screened Monday June 3 2008 on VHS recording of TV broadcast in Brooklyn, NY
The third and final collaboration between director Joseph Losey and screenwriter Harold Pinter nabbed the 1971 Cannes Palme d’Or at the expense of such films as Luchino Visconti’s Death in Venice (TSPDT #207), Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout (TSPDT #611) and Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun (TSPDT #756). Adapted from L.P. Hartley’s celebrated novel of a schoolboy’s fateful experience conveying love messages between an aristocrat and a farmer, the film mixes period costume opulence and the reserved British sex appeal of leads Julie Christie and Alan Bates with an oblique New Wave narrative framing device to spice up the proceedings. Occurring mostly in the past with occasional flashes to the present, Pinter’s manipulation of time feels perfunctory compared to what Alain Resnais was doing a decade prior, or even what Pinter managed in his script for Losey’s Accident. More interesting is Losey’s entymological dramatization of British manor life, exhibiting both gentility and prejudice with near-emotionless decorum. Pinter’s dialogue pinpoints the neurotic weirdness underlying British politeness with unnerving precision, and is served ably by the ensemble, especially Dominic Guard as the boy, whose naivete and unwitting indiscretions stand sharply against the hypocrisy and innuendo surrounding him.
Want to go deeper?
The following votes were counted towards the film’s placement in the They Shoot Pictures 1000 Greatest Films:
Alkan Avcolu Miscellaneous (2006)
Richard Roud Sight & Sound (1972)
Vera Volmane Sight & Sound (1972)
Zhou Xiaowen Time Out (1995)
BFI 100 Favorite British Films of the 20th Century (1999)
Halliwell’s Top 1000 Films (2005)
Michael Wilmington 100 Best Films of the Century (1999)
New York Times The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made (2004)
Positif Most Influential Films (1952-1981) (1982)
Rough Guide to Film Period Drama: 5 Essential Classics (2007)
The Guardian 1,000 Films to See Before You Die (2007)
Before Merchant Ivory turned them into a formula, this is the way Edwardian period movies used to look: mighty essays on class and repression as well as febrile evocations of a rural English landscape that had, even then, almost totally vanished. LP Hartley’s 1953 novel – with its imperishable opening lines, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there” – accentuates the gulf between the pre-first world war summer, and a Britain that was just about to enter the socio-sexual revolution of the second half of the 20th century. His narrative focuses on the traumas suffered by a young boy whose guilt at spilling details of a cross-class love affair results in a catatonic condition. By the time American exile Joseph Losey made the film, the 1960s had battered away most of the Edwardians’ taboos, and the crisis of ideas had abated. But there was plenty of room to create the film as a counterpoint to that poetic opening; the presence of two very starry British actors – Julie Christie and Alan Bates – at the height of their powers stresses a continuity between turn-of-the-century Norfolk and the modern day. The Go-Between was Losey’s third collaboration with Harold Pinter (after The Servant and Accident), and in many ways the most orthodox. Nevertheless, Pinter did insert flash-forwards and the like to create a fractured sense of chronology that reflected the novel’s later-life perspective. Losey, ever the observant exile, luxuriates in the period detail, but never allows the surfaces to become too glossy. He knew, first and foremost, that this was a story about people, and a great one at that.
- Andrew Pulver, The Guardian 1,000 Films to See Before You Die
A video report of the film’s premiere at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival with interviews with Joseph Losey and Alan Bates. [in French]
The film is a triumph of meticulously intelligent collaboration and formal calculation, and for those who favor British reticence over Gothic mood, The Go-Between as a literary adaptation makes its main competitor of 1971, Death in Venice [TSPDT #207], look like amateur night on the Grand Canal.
While I have some reservations about The Go-Between, directed by Joseph Losey and adapted by Harold Pinter from L. P. Hartley’s novel, I think it’s quite safe to say that it’s one of the loveliest, and one of the most perfectly formed, set, and acted films we’re likely to see this year.
The Go-Between is the third collaboration of Losey and Pinter and, like both The Servant and Accident, it is a kind of horror story, this time located in a world in which caste and manners have yet to be seriously questioned. There is something immensely appealing about this world—of great estates, of tea parties, of novels read aloud on the lawn, of a dog named Dry Toast, of croquet and faceless servants and cricket matches—and it serves to enrich a drama that is, on close inspection, somewhat less complex and more simplistic than the production that’s been given it.
