Joseph Losey

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6.8 The Boy With Green Hair (1948)
6.0 The Lawless (1950)
7.0 The Prowler (1951)
5.0 M (1951)
5.0 Big Night (1951)
5.0 Stranger On The Prowl (1952)
5.0 The Sleeping Tiger (1954)
5.0 A Man on the Beach (1955)
5.0 The Intimate Stranger (1956)
6.0 Time Without Pity (1956)
5.0 The Gypsy And The Gentleman (1958)
6.0 Blind Date (1959)
6.5 The Criminal (1960)
6.2 Eva (1962)
7.3 The Damned (1963)
7.5 The Servant (1963)
6.8 King And Country (1964)
6.0 Modesty Blaise (1966)
6.8 Accident (1967)
6.0 Boom (1968)
7.6 Secret Ceremony (1968)
7.0 Figure In A Landscape (1970)
6.5 The Go-Between (1971)
5.0 The Assassination Of Trotsky (1972)
5.0 A Doll's House (1973)
5.0 Galileo (1975)
6.0 The Romantic Englishwoman (1975)
7.0 Monsieur Klein (1976)
6.0 Roads to the South (1978)
5.0 Don Giovanni (1979)
6.0 The Trout (1982)
5.0 Steaming (1985)

If English is your first language and you could translate my old Italian text, please contact me.

Figlio di una abbiente famiglia del Mid-West, Joseph Losey (USA, 1909) ricevette una rigida educazione puritana. Nel 1925 si iscrisse al Dartmouth College per studiare medicina, ma dopo quattro anni passo' alla Boston University a studiare letteratura e teatro. La crisi del '29 lo stimola ad una rapida maturazione politica e intellettuale. Dopo un anno di Harvard, si trasferisce a New York, mantenendosi con un lavoro di basso giornalismo. Dopo un anno in Inghilterra, dove ha modo di lavorare con Laughton, ottiene diversi lavori teatrali a Broadway. Nel 1935 va a Mosca a studiare con Eisenstein. Nel 1936 promuove prima un cabaret espressionista multi-media a fine politico che talvolta si configura come un mosaico di pannelli brechtiani sui mali sociali, e altre volte affronta storie didattiche di fatti reali. Sempre piu' vicino alle cause progressiste, dirige spettacoli di beneficenza e testi sempre pi' impegnati, allevando giovani come Ray e Lumet.

Nel 1939 gira il suo primo film, Pete Roleum And His Cousins, un cortometraggio di marionette, seguito da altri cortometraggi finanziati dalla Fondazione Rockefeller. Durante la guerra lavora anche alla radio.

Nel 1949 gli viene offerto un contatto a Hollywood per un film commemorativo su Roosevelt, con il quale vince addirittura un Oscar. Torno' pero' subito al teatro per dirigere, in collaborazione con il regista $forse in collaborazione con l'autore?$, la prima rappresentazione del "Leben des Galilei" di Brecht (1947) che si tenne proprio a Hollywood.

Il suo primo lungometraggio fu la favola pacifista The Boy With Green Hair (1948). Halfway between an optimistic Frank Capra comedy and a Brecht allegory, The Boy With Green Hair (1948) was an indictment of intolerance.

A doctor manages to make a lost child with a shaved head tell him the story of his life. He grew up thinking that his parents were traveling when in fact they had died in the war, and, after being rejected by one relative after the other, he was raised by an old man who used to be in the show business. He was a tough and proud boy, but eventually makes friends and is surrounded by people who love him. One day he found out the truth about his parents, that they died. One day he wakes up and his hair turned green. The doctor has no explanation for the phenomenon. Suddenly, his school friends and the good folks of the town become suspicious and hostile to the strange-looking fellow. Her runs away and finds a group of orphans who live in the woods. These poor misfits accept him and respect his green hair. The children convince him that his green hair are a symbol of the devastation of war. He has to stand up to his destiny and help avoid another war. The child runs back to the town and tells everybody. Now he is proud of the meaning of his hair. When his adoptive father asks him to cut his hair, in order to minimize the shock on the town, the child refuses. But his school friends chase him, determined to shave him. He helps one of them when he loses his glasses, but this one does not hesitate to betray him. The child still manages to elope, but his own adoptive father convinced him to accept the inevitable to satisfy the town. He let them shave his head, but then ran away. And that's where the flashback ends: the doctor has heard the whole story, and now introduces the adoptive father, who was outside waiting for him. The good old man reads the letter that his father wrote before dying. The child, inspired by his father's sacrifice, decides to accept his destiny with a smile.

