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Joseph Losey: Pictures of Provocation

March 5, 2010 - April 16, 2010

The Servant, March 21

Joseph Losey was a contradiction. Even before his first feature, The Boy with Green Hair (1948), was completed, this young stage director turned filmmaker had been tagged a red-leaning troublemaker by the House Un-American Activities Committee. During the production of his fifth film, The Big Night (1951), which followed on the heels of two bleak but impressive projects, The Prowler and M (also released in 1951), Losey was subpoenaed to testify before HUAC. Rather than do so, he left for Europe, never to return. What followed was a difficult career of artistic creation in exile, never quite settled, never quite recognized, but always advancing his masterful skills in the medium, eventually abandoning genre for a more personal cinema. So where’s the contradiction? Throughout his forty-year career, Losey seemed preoccupied with the limits of personal awareness and the freedom that arises from it. His fully faceted characters confront ethical dilemmas—hypocrisy, personal weakness, moral fallibility—and more often than not fail to retain their integrity. Losey’s characters lack the very freedom he sought throughout his own life. From darkly rendered noirs like The Sleeping Tiger (1954) and Time Without Pity (1957), through the critiques of war’s infernal price, These Are the Damned (1965) and King and Country (1966), to his superlative portraits of battered egos in Eve (1962), The Servant (1963), and Accident (1967), Joseph Losey never erred from ethical forthrightness. Instead he proffered what he called “pictures of provocation,” pictures that engage our self-awareness.

Steve Seid
Video Curator

Friday, March 5, 2010
8:40 p.m. M
Joseph Losey (U.S., 1951). A shadowy Los Angeles becomes the id-like setting for Losey’s remake of Fritz Lang’s Weimar classic, offering a chilling study in the pathology of the mob. With short Youth Gets a Break. (108 mins)

Saturday, March 6, 2010
6:30 p.m. M
Joseph Losey (U.S., 1951). With short Youth Gets a Break. See March 5. (108 mins)

Saturday, March 6, 2010
8:45 p.m. The Big Night
Joseph Losey (U.S., 1951). A shocking act of violence sends teen John Barrymore Jr. into a nocturnal adult netherworld in this complex coming-of-age melodrama, which presents trenchant commentary on love, shame, fatherhood, and race relations. “Losey’s energetic, almost nervous direction keeps the film bristling throughout.”—The Auteurs (75 mins)

Sunday, March 7, 2010
3:00 p.m. The Boy with Green Hair
Joseph Losey (U.S., 1948). Twelve-year-old Dean Stockwell comes up against the forces of conformity in this uneasy fable. “Imagine a cozy Disney feature crossed with an allegory on war and racism, and you have some idea of the bizarre flavor of Losey’s first feature.”—Time Out. With short Pete Roleum and His Cousins. (102 mins)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010
7:00 p.m. The Sleeping Tiger
Joseph Losey (U.K., 1954). In Losey’s first British film, criminal Dirk Bogarde is invited to move into a psychiatrist’s home, and soon puts the moves on the good doctor’s wife. “A masterpiece that argues that as far as film directing is concerned, style is content.”—Senses of Cinema (89 mins)

Sunday, March 21, 2010
5:00 p.m. The Servant
Joseph Losey (U.K., 1963). Let’s play master and servant! Dirk Bogarde is a conniving Jeeves to James Fox’s helpless member of the idle class in this striking parable, Losey’s first collaboration with Harold Pinter. (115 mins)

Sunday, March 21, 2010
7:20 p.m. These Are the Damned
Joseph Losey (U.K., 1965). Losey envisions a world of mad scientists, irradiated children, and Teddy Boy toughs in a hybrid sci-fi thriller pervaded by Cold War pessimism. (96 mins)

Friday, March 26, 2010
7:00 p.m. Eve
Joseph Losey (France/Italy, 1962). As shameless temptress Jeanne Moreau toys with novelist Stanley Baker, Antonioni cinematographer Gianni Di Venanzo makes Venice and Rome look far from Edenic. (119 mins)

Friday, March 26, 2010
9:20 p.m. Time Without Pity
Joseph Losey (U.K., 1957). In this white-knuckle thriller, Michael Redgrave plays a barely-on-the-wagon father racing the clock to prove the innocence of a son soon to be executed for murder. Cinematography by the great Freddie Francis. (85 mins)

Sunday, March 28, 2010
5:45 p.m. Accident
Joseph Losey (U.K., 1967). Dirk Bogarde and Stanley Baker star in a study of masculine malaise among the scholarly set. “A coldly funny puzzle movie, about the erotic entanglements of Oxford as superbly entangled by scenarist Harold Pinter.”—Chicago Reader (105 mins)

Friday, April 2, 2010
7:00 p.m. Blind Date
Joseph Losey (U.K., 1959). A hep young painter finds himself a murder suspect in this jazzy whodunit that highlights Losey’s eye for art and his preoccupation with interior space. (95 mins)

Friday, April 2, 2010
9:00 p.m. Modesty Blaise
Joseph Losey (U.K., 1966). Miniskirted super-agent Monica Vitti battles criminal mastermind Dirk Bogarde in Losey’s stylish spy sendup that skewers the generals as well as the genre. (119 mins)

Sunday, April 4, 2010
5:45 p.m. King and Country
Joseph Losey (U.K., 1964). Army lawyer Dirk Bogarde is assigned to defend deserter Tom Courtenay in this antiwar masterwork set in the grim trenches of World War I. Repeated on April 8. (86 mins)

Thursday, April 8, 2010
7:30 p.m. King and Country
Joseph Losey (U.K., 1964). See April 4. (86 mins)

Friday, April 9, 2010
9:00 p.m. Boom!
Joseph Losey (U.K., 1968). In a camp classic written by Tennessee Williams, “professional guest” Richard Burton descends upon the Mediterranean mansion of declining dowager Elizabeth Taylor. “Losey and cameraman Douglas Slocombe make it look gorgeous in a pile-up of baroque detail.”—Time Out (110 mins)

Saturday, April 10, 2010
8:20 p.m. Mr. Klein
Joseph Losey (France, 1976). Alain Delon plays an art dealer pursuing a Jewish alter ego through Nazi-occupied Paris. Losey’s French-language thriller investigates the price of apathy in the face of war’s horrors. (122 mins)

Friday, April 16, 2010
9:10 p.m. The Prowler
Joseph Losey (U.S., 1951). “A rivetingly cool, clean thriller about the trap that inexorably closes on a woman unhappily married to a rich husband, and a cop on the make. . . . (With) superb performances from Evelyn Keyes and Van Heflin . . . and direction that grips like a steel claw.”—Time Out. With short A Gun in His Hand. (111 mins)

Series curated by Steve Seid and Peter Conheim. PFA wishes to thank the following individuals and organizations for their contributions to this series: Patricia Losey; Fleur Buckley, BFI; Delphine Selles, French Ministry of Culture; David Pendleton, Harvard Film Archive; Daniel Rooney, National Archives; Marie-Pierre Lessard, Cinémathèque Québécoise; Jared Sapolin and Helena Brissenden, Sony Pictures; May Haduong, Academy Film Archive; Todd Wiener and Steven Hill, UCLA Film and Television Archive; Mary Keene, MOMA; and Laurence Berbon, Tamasa Distribution.