The cast is splendid and I’m afraid that any listing I may give will sound like a sort of half-baked inventory of superlatives. To cite just a few: Julie Christie, cool and passionate and cruel and sweet, as the heiress who is the principal instrument of Leo’s destruction; Alan Bates, as the tenant farmer she loves and whom she meets in the hayloft at teatime; Margaret Leighton, as the mother who is not without feeling, but puts manners first; and Edward Fox, as the viscount who apparently accepts the scandal since, after all, “nothing is ever a lady’s fault.”
The production that Losey has designed for Pinter’s screenplay is close to perfect, with never a shot, a camera angle, nor a cut from one scene to another that is not synchronized to the structure of the whole. Long views of meadows and skies are not simply scenic constables, but memories of events seen fifty years later. When the camera moves in for a close-up—I remember especially vividly one of Miss Leighton on the verge of hysteria—the effect is of the kind of complex, contradictory kind of revelation that only a movie camera can capture.
The Go-Between, which won the Grand Prize at this year’s Cannes Festival and opened yesterday at the 68th Street Playhouse, is full of those contradictions that make both life and movies interesting. It’s an idyll about murder, a charming tale of casual cruelty, and a terrifying picture of an innocent love. It’s one of the few new movies, in fact, that I can recommend without any real qualifications.
- Vincent Canby, The New York Times, July 30, 1971
In the films of Director Joseph Losey, truth is not so much disclosed as inflicted. His characters stagger under the impact of selfdiscovery; sometimes they are destroyed by it. Losey shares with Playwright Harold Pinter, one of his most frequent collaborators, a fascination with the surfaces of illusion, with the means by which people delude themselves, and with the mechanics of their inevitable undoing. In earlier Losey-Pinter films, the catalysts of doom were generally characters of a certain ambiguous authority, like the gentleman’s gentleman in The Servant or the young girl at Oxford in Accident. In their new film, The Go-Between, it is convention that plays the villain.
The Go-Between thus represents something of a departure for both Director Losey and Scenarist Pinter. It is a film of formal, almost sculpted elegance, of precise, leisurely beauty permeated by melancholy. Watching it is very much like reading a long, old-fashioned novel, for its virtues are as much literary as visual: a strong sense of plot, nuances of character shrewdly observed, a delicate sense of theme and dialogue. It is an extraordinarily pleasurable and successful movie in a minor key.
Losey periodically cuts startlingly from the Norfolk estate in 1900 to a graying figure being chauffeured across the same countryside decades later. This, too, is Leo (now played by Michael Redgrave in an exceptional performance). The adult Leo retraces and remembers his past, returning after all this time to deliver a final message. What the message is—and to whom—is the kind of 19th century plot flourish that is spoiled by revelation. It is also too facile and hollow a device, which Losey and Pinter chose to retain from the original L.P. Hartley novel. One can feel affectionate toward this kind of artifice without fully accepting it, a response that may be equally valid for the film as a whole.
When Losey finally started The Go-Between in the summer of 1970, he found himself restricted to a $1,000,000 budget and a severe eight-week shooting schedule. It is a tribute to his talent that a film made under such confining conditions could be so lush and fully sustained. “Joe is so scrupulous it’s stunning,” says Pinter. “He can be directing a complicated scene with actors and be able to pay attention not only to its meaning but to whether a saltcellar on the table is out of position.” Of The Go-Between, Losey ventures: “Perhaps the film is different from anything I’ve done in its period look, what some people may call ‘romantic.’ But I think there’s a bitter core there for those who can taste worm.”
- Jay Cocks, Time
Losey and his screenwriter, Harold Pinter, are terribly observant about small nuances of class. In the family’s matriarch (Margaret Leighton) they give us a woman who seems to support the British class system all by herself, simply through her belief in it. They show a father and a fiance who are aware of the girl’s affair with the farmer, but do nothing about it. They are confident she will do the “right thing” in the end, and she does… Indeed, at the end of the film she turns up years later as an old lady very much in the image of her mother. The victim is the boy, who is scarred sexually and emotionally by his summer experience. When we see him at the film’s end, he is a sort of bloodless eunuch, called in to perform one last errand for the woman.
