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  Deep End Get In The Swim
Year: 1971
Director: Jerzy Skolimowski
Stars: Jane Asher, John Moulder-Brown, Karl Michael Vogler, Christopher Sandford, Diana Dors, Louise Martini, Erica Beer, Anita Lochner, Anne-Marie Kuster, Cheryl Hall, Christina Paul, Dieter Eppler, Karl Ludwig Lindt, Eduard Linkers, Will Danin, Burt Kwouk
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Fifteen-year-old Mike (John Moulder-Brown) has recently left school and starts his new job today. This is as an attendant at the Newford swimming baths in London, but as he soon finds out the worst part of it is not the hard work but the clientele who are more than a handful. Mike's first task is to see that one customer is sent to the correct room, but he ignores him and enters another, batting Mike away with his hat when he protests. If there's a compensation then it is that he is alongside Susan (Jane Asher), who is slightly older than he is and more experienced - though just how much he is unprepared for...

A curious tale of young love turned to tragic obsession, Deep End was director Jerzy Skolimowski's second English language film, and perhaps the one he is best known for, certainly among cult movie circles. A co-production between Britain and West Germany, it featured in its supporting cast a great many dubbed Germans, which contributed to the slightly unreal atmosphere permeating the story. But the plot was what mostly gave proceedings that surreality, not outright dreamlike or nightmarish, but rather off kilter and with a feeling of inexorably picking up speed towards its unfortunate conclusion.

Skolimowski was one of four writers on the production, and interestingly none hailed from London leaving the film as a comment on the seedier side of British life in the early seventies rather than a hip and happening, glittery swinging scene complete with jaunts along Carnaby Street and red double decker buses making an appearance. Here it was more like saying all that sixties brightness was over, and now we were plunged into the dingy seventies where Britain was awakening from a pleasant reverie to a cold and unfriendly reality.

Initially, Deep End takes a comedic attitude to Mike's introduction into this world, most notably in a weird cameo from Diana Dors as a bathhouse patron who aggressively fantasises about George Best scoring goals while manhandling (or womanhandling) Mike. Oh well, at least he gets a tip. But gradually his enchantment with Susan dominates and turns sour when she is not the angel he wishes her to be. In her best role, Asher plays Susan as sexually liberated but nowhere near as accomodating as most males her age would like, as she does supplement her income by taking older men into the bath rooms alone, something which so incenses Mike that he sets off the fire alarm in an attempt to put a stop to it.

He doesn't succeed, and after following Susan and her fiancé to the cinema - he gets to be quite the stalker, does Mike - and getting thrown out for groping her in the dark, he ends up chasing her the next night through the London of nightclubs and strip clubs. Is that Susan's picture on the life-size carboard cutout of a topless woman Mike finds outside one such establishment? If it's not, then his increasingly addled mind believes it is and the capricious Susan appears unsure of how to cope with this obsessive attention: as it is, she makes the wrong choice. Yet while Mike's feverish behaviour propels the story along, the filmmakers view of him remains enigmatic: is he a misguided victim of hormones or the object of his affection? The possibility that they think that she deserves what eventually happens to her keeps from making this an entirely appealing film, as if the sleazy landscape it inhabits had rubbed off on the storytellers. Music by Cat Stevens and Can.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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