The Lawless (1950) e' un film anti-razzista che trasuda ottimismo democratico nonostante l'energica denuncia dell'intolleranza e del razzismo. Il protagonista e` un altro emarginato. Il tono e` piu' realista che Brechtiano.

Un messicano discriminato in una citta razzista della California colpisce un poliziotto e fugge; i paesani organizzano la caccia all'uomo. Un giornalista dell'est e una Messicana del posto prendono prendono le difese del fuggiasco rischiando l'ostilita' della gente; lo salvano dal linciaggio.

The Prowler (1951), scripted by Dalton Trumbo and featuring Robert Aldrich as an assistant, is a noir film and thriller that is as much a drama of loneliness, alienation, insecurity and lust for the female co-protagonist. In fact, it is not clear whether the protagonist is the man who commits the murder or the woman who indirectly causes it and stands to benefit from it. Interestingly, the roles of Double Indemnity (1944) are inverted. The ending is one of the best of any noir film.

A woman, Susan, coming out of a shower, sees a man watching her from outside her window. She calls the police. Two cops, Webb and Bud, come to check out the premises. She is the wife of a radio celebrity, John, and is alone in their huge villa every night because he broadcasts all night long. As they leave, Webb insinuates that maybe the woman was just lonely and imagined things. Later Webb returns with the pretext of doublechecking that everything is ok. She offers him coffee and they start chatting. It turns out they are originally from the same town and went to the same high school. He was a promising athlete and she was nobody. He ended up being a poor cop and she the rich wife of a star. Webb comes back the following night, this time dressed in civilian clothes. He flirts with her, but she claims she is happily married. Webb reads through her fake smile and guesses that she is not happy at all. She confesses she wanted a nice family and a nice house. Instead, she is childless and is married to a jealous husband who leaves her alone every night. He tries to kiss her. She threatens to report him. He keeps trying. She slaps him repeatedly and throws him out. The following night he is back, this time dressed in a uniform. He just wants to apologize. She lets him in. She begs him not to seduce her but she cannot resist. They make love, while the radio broadcasts her husband's show. They keep meeting at night, always with the radio tuned on her husband's show because in the morning she tests her by asking her questions about the show (to make sure she doesn't go out). When the show ends, Webb leaves the villa. Webb has to go away for two weeks and asks her to follow him. She refuses but he shows up with the car to pick her up while the husband is in bed. She is terrified: she tells Webb that the husband suspects her and threatens to kill her. John wakes up and she rushes back in. (We hear his voice calling her, but we don't see him, just like we heard his voice on the radio but cannot see his face). Another night she runs to Webb's place, telling him that she begged the husband in vain for a divorce and this time it's her who asks Webb to take her away. This time it's Webb who sees how impossible it is... unless they can get rid of the husband. One night when the husband is home Webb makes noise in front of the house so that they call to report a prowler, knowing that the station will send him. He returns to the house and shoots dead the husband who walked outside holding a gun. (For the first time we see the face of the husband as he drops dead.) The wife immediately guesses that Webb architected everything to kill the husband, but he has a perfect excuse. At the trial Webb defends himself by claiming that it was just a terrible mistake. Susan cannot bring herself to testify against him, and Webb is acquitted of the crime. Webb resigns from the police force. He visits John's brother pretending to offer help for the widow. To relieve him, the brother tells him that it wasn't a happy marriage after all as the dead man couldn't have children, and actually encourages him to visit the widow. Believing him to be a calculated murderer, Susan is upset that he wants to see her at all. He swears that it was an accident. They reunite and soon are happily married. However, one night, as she is unpacking in a motel room, she finds a gun in his suitcase. She announces that she is four-month pregnant. She is delighted but he is terrified: the pregnancy proves that they had been seeing each other since before the killing. They decide that the only option is to move where nobody will know about the baby. They find a small abandoned village in the desert. They are enjoying the romantic scenery and play some records that they found. Suddenly they hear the dead man's husband: they are playing the record of one of his shows. And suddenly a sandstorm spoils the landscape. Meanwhile, Webb's old partner Bud has inquired about the couple at the motel and found out where they are honeymooning and is on his way to surprise them. Susan gives birth in the ghost town with help from an old kind doctor. Susan sees that Webb has taken the gun and suspects that he wants to kill the doctor so that the doctor won't tell anyone. Susan gets hysterical about this. She tells the doctor, who doesn't need any more information because he has already recognized Webb from a picture in the newspaper. The doctor takes off with the baby. Webb jumps in his car to chase him, but the ignition key has disappeared. Susan is hiding the key under her body in the bed. Susan is delirious but now she sees the truth: that Webb killed John, and not by accident. Webb begs her to give her the key so that he can elope before the police come, but Webb makes the mistake of mentioning the amount of money that Susan stands to inherit. He confesses that he read her husband's will and knew that she was going to be rich after his death. So he killed him and didn't even kill him for love but just for the money. Crying, she gives him the key. He doesn't stand a chance anyway as the police are already on their way. Webb drives on the unpaved road like a maniac but a truck blocks his way: it's Bud and his wife who are looking for him and Susan. Webb doesn't even return their smile and yells to get out of his way. But it's all pointless as the police cars are already visible in the desert. Webbs drops the car and starts climbing a sand dune. He's almost at the top when a cop shoots him.