Losey’s production is elegantly costumed and mounted and has the same eye for details of character that distinguished his two pervious films with Pinter (“The Servant” and “Accident”). One visual device is distracting, however; he keeps giving us short flash-forwards to the end of the film. On the one hand, this eventually gives the ending away. On the other, it imposes a ponderous significance on the events that go before, diluting their freshness.
If the film had been told in straight chronology followed by an epilogue, it would have been more effective. In fact, the epilogue could have been lost altogether with no trouble; everything that will become of this boy in his adult life is already there, by implication, at the end of his summer holiday.
- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
What director Joseph Losey and his screenplay writer Harold Pinter expose beneath the privileged surface of life in a great house is social hypocrisy as well as secret passion. The false values that people live by, using class differences to maintain their power and privilege and never learning from the resulting tragedies.
Losey is perfectly served by his screenplay writer Harold Pinter, who has adapted L.P. Hartley’s novel with scrupulous fidelity, yet adds to it his own uncanny skill at depicting people who use words to conceal themselves rather than reveal their meanings. In this guilty setting of privilege and deceit, Pinter is in his element.
- Alexander Walker, Evening Standard
Pinter uses his gift for projecting the imminence of disaster through desultory conversation, without falling into self-parody or distorting the form and spirit of LP Hartley’s classic novel. It is a very good film indeed.
- George Melly, The Observer
Nicely frosted by Joseph Losey’s cool precision, this 1971 film, based on a novel by L.P. Hartley, is the primal tale of a young boy who becomes the messenger between a proper English lady (Julie Christie) and the farmer with whom she is having an affair (Alan Bates). It’s very much in the tradition of the British “well-made” film, with excellent photography, set decoration, and performances (particularly from the boy, Dominic Guard, and Margaret Leighton). High craft like this can sometimes kill a film (cf The French Lieutenant’s Woman), but Losey is able to use its repressive implications to highly expressive ends.
- Dave Kehr, The Chicago Reader
Like the sterile upper-class world of The Servant, the dry and ritualistic lifestyle of the Maudsleys – a family struggling to retain its tradition and respectability – is evoked through Losey‘s coolly detached camerawork: scenes are often shot from high angles, distancing us from the characters and the starkly formal setting. The highly stylised cricket match on the village green, for example – a symbol of Englishness and rules – seems to match the rigid rituals of the family home, until the primitive power of Ted’s hitting disrupts the game’s gentility.
Pinter retains the novel’s device of interrupting the action to flash forward some 50 years, until gradually we realise that the story is not taking place as we see it, but is a memory of events from the past, told from the perspective of Leo as an older man. This, the key theme of Losey‘s film – how the past shapes the present and yet constantly eludes us – is reflected in the oft-quoted line which opens both novel and film, “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”
- Caroline Miller, BFI Screen Online
The Go-Between (1971), his last collaboration with Pinter, is also his last great film, a haunting adaptation of L.P. Hartley’s novel. Michel Legrand’s driving music for The Go-Between is one of the all-time best film scores, as important in its way as Bernard Herrmann’s score for Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)—it adds emotion where it is sorely needed. In this film Losey makes the most effective use of zooms imaginable, and he takes his time, accumulating small details. Aside from its intelligence and insight, however, it hardly seems to be a Losey film—it is evocative, judicious, perfectly cast, but rather cautious.
- Dan Callahan, Senses of Cinema
Luchino Visconti’s disciple, Losey does what he has rarely been called upon to do: bring to life period detail. But what the film evokes is not so much an actual past as a dream of the past—a dream disclosing, at least on one level, the classist sentiments that Marian embodies, as did her mother. (One keeps wondering, for instance, whether Marian’s mother also had a similarly sordid affair before her marriage.) It is Leo who is, of course, narrating the film, and therefore he is the one who is doing the remembering; but it is his tragedy that his own memories are entangled in Marian’s and the life that she lived, which never did really, nor could, let him in.
Losey and Pinter
Both were natural outsiders, both were steeped in theatre, and both viewed the British class sytem, a constant factor in all their work, with a mixture of moral disapproval and grudging fascination. … But Pinter and Losey were also sufficiently dissimilar to make a perfect team. Pinter’s verbal economy checks and balances Losey’s baroque tendencies, while Losey’s visual stylishness simplifies Pinter’s exactness and precision.
