Buried for years due to rights issues, Deep End is probably the best swinging London film you’ve never seen.
Directed by Jerzy Skolimowski (the recent Essential Killing), it’s an unnervingly playful, primary-coloured tale of twisted adolescent love in a crumbling public baths – and it’ll charm and creep you out in equal measure. “He held a mirror up to the ’60s – but he tilted it a bit,” as the overly exhaustive 74-minute Making Of has it.
Like fellow countryman Polanski (for whom he co-wrote Knife In The Water) Skolimowski’s outsider’s eye is equally keen to black humour and horror. Here we find both in teenager Mike’s (John Moulder-Brown) tragic infatuation with co-worker Susan (Jane Asher).
This moody, jittery movie is saturated with the notion of sex, its fluid hand-held camerawork sliding round the perving men and frustrated women who haunt the baths, stoking the mounting obsession of our sweet-faced hero.
When he’s stalking Susan through porn-plastered Soho and glimpsing her in a peep-show poster, Deep End suddenly becomes a surreally sleazy take on Vertigo.
For those who only know Asher as a cake-brandishing national treasure, her body-baring, gold-digging performance here is a revelation. There’s also a wonderfully gamey cameo from Diana Dors, as a heavy-breathing housewife who sexually assaults Mike.
But as a drop of blood introduced in the opening scene merges into a dribble of paint, or an underwater swim with a cardboard cut-out lover morphs into a flesh-and-blood love scene, it’s Skolimowski’s striking and sinister images that pack the real punch.
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