Il remake di M (1951) di Fritz Lang assume caratteri piu' politici grazie a un'ambientazione realista nella metropoli spietata e alienante e grazie ad un finale Brecht-iano in cui l'avvocato viene ucciso dopo aver denunciato le colpe della societa'.

Big Night (1951): un ragazzo diventa assassino per vendicare una umiliazione subita dal padre e il padre si accusa del crimine.

Mentre sta girando Imbarco a Mezzanotte/ Stranger On The Prowl (1952) in Italia, viene denunciato per anti-comunismo ed e' costretto all'esilio.

In Europa gira film commerciali, talvolta sotto pseudonimo, tra cui The Sleeping Tiger (1954), che inizia il suo periodo Inglese.

Uno psichiatra protegge un giovane originale per poterlo studiare; la moglie se ne innamora, ma il giovane non vuole tradire il suo benefattore e la donna si suicida.

A Man on the Beach (1955) and The Intimate Stranger/ Finger of Guilt (1956) were mediocre British films.

Losey trovo' una nuova ispirazione con il noir Time Without Pity (1956). Con un formalismo freddo ed accurato si mise a rifondare il genere poliziesco, interpretandolo come metafora dei rapporti di potere. Il tema e' quello della pena capitale, ma la vicenda e' dominata dall'ambiguita': il condannato innocente, il colpevole condannato ingiustamente. Losey ha scoperto il machiavellico disordine morale della vita. I pesonaggi deviati sono molti: l'alcolizzato, la drogata, l'industriale.

Un padre alcolizzato ha soltanto 24 ore per dimostrare l'innocenza del figlio (condannato a morte per omicidio) che lo disprezza come padre; falliti tutti i suoi tentativi, si suicidera', facendo ricadere la colpa della sua morte sul vero colpevole dell'omicidio di cui e' imputato il figlio, un ricco industriale che verra' cosi' punito, ma per un delitto che non ha commesso.

The Gypsy And The Gentleman (1958) e' invece un melodramma ambientato nel diciottesimo secolo.

Una zingara cinica e avida approfitta dell'ingenuita' di un nobile decaduto per cercare di impadronirsi dei beni della sorella di lui, con la complicita' dell'amante. Scoperto l'inganno il nobile si suicida, ma trascina con se' l'amante.