- Michael Billington, The Life and Work of Harold Pinter
The Go-Between is far more satisfying, and is in many ways the best film of the three, even if I prefer The Servant for its shock value (and the way it plays with the overt homoeroticism of the relationship between servant and master). The ways the narrative, voiceover, and imagery upset the chronology remain interesting, even in these post-Pulp-Fiction-and-Memento days, because they are subtle, ghostly, and essential to the protagonist’s development. The Go-Between also seems to have had an effect on Pinter’s playwrighting — there is a noticeable difference between his post-Go-Between plays and the earlier ones, both in their depth of situations and in their handling of time and memory. Indeed, Betrayal might not have been possible without The Go-Between. (The Go-Between works better as a film than the Betrayal movie, though, because plenty of techniques that are effective in live theatre feel arch and clunky on film, despite strong performances. I’ve found Betrayal to be both moving and funny on stage, but was less enamored of the backwards-chronology when I saw the film, because it felt somehow heavy-handed, while the chronological tricks in The Go-Between play upon both our senses of sight and sound [via the voiceovers, which don't match with the images] in a mysterious and unobtrusive way, and are therefore richly cinematic.)
The Pinter/Losey (or Losey/Pinter) films came in the beginning and early middle of Pinter’s career as a writer, and the beginning of his career as a screenwriter. Later scripts, such as The French Lieutenant’s Woman, are better crafted and more impressive, but I’ve not yet seen a film Pinter wrote where it felt like the director was as strong a collaborator with Pinter as Losey was.
- Matthew Cheney, Mumpsimus
Typical of Pinter’s spare but telling prose is the scene in which Leo tries to comprehend Marion’s predicament. Why, he wants to know, doesn’t she marry Farmer Burgess? “Because I can’t,” she replies simply. And why is she marrying Lord Trimingham, whom she clearly doesn’t love? “Because I must,” she insists. What Leo doesn’t understand is that Marion feels she has no choice in the matter. Losey complements Pinter’s words with subtly suggestive symbolism that makes a deconstruction of almost any scene in the movie revealing. Leo is dubbed “messenger of the Gods” by the gentry and his suit is appropriately colored green. Herds of deer and flocks of birds visit the estate, reminding us of the natural order.
- John Teegarden, Audience
In Making Pictures: The Pinter Screenplays, a study of Pinter’s adaptations of novels rather than of his own stage plays, Joanne Klein argues that the writer habitually regards the past as “alive, but not real, the past exists as a property of the imagination, as a fictive rather than factual phenomenon.” But consider Pinter’s remark quoted in the previous chapter: “I certainly feel more and more that the past is not the past, that it was never past. It’s present.” This remark, uttered after both Accident and The Go-Between were completed, argues for the “realness” of the past as something more than mere recollections or even imagination. Neither Pinter nor Losey would accept the notion that the past is only fictive. “The past is rather than was,” as Klein asserts, but the very heart of Losey and Pinter’s view in The Go-Between is that the past is present as reality, not simply imaginative recollection. The notion of annihilating time necessarily leads to destroying the distinction between “is” and “was.” In The Go-Between time only “is.”
- James Palmer, Michael Riley, from The Films of Harold Pinter
About the novel by L.P. Hartley
“As a work of the highest formal artistry, The Go-Between must rank with Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier. And like that masterpiece, it is ‘the saddest story,’…Absolutely limpid in its telling, The Go-Between movingly evokes the heavy fruitfulness of summer, the orderly country-house life of late Victorian England, and what Colm Tóibín, in his introduction to this reissue, calls the drama of ‘Leo’s deeply sensuous nature moving blindly, in a world of rich detail and beautiful sentences, toward a destruction that is impelled by his own intensity of feeling, and, despite everything, his own innocence.’”
