Deep End (Skolimowski. 1970)

 

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It is odd that a film shot in Germany by a Polish director should be considered a piece of cult British Cinema. Yet, this bizarre, dreamy and stylish creation is something of a national gem.

A darkly comic,  visceral tale, the story follows fifteen year old bathhouse worker Mike (John Moulder Brown), and the obsession he develops for his older colleague, Susan (Jane Asher). A figure of modernity and sexual freedom, Susan becomes an object of desire for the young boy. As he tries to take on responsibility with his job, his fixation with Susan inevitably takes over.

Only  recently restored by the BFI, the 1970 coming of age drama is something of a delicious oddity. Somewhere between kitchen sink drama and French New wave, it’s stylish and abstract. And the fact that it is so hard to place is its charm. A German/US co-production shot largely in Munich and written by a man with minimal English language skills, it is a film of no discernible national identity. the outcome then, is genuinely strange. Although it may be set in London, it doesn’t feel like London. It’s also immensely funny, but not in a traditional British way. There’s no such thing as a punchline. The humour comes from bold, outlandish moments that are punctuated by heavy sadness. Diana Dors’ cameo as a sexually frustrated customer is hilarious until her depression and loneliness is made clear. Skolimowski seems unwilling to label any particular moment as funny or sad. The unpredictability and strangeness of it all is tremendously fascinating.

Deep End‘s visual nature is also something to be marveled at. For a film about a crumbling swimming pool in London, the sense of colour and vibrancy is stunning. Susan, with her flowing yellow jacket bursts through the grey, and the vivid blue of the swimming pool really breathes life into the story. Although this is a film about bland, normal, working class Britain, the colour and sheer elegance of the piece suggests otherwise.

An odd film at heart, Deep End is a curious but enjoyable drama about adulthood, first love and sexuality. Full of flair, it’s a strange, rock and roll piece of European cinema.

Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller. 2015)

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As far as I can make out, Mad Max seems to be the result of George Miller, 150 million dollars and nothing to consume but a copious amount of amphetamines. It’s heady, brash, gigantic and absolutely bonkers.

Normally, a reboot of a gloriously stupid 80s film is serious and restrained. As gritty reboots go, Tom Hardy’s Max should be in a post-apocalyptic world deadened by famine and disease. He should be weak and sad, his enemies tired and lost. Every conversation should be a deeply philosophical dialogue helping to understand the meaning of insanity. However, this is not the case. Like a full on indulgence in to the world of 80s cult cinema, everything about Fury Road is joyously ridiculous. Dialogue is irrelevant and the word “Mad” is effectively the plot. There’s nipple clamps, a car chase (a 90 minute one), suicidal warriors, a disease ridden dictator, a rogue warrior with a prosthetic arm, kidnapped maidens and stupid monster truck muscle cars. Christ, there’s even a guy suspended on bungee cord that plays a flamethrower guitar. Good god it’s good fun.