Monday, 8 April 2013

Happy Ending

We're back for a final splash in the Deep End. After discovering that Asher has a sleazy older boyfriend and is having an affair with his old gym teacher, John Moulder Brown is a lad possessed. A comely but dentally challenged schoolgirl friend lets him know in no uncertain terms that she fancies him, but JMB politely declines to focus on the true object of his desire.


Buck McTooth

Jane Asher. She's 'got the painters in'
 There follows an interesting evening in the red light district as JMB first dithers over stalking Asher in a private club, steals a topless cardboard cut-out of an Asher ‘looky-likey’ outside a strip club, and tumbles into a brothel while looking for somewhere to hide. He encounters a prostitute with a broken leg offering discount services which he declines, preferring to consume numerous hot dogs with Burt Kwouk outside (who wouldn’t?).

Tart with a heart. And a plaster cast.

Hot dog! It's Burt Kwouk!
 Eventually he follows Asher onto the underground to confront her with the cut-out. She neither confirms it is or isn’t her and he takes the cut-out back to the pool where he takes it swimming in the dark and presumably chafes his naked parts against it as he fantasizes it’s the real thing.

In a park the gym teacher organizes a running race that JMB joins. In his frustration and anger at the teacher’s relationship with Asher JMB quits the race early and goes to put broken glass under his car tyres. Asher punctures them, punches JMB in the chops and loses the diamond from her engagement ring in the snowy park. With echoes of Antonioni, the pair gather up the adjacent snow into bags and take them to the (now drained) pool to melt and find the missing diamond.

The gym teacher finds them and rages impotently as Asher explains that she’s lost his car keys and swiftly moves to histrionics and tells him to piss off. In ending their relationship she assumes control and the child molester departs resentfully.

JMB eventually finds the diamond and after some teasing eventually returns it to Asher once she has removed her clothes. He finally gets to shag her but it’s all over in seconds. The couple lie together until the janitor turns a valve in another part of the building and the pool begins to flood.

Asher makes to leave and JMB goes to stop her. In his frustration he impetuously swings a ceiling lamp at her, cracking her skull and knocking a tin of paint into the pool.



She falls back into the water and JMB cradles her dying body as the red bloody water surges around them.

Since its reissue the film has perhaps assumed an unintentional importance, dealing as it does with pornography, paedophilia and the position of the child in society, themes that appear so relevant in Britain in 2013. Today such behavior would lead to shame, reprimands and a stretch in chokey, but would it have been acceptable when the film was made 43 years ago? Judging by the Jimmy Savile scandal, the answer appears to be yes.

The word of the adult perpetrator was prioritized over the complaint of the child; the victim wasn’t believed and the criminal abuse dismissed as fantasy or ‘just a bit of fun’. Can the proposed reforms of contemporary society be applied retrospectively? Perhaps with hindsight Deep End lives up to its name, prompting a more profound examination of desire, changing mores and acceptable relations.

There is much to recommend this film these three posts have barely touched on; beautiful design and art direction, use of colour, clever narrative devices and visual echoes, smart photography, editing and direction. Deep End was the high water-mark of Jerzy Skolimowski’s career.

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