Friday, January 04, 2013


One night, outside the house of Oxford don Dirk Bogarde, a car accident occurs. When Bogarde goes out to help, he finds his student, Michael York, dead, and York's fiancee, Jacqueline Sassard, drunk and nearly unconscious. He takes her in and hides her upstairs while he tells the police what he knows about York. In an extended flashback, we learn that York had come to Bogarde to get the confidence to come on to Sassard, an aristocratic German student. He does, but then Bogarde himself starts to fall for her, despite having a pregnant wife (Vivien Merchant) and two kids. To make matters worse, another married don (Stanley Baker) begins an affair with Sassard, even spending the night with her in Bogarde's house when Baker assumes the house is empty. Back in present time, the triangle of Sassard and the two dons is resolved in a way that leaves no one unscathed.

Joseph Losey, an artsy filmmaker, directed this from a script by Harold Pinter, a writer known for his obscure narratives use of silences and pauses. Nothing much happens on the surface; as Pinter has said, the real drama happens between the lines. What I like best about the movie is how it becomes clear that all the characters are "acting" their parts, rarely letting what they really feel show. Bogarde (pictured above with York) is especially good, keeping his loves and lusts and jealousies simmering beneath his mild-mannered demeanor. All the characters except York stumble about causing accidents of one kind of another, hurting people but not really caring. Bogarde reignites an old affair with the provost's daughter; Baker carries on with Sassard even though his wife finds out; Sassard, the biggest cipher in the movie, seems to love no one, but is the one who pays the least for her behavior. Only the young York (in his first movie) seems principled, but he becomes the victim of a literal accident. The movie is interesting but rather bloodless, though Bogarde and Baker give excellent performances, especially in a long scene of a drunken house party. Harold Pinter has a cameo comic-relief role as a TV producer, and Alexander Knox stands out in the small role of the provost. [TCM]

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