About the Optimum Region 2 DVD
The Go-Between is the third and final collaboration between Harold Pinter and Joseph Losey. Where there’s available strong DVD’s of The Servant and Accident, this however is not quite the same standard. It’s not bad, but I think here’s recycled an old transfer. Luckily the transfer is in Open Matte and nothing is missing from the image. Actually it’s transferred in 1:1.31, and has minor black bars on the left and right side. The image is quite sharp, though zooming it in, there’s a lack of detail in indoor scenes. Also the skin-tones are too red in my opinion… The sound is clean, but far too narrow for a film made in 1970. The dialog has some minor cracks throughout. This is possibly cleaned from a used optical track… It is an average transfer for a film worth so much more, but at least it’s now available on DVD, and fully watchable.
- Per-Olof Strandberg, DVD Beaver
About Joseph Losey
“Romantic?” Joseph Losey rumbles in a voice full of measured flamboyance. “You might say that I am. A middleaged Marxist romantic. But I’m not sure that being romantic isn’t synonymous right now with being optimistic. And I am that.”
He had persisted in his optimism, though it has been severely tried. Just as he was beginning to establish himself in postwar Hollywood as a young director of substantial gifts, he was offered the script of a shrill melodrama entitled I Married a Communist. He refused to film it. Later he discovered that to his bosses at the old RKO studio, anyone who declined the project was politically suspect. Losey’s political history—sponsoring Composer Hanns Eisler, supporting Playwright Bertolt Brecht, signing a friend-of-the-court brief for Producer Adrian Scott, one of the original Hollywood Ten—got him into serious trouble. Soon he was called to testify by the House Un-American Activities Committee. He never received the subpoena, he says, but all employment abruptly vanished. Losey left for England, where he managed to work pseudonymously on television shows and several shoestring features.
His optimism may have made this time endurable, but despair shows through tellingly in a series of films he made during the years from The Sleeping Tiger (1954) to Eva (1962). They are preoccupied with thwarted dreams and baroque psychopathy, with characters afflicted by spiritual wounds that will not heal. Although Losey had begun to work under his own name by 1957, it was not until the release of The Servant in 1963 that he became a film maker of international reputation. Losey and Pinter planned to do The Go-Between right after The Servant, but problems with the film rights and then with financing forced postponement. “I was broke,” Losey recalls, “and there was Figures in a Landscape, a nice big piece of Hollywood s— all ready to go. It paid a lot of bills.”
- Jay Cocks, Time
Although Losey rarely wrote his own screenplays, preferring instead to work closely with other authors, there are nevertheless several distinct thematic concerns which recur throughout his work. It is his emphasis on human interaction and the complexity of interior thought and emotion that makes a Losey film an intellectual challenge, and his interest has always lain with detailed character studies rather than with so-called “action” pictures. Losey’s domain is interior action and his depiction of the physical world centers on those events which are an outgrowth or reflection of his characters’ inner lives.One of Losey’s frequent subjects is the intruder who enters a preexisting situation and irrevocably alters its patterns… This underlying theme of class conflict is one which runs throughout Losey’s work, emerging as an essential part of the framework of films as different as The Lawless, The Servant, and The Go-Between… Losey’s films are also an examination of illusion and reality, with the true nature of people or events often bearing little resemblance to their outer appearances… Several of Losey’s films carry this theme a step further, offering characters who find their own sense of identity becoming inextricably bound up in someone else…
Losey’s choice of subject led to his successful collaboration with playwright Harold Pinter on The Servant, Accident, and The Go-Between, and Losey once hoped to film Pinter’s screenplay of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. Their parallel dramatic interests served both men well, and their work together is among the finest in their careers. Yet if Losey found his most nearly perfect voice in Pinter’s screenplays, his films with a wide variety of other writers have still resulted in a body of work remarkably consistent in theme and purpose. His absorbing, sometimes difficult films represent a unique and uncompromising approach to cinema, and guarantee Losey’s place among the world’s most intriguing directors.
