Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Hypnotic, odd and altogether compelling, Deep End (1971) is one of Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski’s greatest works and its lack of availability anywhere on DVD is as baffling as the film itself.
The highly regarded Skolimowski was already viewed as one of the leading lights of International cinema when Deep End premiered in the spring of 1971 to mostly positive reviews. Starring lovely Jane Asher, a disturbing Diana Dors and a terrific John Moulder-Brown, the shot in London (with some studio work in Germany)
Deep End is an extremely effective, and sometimes disturbing, character study that holds its own as one of the great ‘lost’ films of the early seventies.
Centering on a teenager named Mike (Moulder-Brown) who becomes obsessed with a co-worker named Susan (Asher) at a local spa and bath-house, Deep End is probing look at a deeply obsessive relationship and the changing roles of men and women that came about due to the sexual revolution.
Co-Script writer Skolimowski handles the, what could have been pedestrian material, beautifully with his fluid camera work perfectly capturing the fractured state of his two lead characters in a particularly frigid winter. The photography of Charly Steinberger is also extremely bold, with his increasingly striking color photography providing a nice stylistic counterpoint to the material, which gets darker and darker as the film progresses.
Scored by the legendary Can, and featuring songs by Cat Stevens (perhaps the reason why the film is currently in copyright lingo), Deep End has lost none of its freshness in the near four decades since its release. Much of this is due to Asher, whose impressive work hits a high note in a mid film exclamation of “What am I supposed to be like?”, a line that feels as representative as possible of the confusion and defiance that was on the minds of so many young people of the period.
Despite its hard to see status, much of Deep End feels incredibly iconic. From Diana Dors unforgettable few scenes, to the way Asher's flaming red hair and bright yellow rain coat look against the snow that plays such a large role in the film, to the final love scene at the bottom of an empty swimming pool that is as haunting as anything Skolimowski has ever shot, Deep End may be all but lost in time right now, but its most potent images have a surprisingly vital cultural relevance and it's an extremely hard film to shake.
The flat-out brilliant Deep End is extremely hard to see (my copy comes from an old British VHS copy) and it's yet another film that Paramount is just sitting on. A key work in one of the most intriguing filmographies in modern film, Deep End is a combative, insightful and masterful work that both belongs to and transcends its time.