Deep End (1971)

“Have you had ‘er yet? Have you been up there? Is she any good, is she?”

Deep End

Synopsis:
When a working-class teenager (John Moulder-Brown) starts his first job at a bath house in London, he develops an enormous crush on his sexy, flirtatious, older co-worker (Jane Asher).

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this coming-of-age film is a “near masterpiece”, with “much to admire” — including “fine ensemble acting”, “excellent location work”, an “improvisational feel”, many “wonderfully funny moments”, and a “remarkably effective use of color to heighten dramatic tension”. I disagree with Peary, however, that the film’s tragic ending comes as “too much of a surprise”; it makes perfect sense, given director Jerzy Skolimowski’s depiction of teenage love as obsessive, hopeless, and increasingly out-of-control. Moulder-Brown is well cast in the lead role, and sexy Jane Asher (best known as Paul McCartney’s red-headed girlfriend) is note-perfect as the heedless Susan, who has no idea how devastating her flirtations are for her young co-worker.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Middle-aged Diana Dors using Mike to help her masturbate
    Diana Dors
  • Mike ordering multiple hot dogs from a vendor on the street, in a vain attempt to escape notice
    Hot Dog Vendor
  • Jane Asher’s spot-on performance as the “older” femme fatale
    Jane Asher
  • Mike and Susan searching for a diamond in the snow — my new, favorite phrase to replace “needle in a haystack”!
    Searching in the Snow
  • A seamy, bleak depiction of London streets and bath houses
    Bath House
  • Effective use of colors to match the characters’ emotions (read Peary’s Cult Movies review for more on this)
    Susan and Coach

Must See?
Yes, for its status as a cult favorite. Discussed at length in Peary’s Cult Movies (1981).

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(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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2 Responses to “Deep End (1971)”

  1. First viewing. Initially, Peary’s declaration of this as a ‘near masterpiece’ intrigued me. His feeling is corroborated by various opinions found via the net. Following my gut, however, it’s hard to concur and I don’t see this film as a must. (I watched it twice because I was so uncertain how I felt after the first viewing.) It is a unique take on first ‘love’ and somewhat laudable for not being goopy like numerous American films (esp. comedies) dealing with teen sex. I was reminded of ‘The Sterile Cuckoo’–in which the personalities of the two main characters are reversed: the love-starved character is the young girl and the object of desire is naive and trusting. A comparison of the two films, though, directed my feeling about ‘Deep End’: I find it ultimately too cold, even nihilistic (the way I generally feel about Todd Solondz’s work, I suppose), to fall in with the best of cinema. (Example: many comments I came across about Jane Asher’s performance refer to her as a ‘flirt’ or a ‘tease’, when she seemed malevolent to me.) Of course, a bleak film is often required viewing, but here the lack of emotional balance in an essentially plotless piece is off-putting. What I found most effective in dramatic weight was the use of the Cat Stevens song ‘But I Might Die Tonight’.

  2. Interesting how different our takes on this film are. I never saw Asher’s character as a harmless “flirt” or “tease” — indeed, she’s a (subconsciously) conniving femme fatale who has no idea how devastating her attentions are. What I was most impressed with was how “Deep End” manages to convey the disparity between youthful idolization and the blase responses of “older” men and women, who have forgotten how intense and unrealistic teens’ emotions can be. I remember the crushes I had on older men as a girl, and could deeply relate to the intensity of Mike’s despair. And I think the film is meant to be nihilistic and “cold” – certainly the bleak ending points towards this analysis. Mike is ultimately on a downward spiral, and a happy ending wouldn’t have made sense in the context of his increasingly irrational obsession.

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