- Janet E. Lorenz, Film Reference
“To each his own Losey” is how the critic Tom Milne began his 1967 interview book with Joseph Losey. His tally of Loseys at that point was three: the Hollywood version (1948-52), the early British incarnation (1954-62), and the art-house auteur revealed in The Servant (63) and culminating in Accident (67). Immediately after that, of course, another one appeared, the internationalist and, for a while, fellow traveler of the Burton-Taylor jet set, the maker of weird, floating fables like Boom (68) and Figures in a Landscape (70). In 1975, a second exile turned him into a French filmmaker, with four films from Mr. Klein (76) to La Truite (82). Other subdivisions might be possible, although five makes a neat number of Loseys, because each of them is anchored to particular cinematic provinces (if not countries) and production circumstances. But even so, the boundaries don’t really stay in place: his collaboration with Harold Pinter, which largely defines the Sixties art-house period, and the supposed refinement it brought to Losey’s style, ends four films into the international period with The Go-Between (71), and the international frolic Modesty Blaise (66) pops up after The Servant and King and Country (64), just prior to Accident. One could even argue that, in terms of stylistic attack, Losey’s last American film is not The Big Night (51), barely finished before he fled the country and the blacklist, but The Damned (a.k.a. These Are The Damned) (62), which is also his seventh British film.
Crucially, the disruptions, the chopping and changing, don’t just make up the pattern of his career but are at work in individual films-certainly in the best of them. Losey was never really a comfortable filmmaker in any of his national habitats, and, in his films, along with a focus on clashes of ego and energy goes an uneasy compacting of different styles and influences. In fact, the different Losey “periods” are best followed not in sequence but in a kind of crisscross through his work virtually from the word go – the word go being The Boy with Green Hair (48), an apparently naive morality tale with its own weird divergences of mood and style.
- Richard Combs, Film Comment
Joseph Losey remains a highly controversial figure. Claiming him as a great director or, even worse, as an important artist might draw chuckles in some quarters, even if some of his films, like The Servant (1963), are regularly taught in cinema study classes. His reputation has suffered because many of his early films, which are among his best work, are obscure and hard to see, while the glossy misfires of his later years, such as The Assassination of Trotsky (1972) and Roads to the South (1978), are readily available. Adding insult to injury is a pair of films that must count as two of the worst movies of all time: Modesty Blaise (1966) and Steaming (1985). Then there are his two lunatic Elizabeth Taylor ventures, Boom! (1968) and Secret Ceremony, both of which have attained a high camp status since their release. How can the man who made those films be a great director?
The man who made those films, in fact, was a great director. It’s only when you look closely at the first half of his career that you begin to realize what an important figure Losey is. He directed at least half a dozen beautiful films, most of the time battling bad scripts, miscast actors and his own intellectual uncertainty. Like any first class film director, he found depth in even the most absurd situations. Losey was a vulgar artist, and he used his vulgarity as a piercing spotlight on human relationships. Many of his best films, like The Sleeping Tiger (1954) and Secret Ceremony, are hilariously “bad,” but Losey’s electric instincts thrust them up into the domain of exciting art.
The dominant themes of Losey’s eclectic work are emotional instability, emotional and physical violence and perverse sexual power plays. There is not one conventional love story in his films. He has a mania for settings that express states of mind, and his camera movements are always abnormally sensitive and skittish. He has been attacked as a case of style over substance, but this misses the point. If Losey had been a writer his deficiencies would make him a minor figure, but he was from first to last a film director, and, at least for directors who don’t write their own material, style is substance. Circumstances beyond his control (the Hollywood blacklist and heavy British taxation) forced Losey to wander, and this wreaked havoc on his already nervy, vulnerable style. Constant uprooting meant that he never really had time to settle down and concentrate for an extended period on any particular place. He grappled with America, understood England down to the ground and largely passed on France…
Most accounts paint Joseph Losey as almost always rude and ungenerous, a man who made many enemies and, worst of all, a man who badmouthed almost all of his actors. Perhaps he was not as smart as he thought he was. The psychological notes he kept on his characters reveal a somewhat shallow mind. In the interviews he gave, there is a strong whiff of the charlatan. Looking at the evidence, one can only assume that too much critical acclaim crippled his instincts and made his talent self-conscious. He seems so bored with the films of his last years, so passionately committed to the movies up to and including The Servant. “Do you really think he is a great director?” asked a colleague of mine, when I was starting on this piece. After a hesitation, I replied, “Yes.” We might hesitate over Joseph Losey, but we cannot deny that his best work, so wounded, so angry, so filled with crazed brio, so bold, emotional and unashamed, places him securely in the pantheon of great film directors.
