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Another Intriguing Losey, Pinter, Bogarde Collaboration
on 28 August 2015
Four years after the trio’s brilliant The Servant, director Joseph Losey, screenwriter Harold Pinter and actor (one of Britain’s finest) Dirk Bogarde brought us this intriguing 1967 take on human relationships – as experienced in the rarefied air of 1960s Oxford academia. Once again, the partnering of Losey and Pinter gives us a uniquely stylish – but, for me, less successful than the earlier film – slice of cinema, filled with visual delights and much verbal sparring in their attempt to dissect (and satirise) the film’s themes of open, dysfunctional relationships, ageing, identity, fidelity, fame, social mores and rituals. Bogarde turns in another outstanding performance here as the hesitant, disaffected family man and don, Stephen, part of another trio in Losey’s film – this time of besotted would-be paramours of Jacqueline Sassard’s incongruously glamorous student (and 'Austrian princess’), Anna.
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).