Accident (1967)

Joseph Losey directs Stanley Baker, Michael York and Dirk Bogarde in a Harold Pinter penned drama. Optimum UK R2 DVD.

The Film

A horrific car crash leaves the young student William (Michael York) lying dead. His tutor Stephen (Dirk Bogarde) is first on the scene and pulls a young woman, Anna, to safety. That year they had all been together at Oxford and both William and Stephen had developed an attraction for the effervescent Anna. Stephen however had an expectant wife and two young children as well as facing professional competition from his colleague Charley (Stanley Baker). As the summer continued all three of their lives would change around Anna until events climax in the tragic accident...

Adapted by Harold Pinter from a novel, Accident has a simply superb script that takes a rather standard love triangle plot and turns it into a unique and incredibly subtle story. The flashback telling is often a rather tired cliché but it works well here because not only does his inevitable doom overarch every scene of William's with a real ominousity, but it is done without any words at all - Pinter realises that the audience will know exactly what is going on and so refrains from spelling it out to us. Like the hot, languorous summer in which it is set, the film moves along as an incredibly slow pace, with very little happening at all - and this is the real beauty of the script, that it lets us watch the relationships develop between the characters with nothing ever seeming forced or rushed (but equally, nothing ever dragging) and building up to an ending that suits the film perfectly by not wrapping anything into a neat ending, but leaving the stories to continue in their own way, as real life does. Pinter had a reputation for politically charged writings and Accident certainly takes a dull view of the academic circles, but he avoids putting in too much of an agenda and lets the storyline take centre stage here.

Joseph Losey's direction really helps to make the film as good as it is - in keeping with the script he captures the beautifully lethargic summer atmosphere, particularly in the boating scene, giving the film a very French flavour - the production as a whole exudes the natural surrealism that seems more at home in a Continental film (most effective in the scene where Stephen first meets Francesca). In what became something of a Losey trademark, the film boasts some particularly strong sound design - often overlooked in cinema it is given some real focus here and many of the scenes play out without music but underscored by the carefully mixed background sound effects - this is most notably effective in the film's dramatic opening scene. When there is a musical score it is light and fitting to the tone.

Three of Britain's best actors take centre stage here. Top billed Dirk Bogarde is able to deftly switch between loving father and haunted, love-sick professor while Stanley Baker is perfectly cast as his colleague who seems to be able to outdo him on all fronts. A young Michael York makes for a good looking young aristocratic student and has just the right level of awkwardness for the role. The most important part however is that played by the beautiful French actress Jacqueline Sassard who conveys a genuine but suitably subtle erotic charge throughout the film, although the character she plays is apparently Austrian which does not particularly suit her appearance or accent and could have easily been changed without harming the storyline.

The second of three unions with Harold Pinter and starring his two best used actors, Accident sees Joseph Losey on his top form and is a simply superb film, making a rather simple love triangle into a masterpiece of subtlety and effortless surreality. Certainly not a film for everyone, Accident is a must-see for fans of Pinter or Losey, or any of the lead actors and it comes highly recommended to fans of the British New Wave and art-house cinema in general.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Dirk Bogarde - the British star who also appeared in Losey's first Pinter production, The Servant (1963)
Stanley Baker - best known for his crime films, with the lead roles in Hell is a City (1960) and Robbery (1967)
Michael York - star of Logan's Run (1976), he also appeared in the gory Italian Giallo film Off Balance (1988)
Directed by anyone interesting? Joseph Losey - an American born director who was blacklisted and so made most of his films in Europe, from the tough crime film Criminal (1960) to the operatic Don Giovanni (1979).
Any gore or violence ? None
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? A must see for fans of the cast or of Josey and Pinter, it comes highly recommended to all art-house fans.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The print is generally good with only mild speckling and a little grain - a few brief scenes have some noticable tramlines.
Audio Original English mono - sounds fine.
Subtitles None.
Extras This disc includes:
  • Interviews with writer Harold Pinter and cameraman Gerry Fisher as well as archive clips of interviews with Losey. Commentary from a French film critic and narration in French. (33 minutes)
  • Original theatrical trailer.
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Availability Available on its own or in the Dirk Bogarde Collection or the Joseph Losey Collection.
Other regions? Also available from Studio Canal in France with the documentary although not fully English subtitled. Does include English and French audio for the film. Previously available in Anchor Bay US's Dirk Bogarde collection, along with The Servant and Mind Benders.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. English language print



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 17th October 2008.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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