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Joseph Losey: Pictures of Provocation

Sunday, March 28, 2010
5:45 p.m. Accident
Joseph Losey (U.K., 1967)

Archival Print

A metal-rending car crash announces the beginning of a meticulous study of masculine malaise that never swerves from its course. Stephen, played by Dirk Bogarde, is a self-satisfied Oxford don unsettled by the congealing contentment of his family life. His closest companion is Charley (Stanley Baker), a don and a Don Juan with questionable critical credentials. When Anna, a beauteous but benumbed Austrian princess, arrives, the slow undoing of the two tutors begins, alongside the wooing of William (Michael York), a charming upper-class clod. Pinter stages this as a summer idyll desperately trying to retain the civility of its surface. The almost vacuous dialogue marks the strained politeness that conceals Stephen and Charley’s virile panic. Bogarde and Baker, the one a smug scholar, the other all braggadocio, are perfect dupes for their own phallic failings. Losey loses the ornate conceits of previous films in favor of a visual style as staid as its objects are sullied. Accident is a crash course on how to make a great film.

—Steve Seid

• Written by Harold Pinter, based on the novel by Nicholas Mosley. Photographed by Gerry Fisher. With Dirk Bogarde, Michael York, Stanley Baker, Jacqueline Sassard. (105 mins, Color, 35mm, From British Film Institute, permission Tamasa Distribution)