Accident (12A)

Film

Drama

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Jun 2 2009

American exile Joseph Losey’s twentieth film enjoys an extended run at BFI Southbank for the next two weeks as part of a retrospective of the director’s work. The 1967 film forsakes the swinging, mini-skirted metropolis for an examination of moral lassitude and contained passions among the dreaming spires  and cardigan-wearing dons of Oxford academia. ‘You’re not past it, are you?’ asks a student (Michael York) of his fortysomething philosophy tutor
(Dirk Bogarde). He’s referring to his teacher’s interest in  a young, passion-arousing Austrian princess (played like a tailor’s dummy by beauteous, brown-eyed Euro-star Jacqueline Sassard), who is the sexual catalyst of this film’s lazily tragic events, seen by us in flashback.

Once a celebrated film of the British cinema ‘renaissance’ – with an impeccable pedigree in contributors Nicholas Mosley (author), Harold Pinter (screenwriter) and a director in his post-‘The Servant’ ascendancy  –  ‘Accident’ now seems a little self-conscious in its modernist, ‘quality’ art-cinema pretensions, its provocative sensuality and its class-observant exposure of hidden power games trumped by the clarity of, say, Polanski’s ‘Knife in the Water’.

Neverthess, it contains an interesting friction in the varied stylised realism of the performances (not least that between Bogarde  and Stanley Baker, as a brasher fellow don), top-notch Eastmancolor cinematography by Gerry Fisher,  an intriguing use of sound (jazzman John Dankworth’s saxy score, disrupted by the soundtrack’s banal clicking clocks or offscreen passing ambulances), all darkened by the discomforting sharpness of Losey’s foreigner’s eye.
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Release details

Rated:

12A

UK release:

Fri Jun 5, 2009

Duration:

105 mins

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Technoguy

Joseph Losey’s partnership with Pinter(as screenwriter) came from their similar attitudes to the English class system. This was the second of their 3 collaborations. Losey was left wing and had a distinctive European sensibility. He also uses two European actresses, Delphine Seyrig and Jaqueline Sassard.This is his masterpiece based on a Nicholas Mosley novel . Pinter takes the austerity of the novel with its minimal dialogue and explores what is not said and what is not done.The film starts with an accident and Stephen, a middle-aged Oxford don( who teaches philosophy) finds the overturned car outside his property. Two of his students, William and Anna were on their way to see him. William is dead and Stephen (Bogarde) rescues Anna(Sassard),who had been driving and is drunk and has no license to drive.Stephen is the only one who knew she was driving or in the car at all.he protects Anna from the consequences by taking her to his house(his wife Vivian Merchant is in hospital pregnant In the event the police do not find out that Anna was either in or driving the car. There follows flash-backs leading up to the event.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 he and Losey 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.This film was the winner of 167 Grand Jury Prize at Cannes. Deservedly so.

Technoguy

Joseph Losey’s partnership with Pinter(as screenwriter) came from their similar attitudes to the English class system. This was the second of their 3 collaborations. Losey was left wing and had a distinctive European sensibility. He also uses two European actresses, Delphine Seyrig and Jaqueline Sassard.This is his masterpiece based on a Nicholas Mosley novel . Pinter takes the austerity of the novel with its minimal dialogue and explores what is not said and what is not done.The film starts with an accident and Stephen, a middle-aged Oxford don( who teaches philosophy) finds the overturned car outside his property. Two of his students, William and Anna were on their way to see him. William is dead and Stephen (Bogarde) rescues Anna(Sassard),who had been driving and is drunk and has no license to drive.Stephen is the only one who knew she was driving or in the car at all.he protects Anna from the consequences by taking her to his house(his wife Vivian Merchant is in hospital pregnant In the event the police do not find out that Anna was either in or driving the car. There follows flash-backs leading up to the event.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 he and Losey 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.This film was the winner of 167 Grand Jury Prize at Cannes. Deservedly so.

Anne Sones

I thought this an absolutely outstanding film! I was profoundly moved - and a little shaken and shocked. The best film I've seen in many months.

Anne Sones

I thought this an absolutely outstanding film! I was profoundly moved - and a little shaken and shocked. The best film I've seen in many months.