- Dan Callahan, Senses of Cinema
In an interesting conclusion Garner notes “In the wake of Austin Powers and Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction such innovations [as Losey engineered in the course of his career] may appear very tame, but read in light of Losey’s artistic odyssey from social realist to high modernist this early venture into stylistic schizophrenia was extremely darting.” Indeed it hasn’t been bested by the likes of Tarantino. Only Wong Kar Wai is his true cultural heir. But Wong retains a sunny air beneath all his pessimism about human nature. For Losey there is naught but cheekily sardonic gloom.
- David Ehrenstein, on Colin Gardner’s Joseph Losey (Manchester University Press, 2004), for Screening the Past
About Julie Christie
Julie Christie became an international star in the decade her performances seemed to celebrate. (And a lot of Christie’s star appeal was tied into her youth and associated with the rebellious youth of the 1960s.) Her characters defied convention, joyfully reveling in zoom-lensed sensuality in Billy Liar, selfishly courting the high life in Darling, impetuously pursuing dangerous whims in Petulia. But in the morally schizoid world of 1960s cinema, screenwriters often exacted a high price for their characters’ sexual liberation. For such films—epitomized by her Oscar-winning Darling—Julie Christie was the perfect actress.
Her particular talent appeared double-edged. Her model’s beauty and the slick style in which she was photographed (especially by John Schlesinger), invited the viewer to admire her characters and to covet the glossy worlds they inhabited. But as Darling and later The Go-Between strikingly confirm, numerous Christie performances gradually reveal the enigmatic frost initially concealed by her characters’ husky-voiced charm, thus permitting the viewer to accept, even enjoy, their eventual comeuppance.
Three roles in early 1970s pictures underline more vividly her rejection of glamorous roles in favor of challenging, literate scripts filmed by brilliantly quirky directors. All three movies—Altman’s McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Losey’s The Go-Between, and Roeg’s Don’t Look Now—thrive on narrative ambiguity, and rebel against the filmic genres from which they are derived—Western, English romance, and gothic thriller, respectively—through consistent frustration of audience expectations. In all three, her identity as a star is submerged. In The Go-Between and McCabe and Mrs. Miller (a second Oscar nomination), Christie disappears from view for considerable stretches of time; in Don’t Look Now she is offscreen for more than a quarter of the film. In the movie The Go-Between, adapted by Harold Pinter from L. P. Hartley’s complex novel, her performance is integrated with the remarkable ensemble playing of its all-British cast. Yet in all three films, Christie dominates the frame when she is in it, and she displays a depth and range of acting skill, that in her 1960s work, seemed almost secondary to her beauty.
With enviable control, inner torment pokes through to disclose the characteristic Christie embodiment of the clash between illusion and reality in all three women: frizzy-headed prostitute Mrs. Miller (opposite Warren Beatty’s McCabe) in the eccentric, elliptical world of Robert Altman; radiant aristocrat Marian Maudsley who, by The Go-Between‘s end, reveals unforgivable streaks of cruelty; and Laura Baxter, haunted by her husband’s and daughter’s deaths in the terrifying, fractured universe of Don’t Look Now, but regal as she musters her emotional resources. More recently, Christie played a mother in the 1988 television movie Dadah Is Death. It was a part most would not identify with her early screen persona. She starred in this fact-based story about an Australian woman’s efforts to clear her son of drug charges in Malaysia. It was not a glamorous or offbeat role, but Christie played it with the same kind of intensity.
- Mark W. Estrin, updated by Linda J. Stewart, Film Reference
About Alan Bates
cited as his best, or favourite, work.
Butley (1974) “That was a great thing for me, Butley, in the theatre particularly.”
In Celebration (1974) “It’s a marvelous piece of writing of tension and conflict, and I am as happy with that as with anything I have been in.”
The Mayor of Casterbridge (1978 – TV, 7-part mini series) “He had a tremendous vision of life, attempted huge things, failed dreadfully, was anihilated at the end. There’s something that can take you over, with a part like that.”
Nijinsky (1980) “This is a part I cared a great deal about; I sort of had a love for him [Diaghilev].”
The Cherry Orchard (1999) “Cacoyannis – who had dreamt of doing ‘The Cherry Orchard’ for years, raised the money for it himself, and expended on the film ‘so much passion and love – allowed the individual characters to blossom and let the play speak for itself.”
- From Alan Bates.com