Torna al poliziesco con Blind Date (1959) in cui un giovane pittore straniero viene accusato di aver ucciso l'amante; nel corso dell'inchiesta si scopre che la morta era la moglie viziosa di un facoltoso uomo politico. L'ispettore (anch'egli di umili origini) penetra l'alta societa' e ne smaschera i vizi; prova simpatia per l'"emarginato" indifeso, e antipatia per la raffinata "decadenza" dei ricchi. I tre personaggi sono "ambigui": l'accusato e' innocente, l'esponente del regime e' filo- proletario, la moglie rispettabile e' una puttana.

The Criminal (1960) e' simile a Grisbi di Becker. Il denaro, la prigione, la donna sono tutti simboli. il formalismo tecnico di Losey raggiunge il suo culmine. L'ambiguita' qui e' piu' astratta: prigione/liberta' e vita/morte, la vanita' delle speranze umane.

Un fuoriclasse del furto compie una rapina alle corse dei cavalli e nasconde i soldi; arrestato come sospetto, trascorre una giornata in carcere, durante la quale gli si prospetta un futuro con soldi e amore. Rilasciato, viene ucciso dai suoi complici che vogliono i soldi, ma non li avranno.

Eva (1962) venne massacrato dai produttori.

Uno scrittore inglese, che ha lasciato la fatale Jeanne Moreau, sposa la brava Virna Lisi, ma poi torna dall'amante. Lisi li sorprende e si suicida; a lui non rimane che l'amante, ma Moreau non e' sua, passa di uomo in uomo. I due lottano senza pieta': lei uccide la mogliettina e lui tenta di uccidere lei. la societa' cade a pezzi.

The Damned (1963), based on H.L. Lawrence's novel "The Children of Light" (1960) and shot just before the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962 but released a few months after it, is another film that follows the format of a Brecht-ian apologue, this time focusing on the nuclear holocaust (like Stanley Kramer's On The Beach). It is a combination of sci-fi movies, horror movie and political thriller.
Il fiabesco e il didattico si fondono in una parabola pessimista sulla violenza della societa' (i teppisti) e del potere (il controllo eletronnico) e sulla mutazione dell'uomo a mostro, sia morale (i carcerieri 0 sia fisico (i bambini) sia civile (i teppisti). I bambini danno la morte a chiunque tenti di liberarli; gli adulti sono dei falliti.

