commercial-arthouse divide). And a third reason, actually, is I’d been ignoring Losey since I did Losey Week way back, having maybe exhausted myself slightly with his glorious composition and camera movement, inscrutable humour, icy pessimism.

All are present and to the fore in MR. Klein, and it was good to see them again. Alain Delon is Klein, an art dealer in occupied Paris making a killing by buying cheap from Jews. But then a second Monsieur Klein appears on the scene — well, just offstage, actually — his life intersecting with and interfering with Delon’s in myriad ways, sparking an obsessive detective story as Delon seeks his double.

So, after SPIRITS OF THE DEAD, another film in which Delon chases/is chased by his doppelganger. His Delonganger. Doppeldelon. Whatever. This ought to be a trilogy, and somebody should make the third entry, right away. I’d vote for a version where aged, raddled Delon is persecuted by his younger self (pilfered footage from old Georges Lautner movies), the joke being that thanks to plastic surgery and heavy fog-filters it’s impossible to tell them apart.

Gerry Fisher is DoP — Losey used him a lot (ACCIDENT was Fisher’s first gig) and this is one of his loveliest films (he should be more celebrated — other work includes films for Huston, Wilder, Lester, Richardson, Lumet, Hodges), aided immensely by the happy confluence of Fisher’s lighting, Losey’s intricate camera moves, and the production design of Alexander “trop chere” Trauner, “that little wizard” as Billy Wilder called him.

There are elaborate camera moves pirouetting in spaces you’d swear were cramped locations, and brilliant use of shooting through doorways — figures appear partially eclipsed by door frames, in extreme longshot, three rooms away from where the camera observes foreground action. I could fill a post three times this length just by grabbing frames entirely at random, and they’d all be beautiful.

For a film that opens with a woman undergoing a humiliating medical exam in a doomed attempt to prove her Aryan roots, this movie is surprisingly Christmassy.

Delon is very much the man for the job, since Klein is required to be morally repellant, slippery and yet fascinating. To give Delon credit, he never shirked from playing unappealing characters in an utterly unapologetic way. Maybe he himself is so unpleasant he can’t actually tell when a protagonist is unlikable, or maybe he just doesn’t care — to give him credit again, I’ll plump for the latter.

Writer Franco Solinas has fascinating credits — this is a late film for him, alright, he only did one more — THE SAVAGE INNOCENTS pops out among all the Euro-political-thrillers. Even TEPEPA (aka BLOOD AND GUNS) is a neat, bleak political spaghetti western, with Orson Welles ffs.

A bleak, crisp, desperate film — a study of obsession, the fragility of identity, how clinical paranoia can mean not being paranoid enough. Delon, and Michel Lonsdale, are perfect for this kind of thing, as they’re compelling without being even slightly ingratiating. Juliet Berto is both radiant and jittery. A frequent Godard and Rivette muse, she died much too young.


Posted in FILM, literature, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2008 by dcairns

Enter the Dragon

Joseph Losey Week spills out of itself and out of Shadowplay, over into BritMovie, where I drunkenly sing the praises of BOOM (A.K.A. BOOM!), thusly. I’d like to add that, since writing the piece, my enthusiasm for the film has grown, perhaps as my memory of it dims or perhaps as aspects of its high camp art-movie miasma have taken on fresh resonance through bouncing around inside my reverberant skull. Whatever the truth behind that, I feel I can supplement the article by adding a clip from the film itself. This should confirm, for all enthusiasts of Edgar Ulmer’s THE BLACK CAT, the influence of the 1934 horror movie upon the 1968 art-trash mash-up. Specifically the floating camera as Burton rumbles through the opening stanzas of Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, or a Vision in a Dream (Like an IDIOT, I refer to the poem as “Coleridge’s Xanadu” in the piece, ample proof that I’m overly obsessed with Gene Kelly and Olivia Newton John’s musical disasterpiece).

