The Party’s Over (Hamilton. 1965)

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Most notably remembered for helming four classic James Bond films and jumping ship before Moonraker happened, Guy Hamilton was responsible for some iconic British cinema. The Party’s Over, a heady, moody story of nihilistic London Bohemians, shows a darker side to his filmic output. A story of boozing artists and poets living on close to nothing in the Capital, it’s a morality tale about excessiveness and waste. While it was cut and censored for various reasons in 1965, the original 1963 version is an intriguing slice of British cinema.

Studying a group of young sixties revellers who smoke and drink themselves ragged, the main narrative follows the fate of a young American girl called Melina (Louise Sorel). Running from rich fiancé Carson (Clifford David), but even more trapped by the crowd of Chelsea ‘beatniks’ she falls in with, Melina finds herself in a downward spiral. When she goes missing, Carson has to do all he can to find her, navigating numerous lies from her so-called friends.

A surprisingly pessimistic and grim drama, The Party’s Over is steeped in sadness, looking at wasted youth and reassessing what the swinging sixties meant. While some might like to white wash the historic period as a time of freedom and bliss, writer Marc Behm and direct Hamilton seek to find emptiness and depression in int. The revellers drink until they pass out, have ephemeral relationships and argue with each other constantly. However, it’s not just a disparaging comment on decedent London.  Carson’s life is no better. The wealthy, straight-laced, but lonely young man has had his life set out before him by bosses and parents. His life is steady and controlled, yet leaves him bereft of any passion. Less of a condemnation of European hedonism or capitalist America, the story is more about the universal problem of finding personal value in one’s life.

The fact it is grim and pessimistic does not imply it is a slow and miserable film. In fact, it fizzes with energy and anger. Fast, unpredictable jazz music punches through the silence and the characters are aggressive, vicious people. The self-centered nihilist Moise (played by the outstanding Oliver Reed), captures the emotion of the piece. Wild eyed and vehement, he simmers with rage.

Risqué, pessimistic and downright angry, The Party’s Over is an intelligent, compact story that deserves a watch.

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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.