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FOFF Programs

Apr 5, 2009: 8:30pm
Pacific Film Archive
2575 Bancroft Way

Accident (1967) by Joseph Losey 105 min. Color 35mm
in the series Radical Strategies
Joseph Losey Bio
...A squeal of tires in the dead of night, then a CRASH!... The Oxford tutor rushes from his house to the car lying on its side... A handsome young student lies dead within the wreckage... A beautiful girl the tutor loves lies stirring beside the dead boy. As she drifts back towards consciousness, the tutor reaches in to pull her out... "Don't!" he shrieks. "You're stepping on his face!"

The career of Joseph Losey is unparalleled in the history of cinema. His work as a radical left-wing director in the New York theater of the 1930's lead to a collaboration with Bertolt Brecht and Charles Laughton as director of the American version of the now-classic play Galileo, and to gigs directing Hollywood genre films, such as the iconic Noir masterpiece, The Prowler. As his reputation as a filmmaker was becoming established, however, the McCarthy Era, and its persecution of Hollywood leftists, swung into gear. In 1951 he got word he was to be served a subpoena by the US Congress to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Rather than be grilled regarding his radical pursuits and associates before a national audience, Losey fled to Europe, where he soon found work--again directing low-budget genre pictures. Swiftly finding himself at center stage within the film industry in Britain, he settled there semi-permanently. At the beginning of these years, the Hollywood Blacklist cast such a wide net, he was for a time forced to work under an assumed name. All the Losey trademarks, however, were in full evidence--scathing critique of class systems, profound identification with outsiders and the alienated, sexual ambivalence, sadomasochistic emotional relationships, and an astonishing stylistic panache. All were heightened and brought to maturity by Losey's experience as blacklistee and exile, and the consequent amplification of his characteristic (but justified) paranoia and hysteria.

From the beginning of his British years, Losey attracted collaborators of equally high ambition, such as stars Dirk Bogarde and Stanley Baker, whose acting talents weren't fully understood until their work with the American director. Frustrated by interference from producers and the constraints endemic to the British film industry, which mirrored the overt commercial orientation of Hollywood on a smaller scale, Losey watched enviously as European Art Cinema began to fully flower on the continent. Finally everything came together in his first British masterpiece, The Servant, starring Bogarde, James Fox, and Sarah Miles, in a taboo-traversing exploration of oblique power games between classes, sexes, and sexualities. The Servant would mark Losey's first collaboration with the young Harold Pinter, only five-or-so years into his legendary career as the world's most important post-Beckett playwright, and garnered a nomination for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Losey's career as International Superstar art-film director was off and running....

His work reached its zenith in 1967, in his second collaboration with Harold Pinter: Accident. The story, adapted from the novel by Nicholas Mosley (estranged son of notorious British Union of Fascists founder Sir Oswald Mosley) is a made-in-heaven launching point for Losey and Pinter's ultimate exploration of the disassociation and disconnect within the soul and society of modern man. Accident stars Bogarde and Baker as at-one-time-close Oxford dons in the midst of excruciating and calamitously competitive mid-life crises, Jacqueline Sassard as the incredibly beautiful student with whom they both fall in love, to the detriment of their respective spouses, and the young Michael York as her fiance, in one of his first screen roles. Vivien Merchant, Pinter's first wife, and major European screen actress Delphine Seyrig round out the cast as, respectively, Bogarde's wife and one-time lover.

Adopting Resnais-influenced oblique editing strategies for the first time, Losey creates from the future Nobel-Prize-winning Pinter's script a superbly-crafted corrosive vision of sexual and social anomie, one of the high-water marks from the classic period of European Art Cinema. Accident is proof-positive that Joseph Losey was the most brilliant filmmaking victim of the Hollywood Blacklist, and that an American was the greatest director of the British Cinema of the 1960's.

Awarded the first Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix Spécial du Jury!

Please note: We are renting the venue. This is not a PFA program and thus does not appear in their publicity.