ALTHOUGH — there is another possibility, now that I think of it. Although Losey expressed tremulous reservations about Resnais and Robbe-Grillet’s LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, worrying if it would communicate anything to the general public, he was clearly much affected by it. The flashbacks and sound-image disconnections of ACCIDENT show an obvious desire to emulate Resnais’ fragmented mirror-maze montage, and Losey even abducts Delphine Seyrig from the cast of MARIENBAD and casts her, rather nonsensically, as Alexander Knox’s daughter.

But in that case, it’s clear that MARIENBAD is in thrall to THE BLACK CAT, which now that I think of it is obvious and has probably been remarked upon before.

See Douglas Slocombe’s camera, operated by the great Chic Waterson, drift like a phantom through Richard MacDonald’s insanely opulent sets, in the spectral footsteps of Ulmer and Resnais. And now here’s John Waters to put everything in perspective:


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on May 19, 2008 by dcairns

So, Losey Week ends. I’ve touched on barely half of the Great Man’s work, and much of that fleetingly. KING AND COUNTRY, pretty near my favourite JL film, and the one that convinced me to stop worrying and love the blacklistee, hardly gets a mention. So there will be more, at a later date.

Weeping Sam at The Listening Ear very kindly called Joseph Losey Week a “one-man blogathon”, which pleased me very much, but it’s not 100% true — the contributors to the comments section have helped make this fun and illuminating for me and I’m sure for other readers.

David Ehrenstein and Chris Schneider both win MYSTERY PRIZES for their entries in our peculiar and ill-advised Joe Losey Songwriting Contest!


“Together they devour life.” I wonder if the tagline for SECRET CEREMONY was “Together they devour sausages?”

Here’s David E’s boombastic boom-along:

The moment that I saw you — Boom!
There may not be much left here for you
I will be dead
Either I’ll fast expire or Sidney Poitier’s wife-to-be will desire
My head
Either way it’s curtains for me- Boom!
And not the chintz-fringe ones Wendy Graig had ordered — Boom!
Noel Coward’s no Cole Porter – Boom!
Oh sure I know you’ll say isn’t fair
to compare
the crawling technique of man with legs to one who really didn’t have them
That dwarf is so annoying — Boom!
And so’s the dress I’m wearing — Zoom!
Let’s fly away
To London where
there’s a house that has the best bathroom Pauline Kael claims she’s ever seen and
Frank’s serving Mia the divorce papers –Boom!
Thank goodness Mitchum’s here and
Oh Joe please see
to Tennessee
the poor dear’s so in need of tender loving care
But who will do my hair?
Oh– Boom!

Full marks for ENTERING THE MIND of Elizabeth Taylor and making it out alive.

Chris looks at a wide variety of Losey’s work, through the prism of that classic Sunday-in-the-country film, ACCIDENT.


(A Pastorale To Be Sung
(To The Tune of “Lazy Afternoon”)

It’s a Losey Afternoon …
Stanley Baker grabs his eggs,
Jacqui Sassard shows her legs,
And Dirk Bogarde dines beyond the cafe glass
As we pass.

It’s a Losey Afternoon …
Jeanne Moreau is chic and grim,
Virna Lisi’s chance is slim,
And Venetian tchotchkes mix — with “Loveless Love”
Sung above.

A ‘copter tracks down mutant tots
As spivs in leather sigh;
If you’re still and tense,
Even Lindfors makes sense by and by …

It’s a Losey Afternoon …
John Drew’s dah-dah takes a beatin’,
Michael R. finds time is fleetin’,
And Rossella’s mime is meetin’ his fate.

So let’s stroll by as time and Trotsky wait …


Films Alluded To: “Accident” (1967), “Eva” (1962), “The Damned” (1963), “The Big Night” (1951), “Time Without Pity” (1957), “Modesty Blaise” (1966), “The Assassination of Trotsky” (1972).

These are the Damp

Movies all round!