Simon is a middle-aged foreign tourist touring an English town when a sexy girl passes in front of him. He starts following her. She leads him to a narrow alley when a group of young thugs, all dressed in motorcyclist clothes but led by one who is wearing a suit and tie, attack him and rob him. The leader, King, thanks the girl, Joan, who is his sister. Two strangers find the victim and carry him to a restaurant where he meets a couple of middle-aged lovers, the man being a military captain who is pessimistic about their age of senseless violence, the woman being an artist, Freya. When Simon leaves, the woman asks the captain about his top-secret project. Bernard tells her that it is a deadly secret. The following day the thugs are playing at the beach. Joan rides away on a motorcycle and they all chase her, driving recklessly through town. She loses them and the heads for the port where she sees the same foreign tourist on a yacht, his boat. She accuses him of being a pervert because he followed her without even asking for her name. King's gang finds them. King forces Joan to leave the boat and the gang forces Simon to sail away on his boat. But Simon shouts at Joan and invites her to jump on his boat. She runs away from the gang and jumps. The boat leaves the port. King swears to kill Simon. Joan tells Simon that she is 20 years old but her brother King still treats her like a little girl and punishes her if she hangs out with men. Simon invites her to stay on the boat but she insists to be returned to town. One of King's thugs watches them with a binocular and rides away to report it to King. Just then Bernard arrives at the location of the secret project, which happens to overlook the shore where Simon is leaving Joan. Bernard uses a monitor to communicate with a group of children who are being kept isolated in a sort of classroom. Simon and Joan are climbing the steep bank and reach the cliff-top villa where she hides whenever she is afraid of King, a villa that happens to be located near the military base, a villa that happens to belong to the artist, Freya. Joan lets him kiss her (and presumably they make love). Simon even proposes to her. They escape through a window when they hear a car pull up, thinking it is King's gang. Instead it is Bernard's lover: that house is used by her and Bernard. King arrives, looking for Joan, and, not finding her, destroys one of the woman's sculptures just to make her cry. Then King's gang starts searching the hill while Simon and Joan are running away. The two fugitives are soon surrounded by the gang and cornered against the chicken wire of the military base. Their only option is to jump the fence, which sets off an alarm. Soldiers with dogs chase them. Simon and Joan manage to escape because the soldiers arrest instead a member of King's gang who too jumped the fence. Simon and Joan fall into a cave and are rescued by the children: it turns out that the children are kept in an underground bunker that communicates with that cave. Joan is scared when she realizes that the children are cold like cadavers. The children tell them that they communicate with their "teachers" only via the monitor and they are surveilled via cameras. The cave is the only place where there are no cameras. The children know nothing of the real world: they have never touched warm people before. Meanwhile one of the children finds King, who fell into the water while looking for the fugitives, and takes King to Simon and Joan. Unseen to them a man wearing a radiation protection suit visits the children when they are asleep: one of the girls is getting sick and Bernard is afraid that she will die like other children did. Bernard meets with the artist, Freya, at the villa. Learning that a young man, which is King, broke into the villa, and that King was looking for two other young people, Bernard instructs his soldiers to look for three intruders. He still doesn't tell the artist what the military base is working on. The following day the children take the usual school lessons via television but sneak out to bring food to their three guests in the area that is not visible by the surveillance cameras. Simon interrogates the children and, unaware of the secret project, wants to help them escape. Bernard figures out that the children are hiding the three adults but the children become rebellious and refuse to collaborate: they don't believe that the adults are dangerous to them nor that they are dangerous to the adults. Bernard is forced to send three soldiers in protecting suits. The children destroy the surveillance cameras and hide from the soldiers. King attacks and kills two of the soldiers, Simon captures the third one. Simon realizes that the soldier is carrying a radioactivity detector and that the children are radioactive. Simon initially thinks that their clothes are radioactive and tells them to undress, but then detector's signal gets even louder: it is their bodies that are radioactive. Now Simon understands why the children cannot be allowed to leave. Nonetheless, he feels that it is a cruel experiment and he decides to escape with them. King is already getting sick. Simon and Joan lead the children outside but soldiers in protective gear recapture most of the children, except one who jumps into a car with King. One of King's thugs has come to visit the artist looking for King: the artist and the thug witness the horrible scene of military personnel in protective suits rounding up children, and the artist, who now understands that the top-secret project has to do with children, is shocked at the captain's cruelty. The captain doesn't answer Simon's questions but lets Simon and Joan leave. The captain then tells his lover the artist that the children were born radioactive from mothers who were victims of a nuclear accident. And they decided to see if they can raise a new human race that will survive the nuclear holocaust. Freya refuses to become an accomplice to the captain's project even if this means that he will have to kill her, a dangerous witness. The captain tells Freya that Simon and Joan will soon die of the radiation. In fact, King is driving as fast as he can but he stops because he realizes that the child's radiation is killing him. He tells the child that he is poison. Two helicopters surround the car and take the children. King tries to escape but collapses while driving at high speed and crashes into the river. Joan and Simon are on Simon's yacht, and dreaming of a new beginning. A helicopter is following the yacht. On the cliff the captain shoots his lover Freya at the same time that the yacht crashes against the rocks. We hear the voices of the children screaming for help.

The Servant (1963) inaugura la sua collaborazione con Harold Pinter, il terzo grande ispiratore della sua opera. La tragedia dell'assurdo di Pinter, con le sue paranoie di isolamento e minaccia e il suo minimalismo di comunicazione, viene pero' immersa in un impianto stilistico barocco, sovraccarico di oggetti, movimenti, metafore. La tensione psicologica, la morbosita' decadente, lo straniamento brechtiano, il simbolismo sovraccarico degli oggetti, il dialogo scarnificato, l'obiettivita' senza emozioni della cinepresa trasformano un "compte philosophique" (il rapporto servo-padrone) in una parabola metafisica (il senso ultimo del potere) e in una denuncia sociale (la decadenza e la decomposizione della societa'). Lo stile sintetico e calibrato di Losey e' cio' che tiene insieme il racconto e gli da' quella forza. cinici , abietti, sordidi mostri: Mefistofele, la strega, il borghese frustrato. La lotta di potere si esaurisce in se stessa. Raffinatezza e debolezza della dissoluzione.

