Deep End: Jerry Skolimowski

On at the BFI until next week, is the restored version of the 1970 film Deep End that was thought to be lost forever – what a find! Directed by Jerry Skolimowski, starring Jane Asher and John Moulder-Brown, the film is nothing short of bizarre, and in this quality lies it’s brilliance.

This is – you will note – the first film I have written about here. It’s not because this is the first film I’ve seen since I started writing this blog.. but because I was trying to steer clear of writing about EVERYTHING I’ve seen and done, and just keeping focussed on the stuff that seems worth writing about/interesting enough to sustain, well, interest.. So here goes: Deep End at the BFI.

It’s string of ever-increasing strangeness from start to finish, with a few discernable threads of well-trodden plot development to keep the audience on the straight and narrow: boy meets girl; flirtation ensues; girl has fiancée/is unattainable; boy driven wild with longing; boy engineers a situation where the two can be alone together. There’s nothing really likeable about either of the main characters except their winsome good looks; both engaging in a kind of adolescent kiss-chase which gets nastier and more grown-up – and therefore painful and destructive – as the film progresses. However, the saving grace of the film is that it is undeniably and often laugh-out-loud funny.

The grace and innocence with which characters skirt around the oddities of the plot and dialogue lends the whole film a sense of art-house otherworldliness – treading a fine line between hyper-real and surreal – which is very enjoyable. The fact, for instance, that the film is riddled with ludicrously predatory women, all circling around this hapless – and increasingly deranged – 15-year old boy highlights and heightens the almost apocalyptic significance given to sex and sexuality in this film. Make no mistake about it – this is a film about the end of the 60s – sex has Happened to society and left a trail of neurotic/savage carnage in its wake; young virgin boys beware! The pool and public baths at which the two main characters meet is a crumbling ruin of a building clearly crying out for demolition. Occasionally workmen appear in the background of key scenes to paint the walls red; (red! In a swimming pool?) perhaps one of my favourite ‘SYMBOLISM!’ moments – one of many odd moments to define odd moments. Stylized and sex-crazed. Subtle, it aint. But that’s where the beauty of it lies. Go see it.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: how nice it is to see snaggly teeth and poorly done make-up and large middle-aged women in films. Really. It’s sad that it’s so refreshing.

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