The Go-Between (1970)

Joseph Losey directs Harold Pinter's dramatic story, with Julie Christie and Alan Bates. Optimum UK R2 from the Joseph Losey Collection.

The Film

Young Leo is invited to the home of his class-mate Marcus during the long summer holidays. He is befriended by Marcus' sister Marian (Julie Christie) and when Marcus is confined to his room with the Measles, Leo ends up spending more and more time with her, eventually being entrusted to run messages from her to a local farmer named Ted (Alan Bates). It soon becomes clear that these are secret romantic messages which Leo thinks nothing of until he learns of Marian's betrothal to Viscount Hugh Trimingham...

The third and final Pinter/Losey co-production is rather unexpectedly a period piece, but containing all of the ingredients of forbidden love and class warfare from their previous contemporary works. Closely adapted from a novel by L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between would seem to be a continuation of Pinter and Losey's earlier co-work Accident (1967) with its hot and langurious summer setting, but it proves instead to be a very briskly paced summer as we see the film from the eyes of the young Leo and just as he runs everywhere, so the script moves along at the same pace (although it is certainly never rushed). As is typical with Pinter's work, there is no spoon feeding and much of the action is very subtle - the introduction of flash-forward scenes is a particular example (he avoids the simple flashback setting of Hartley's novel) and it takes a while before the viewer can work out what is going on. It all builds to a superb and dramatic climax with a rather fitting conclusion that as you would expect from Pinter, leaves as many questions open as it answers.

Losey is on splendid form and although he avoids the surrealism that overlayed many of his films, for a more traditional narrative approach, he does get to include a few distinctive moments, particularly in the handling of the flash-forwards and the ending. The flash-forward scenes show a rather mischievous element as Losey makes it look like the film has comitted a glaring historical inaccuracy by showing motor cars and a British Rail branded railway station. Although there is some fittingly light music for much of the film the main theme is a distinctly ominous piano score which seems to very effectively warn of things to come.

After appearing together in Far from the Madding Crowd (1967), Julie Christie and Alan Bates play the secret lovers here and give a superbly balanced pair of performances. Dominic Guard gives a BAFTA award winning performance as the young Leo and is perfectly cast - aided by the strong script he is able to play his age superbly, not appearing too mature for the role like in many similar parts. Michael Gough and Edward Fox are perfectly cast as the upper class father and fiancée of Marian while Michael Redgrave makes a brief appearance in the flash-forwards.

Well written, ably directed and with some great casting, The Go-Between is the last of the Pinter/Losey partnerships and is certainly not the least - it is definitely the most straight forwardly plotted of the trio, without the surrealism that appeared in Accident and Servant, but does contain plenty of distinctive moments. Recommended.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Alan Bates - British star who played Claudius to Mel Gibson's Hamlet (1990)
Julie Christie - a widely travelled actress whose work includes dystopian sci-fi film Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
Michael Gough - gentlemanly British star best known as Alfred the Butler in Batman (1989)
Directed by anyone interesting? Joseph Losey - an American born director who was blacklisted by the House Committee and retreated to Europe where he made a wide variety of films in Britain, including Accident (1967) and The Servant (1963) with Pinter.
Any gore or violence ? None
Any sex or nudity? Nothing seen
Who is it for? Recommended to fans of Pinter and Losey, one for all art-house fans.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
A strong and colourful print with only mild grain and no damage.
Audio Original English mono - sounds fine.
Subtitles None.
Extras None
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Availability Only available in the Joseph Losey Collection.
Other regions? Previously released in the UK as a single disc or in Optimum's Julie Christie Collection but with an open-matt fullscreen image and a much lower quality print.

Comparison, earlier disc vs. new Optimum release

Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. English language print



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 20th October 2008.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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