ACCIDENT (director: Joseph Losey; screenwriter: Harold Pinter/from the novel by Nicholas Mosley; cinematographer: Gerry Fisher; editor: Reginald Beck; music: John Dankworth; cast: Dirk Bogarde (Stephen), Stanley Baker (Charley), Jacqueline Sassard(Anna), Michael York(William), Vivien Merchant (Rosalind), Delphine Seyrig (Francesca), Ann Firbank (Laura), Alexander Knox (Provost), Harold Pinter (Bell); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Norman Priggen/Joseph Losey; Studio-Canal PAL DVD; 1967-UK)
Reviewed by Dennis SchwartzJoseph Losey (“The Prowler”/”The Sleeping Tiger“/”The Boy With Green Hair“) went into self-exile to live in England because of the 1951 Hollywood blacklist ordered by HUAC.In Accident the brilliant director examines with great artistic observational skills the moral complexities over relationships among faculty and students at the insular community of Oxford University. The film is based on the novel “Accident” byNicholas Mosley, and is written by playwright Harold Pinter. Pinter had previously collaborated on 1963’s The Servant with Losey and would later collaborate with him on the 1970’s The Go-Between.
It opens with a deadly car crash at the secluded Oxford countryside. William (Michael York), an aristocrat and Oxford student, has been killed in an accidental car crash while attempting to visit, while drinking heavily, his college tutor Stephen (Dirk Bogarde) for a man-to-man talk about a personal matter. Fellow student and fiancee Anna (Jacqueline Sassard), an exchange student who is a native of Austria, was a passenger, who is shaken up but not badly injured. She’s taken to recover in secret in Stephen’s mansion, who is also her philosophy tutor. The accident brings about the prolonged flashback of looking back at a complicated love triangle among students and professors, as seen through the eyes of a lustful and wistful Stephen, a middle-aged intellectual who is married to his plain looking pregnant wife Rosalind (Vivien Merchant) and has two children who reside in his spacious comfortable estate. The reserved Stephen is going through a mid-life crisis, frustrated over his marriage and academia. The don is attracted to the beautiful Anna, and when he observes she has become close with William invites them both for lunch to his house. Unexpectedly crashing the luncheon is Stephen’s brash rival, the more successful on the world stage as a novelist and TV personality on the BBC, the smug married middle-aged colleague Charley (Stanley Baker). The country sojourn, where the boys get liquored up and everything from tennis to long chats are coated with the veneer of civility. During course of the visit, that went through the night, it unleashes how the men’s emotions were boiling over underneath with untold desires, jealousies and streaks of meanness.
The drama is painstakingly underplayed, brilliantly acted (except for Sassard’s wooden performance), its stylistic realism is smashing and its dialogue is spitefully provocative. The humor is in its morbid satirical view of how snobbish and pretentious academia can be and how foolish older men can get over a younger pretty woman. It’s a dark film, with a jaundiced view of love that might not appeal to everyone. But its unbridled view of the stifling world of academia is brilliantly realized and shot, and it holds one’s interest throughout because of its wit, its multilayered complexity and how absorbing it all is.
It was the co-winner of the 1967 Grand Jury Prize at Cannes with the Yugoslavian film I Even Met Happy Gypsies.
REVIEWED ON 1/30/2012 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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