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Stephen (Dirk Bogarde – The Servant) is a middle-aged professor at Oxford University. Stifled by his life of marriage and academia, he yearns for an affair with his beautiful and enigmatic student Anna (Jacqueline Sassard – Les Biches). He is locked into a battle for Anna’s affection against her fiancé, William (Michael York – Logan’s Run), whose youthful vitality he envies, and with his friend and academic rival Charley (Stanley Baker - Zulu), whose media profile and sexual success he covets.
Along with The Go-Between and The Servant, Accident is one of the three film collaborations between legendary director Joseph Losey and playwright Harold Pinter. Often acknowledged as the pinnacle of Losey’s distinguished career, Accident is a compelling and unforgettable masterpiece.
• Interview with Dirk Bogarde biographer John Coldstream
• Interview with Harry Pinter expert Harry Burton
• Interview with feminist author and academic Melanie Williams
• Interview with film critic Tim Robey
• Joseph Losey and Harold Pinter discuss Accident (1957)
• Talking About Accident documentary featuring an interview with Harry Pinter
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Losey (and Pinter’s) film is certainly unconventional – full of flashbacks, a random sense of time and the blurring of dreams and reality (the latter during an inventive sequence between Stephen and – appropriately enough – the star of Resnais’ Last Year At Marienbad, Delphine Seyrig’s 'Provost’s daughter’, Francesca). Accident is also visually highly creative – courtesy of Gerry Fisher’s cinematography – with some impressive framing, extended takes, camera angles and numerous memorable sequences (good examples being the film’s eponymous opening and that which cuts between shots of gargoyles as a clock strikes). The film’s unconventionality – redolent of some European cinema of the period, particularly Antonioni – also manifests itself via long, static camera shots, idiosyncratic dialogue, offbeat humour, oblique plot points and eccentric characters with unexplained motivations.
Losey’s cast, however, is, almost without exception, excellent. In addition to Bogarde – for me, the film’s 'coherent centre’ – each of Stanley Baker as the disruptive friend to Stephen and 'TV host’, Charley, and Michael York as Anna’s fellow student, William, are impressive (the former particularly, playing a role very much against type). Other impressive supporting turns are delivered by Vivien Merchant as Stephen’s cynical wife, Rosalind, and by Alexander Knox as the University Provost. For me, the only weak-point is Sassard’s performance as Anna – admittedly more of a 'female cypher’ for her trio of admirers, rather than a fully-developed character – though the actress does improve somewhat as the film progresses.
Other films that Accident calls to my mind, for various reasons, partly due to the 60s milieu, are Antonioni’s Blow-up, Cammell/Roeg’s Performance, Skolimowski’s Deep End and Anderson’s If…. I’m not that surprised that, upon Accident’s release, audiences apparently didn’t 'get’ the film and, whilst (for me, at least) the film is not without its flaws, it is worth persevering with and benefits from repeat viewings.
The Studiocanal remastered DVD also has over an hour’s worth of interesting extras (an interview with Losey and Pinter plus various critics).
Stephen is married with two children and one on the way. He is comfortable, and lives in a beautiful house.He likes his two aristocratic students, William(a very good Yorke)and Anna,an Austrian princess, who he teaches philosophy. He acts as a go-between for the two of them.Stephen has a competitive relationship with his friend Charley(Baker) an academic and novelist who appears on TV and is married. Stephen learns that Charley is having an affair with Anna. He encourages Charley to make things up with his wife.What is noticeable about this film is it hasn't aged and could have been made yesterday. It steers clear of the swinging 60s clichés, common to films made then.To Stephen and Charley much of human behaviour is to do with the playing of games. Shows of communication were not much more than the playing of games.We get lots of shots of them playing tennis,cricket and with William, indoor rugby.There are beautifully filmed episodes of punting on the river, with young women and family picnics and country walks, showing the rituals of English behaviour. Suppressed feelings are acted out in the rituals and games. Stephen is attracted to Anna and would like to seduce her.
In the novel he is faithful to his wife and loves her and maybe hasn't the nerve of the more extrovert Charley. Anna announces she will marry William -in some sort of revenge. Everything is restrained and understated. Allusion and indirection dominate, e.g. Stephen's tryst in London with Francesca(Seyrig), where a voiceover of banal small talk takes the place of what is really happening.What happens to Anna after the accident? Stephen appears to rape her, although he doesn't sleep with her in the novel.Pinter explained to Mosley why they felt this was structurally necessary:it economised and compressed and intensified the drama. Otherwise, they adhered faithfully to the novel. Sassard has an iconic,languorous beauty, and is merely an instrument for the men,her acting appears wooden.Mosley's idea to salvage anything from the disaster, was for Stephen to not sleep with Anna. What works in a novel doesn't always work on film. Bogarde felt he played the best role of his career as Stephen, with his repressed sexuality and mid-life crisis.Baker is phenomenal as the very physical and extrovert Charley.There is a real tension between these two actors. Vivian Merchant is brilliant as the all- knowing Rosalind. Losey places himself up there with Resnais and Antonioni.Pinter's use of memory and time showed the preoccupation of his plays.He gives a cameo performance as a TV producer.This film was the winner of the 1967 Grand Jury Prize at Cannes.Deservedly so.
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WELL WOTH A WATCH THOUGH,AND IT DOES HAVE AN EXCELLENT CAST WHO DO A GOOD
JOB OF IT.
Picture quality - Very good but less so in a few places, probably due to the production processes used at the time, notably at the opening and...Read more