Deep End (West Germany-UK, 1970)

Not exactly swinging

Deep End is one of those rare treats for an ageing cinephile, a never-seen but much-mentioned movie suddenly available to view. It has been mired in rights issues and needed reconstructing for its re-release last year (see here for more details). And it’s pleasing to report that the film does not disappoint.

Made in the same year as Performance, both films share a cynical view of the post-swinging ’60s era; though Deep End lacks the others pretension. Set in a seedy public baths, the film focuses on 15 year-old Mike’s growing infatuation with the slightly older Susan (Jane Asher terrific in both looks and acting). She is a not unkindly tease, however her affect on his hormones is quite catastrophic.

Like Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (UK, 1965) this casts the effects of ‘sexual liberation’ as horror, though not in such an obvious way as the earlier film. The Polish sensibility, Deep End‘s writer-director was Jerzy Skolimowski a friend of Polanski’s, seems to have been ideal to offer such a skewed vision of Swinging London. Most of the film is set in the seedy baths (actually shot in West Germany) that take on an increasingly surreal look as the putrid greens start to be replaced (by a painter) with blood-red.

Another key setting is a 15-minute sequence shot in Soho, then the absolute epiphany of seedy sexuality; this is accompanied throughout by Can’s Mother Sky, giving a psychedelic edge to the proceedings. This mix of realism, the location shooting and narrative where little happens, with the surreal, at one point a religious group pops up proselytising against sex, helps set the mood for the brilliant finale.

The realism is also evident in some of the scenes that are clearly improvised; such as when the protagonists play with famous ‘pregnant man’ public information poster. Other elements that seem surreal now, such as the teacher molesting his female teen charges on a visit to the baths, may actually have been more real then! Similarly, the scene in the porn cinema where a policeman has to remove Mike for molesting Susan, who’s with her boyfriend.

So, a ‘lost’ ‘classic’ ‘found’.

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3 Responses

  1. […] 2011)Son of Babylon (Iraq-UK-Fra-NL-Palestine-UAE-Egypt, 2009)Dead Man’s Shoes (UK, 2004)Deep End (West Germany-UK, 1970)Tabloid (US, 2010)Sherlock Jr. (US, 1924)Rango (US, 2011)Fire in Babylon (UK, […]

  2. […] Privilege, another of the BFI’s superb ‘flipside’ series, is certainly worth a look. Although it’s not a dramadoc, Watkins uses the same faux documentary voiceover (himself) as in his previous two works. Whilst this was effective on television, its rather intermittent usage, and lack of a particularly realist visual style, works against the immersive effect of film (particularly in cinema). It doesn’t appear to be a Brechtian device, to alienate the viewer from what they’re watching so and engage their thought, as the film would have worked better if it had engaged the emotions more directly. It is difficult to care for Jones’ Steven Shorter who seems to be as alien as David Bowie’s in The Man Who Fell To Earth (UK, 1976). Privilege is an interesting contribution to Britain’s science fiction cinema (notwithstanding Durgnat’s attempt to deny the genre’s qualities – mentioned in the Bright Lights article) and a sidelong glance at the Swinging Sixties though nowhere near as potent as films like Performance (UK, 1970) and Deep End. […]

  3. […] Privilege, another of the BFI’s superb ‘flipside’ series, is certainly worth a look. Although it’s not a dramadoc, Watkins uses the same faux documentary voiceover (himself) as in his previous two works. Whilst this was effective on television, its rather intermittent usage, and lack of a particularly realist visual style, works against the immersive effect of film (particularly in cinema). It doesn’t appear to be a Brechtian device, to alienate the viewer from what they’re watching so and engage their thought, as the film would have worked better if it had engaged the emotions more directly. It is difficult to care for Jones’ Steven Shorter who seems to be as alien as David Bowie’s in The Man Who Fell To Earth (UK, 1976). Privilege is an interesting contribution to Britain’s science fiction cinema (notwithstanding Durgnat’s attempt to deny the genre’s qualities – mentioned in the Bright Lights article) and a sidelong glance at the Swinging Sixties though nowhere near as potent as films like Performance (UK, 1970) and Deep End. […]

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