Tuesday, February 10, 2009

M.I.A. on Region 1 DVD Tribute Month (Film 10) Jerzy Skolimowski’s Deep End (1971)

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.


Keith said...

Hey Jeremy. I've never seen this before. I would definitely love to. It's a shame that there are so many worthwhile films not on DVD.

Amanda By Night said...

I just saw this movie at the American Cinematheque a few months back. It was pretty amazing, though I couldn't really verbalize what I felt. This is an excellent review. And Asher - my god, she's beautiful!

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks to you both,
Amanda that is awesome you got to see this on the big screen. I would love to see a good print of it. It's easy to see how Asher might have inspired McCartney to write some of the most beautiful songs ever written isn't it?

John said...


This is an amazing film. I saw it way back when and was so stunned by it. I've looked years for a copy of it and finally found a bootleg copy. Quality isn't "A" but sometimes you have to take what is available.

The early 1970's was such a great time for film that some like "Deep End" seemed to have gotten lost in the shuffle.

Nice job.

Ned Merrill said...

DEEP END has been on my list for many years, since I read about it in one of Danny Peary's CULT MOVIES books. I read about the new print being struck in the last few years, but I've never been in the right place (NY, LA) at the right time to see it. I hope that Paramount licenses this one to Criterion.

Jeremy Richey said...

John and Ned,
Thanks so much for the continuing comments and forgive my delay in responding. It's a great film and it seems an ideal pic for Criterion if they could just snag it from Paramount's uncaring hands.

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interzone said...

Bavaria restoring "Deep End"