Un giovane ricco e solo assume un maggiordomo (Dick Bogarde) per gestire la sua grande casa. Il giovane e' un essere amorfo, con un'amica sua pari. Il maggiordomo si rende di giorno in giorno piu' indispensabile e lo convince ad assumere anche sua sorella (in realta' una prostituta sua amante) la quale seduce facilmente il giovane ingenuo e gli fa rompere con la fidanzata. Quando questi li sorprende a letto insieme li butta fuori e loro se ne vanno deridendolo; ma rimasto solo finisce per richiamarli e lasciarsi umiliare, perdendo man mano dignita' e rispetto. Il potere del servo diventa totale, si da' apertamente alle orge, ridicolizzando e umiliando il suo padrone davanti alla donna. La fidanzata tenta di staccarlo da questa morbosa attrazione, ma lo trova oramai inebetito e succube di un party di depravati.

King And Country (1964) e' un film pacifista, ma anche un nuovo apologo sulla violenza. Pur tornando alla forma dell'apologo brechtiano, Losey lo ambienta nell'universo di desolazione di The Servant. Il barocco di Losey, morbosamente affascinato dalla decadenza, dalla disgregazione e in ultimo dalla morte, indulge in inquadrature e movimenti che dicono piu' della trama e delle psicologie. Il suo freddo intellettualismo si esprime soltanto a segni. Cosi' il fango e i topi assurgono a protagonisti tanto quanto i soldati. Sono loro a dare la dimensione di assurdita' e orrore. L"ambiguita' del rapporto "servo-padrone" qui si sviluppa fra soldato e capitano e anche qui e' il soldato a soggiogare il capitano. Ma i personaggi non sono cinici, sono umani e comprensivi. La morale della "disgregazione" e' piu' che mai vera (l'uno muore e ad ucciderlo e' proprio l'altro): tutti falliscono e le loro identita' vengono annullate.

Durante la prima guerra mondiale un soldato che si era arruolato volontario e che ha passato tre anni in trincea, decide di disertare per ritornarsene a casa. viene catturato e un capitano (Bogarde) viene nominato suo avvocato. Il capirano si affeziona alla sua causa, ma non c'e' nulla da fare. Il soldato si ubriaca con i commilitoni, ma il giorno dopo viene fucilato proprio da loro, e l'ultimo colpo lo spara proprio il capitano.

Modesty Blaise (1966) e' un fanta-spionistico comico ispirato all'omonimo fumetto, impersonata da Monica Vitti

I servizi segreti la incaricano di proteggere il tesoro di uno sceicco, e lei si deve difendere da omicidi e avventurieri.

The Accident (1967), affine a Muriel di Alain Resnais, ritorna al rigoroso manierismo claustrofobico di The Servant, con Harold Pinter di nuovo alla sceneggiatura.

Uno studente si uccide in un incidente, da cui si salva l'amica, proprio di fronte alla casa di un professore (Bogarde). Questi racconta: lui, sposato con due figli e' invidioso di un collega arricchitosi con la televisione, e dello studente, poiche' entrambi si sono presi la ragazza che voleva anche lui (il primo come amante, il secondo come fidanzata); la sera dell'incidente avevano appuntamento a casa sua per parlarne.. Bogarde sospetta che a guidare fosse lei e , approfittando dello choc, la circuisce e la protegge dalla polizia, ma lei non gli da' speranze e lui torna dalla moglie.

La degradazione dei valori si ritrova anche nelle "frustrazioni" della borghesia perbenista. Bogarde e' un mostro di frustrazioni: l'amico ha il successo, lo studente ha la giovinezza, ed entrambi hanno la bella ragazza. Lui la puo' possedere soltanto quando lei e' sotto choc. E il giorno dopo torna alle convenzioni borghesi della rispettabilita'.

Boom (1968) is an adaptation of Tennessee Williams' "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore".

Elizabeth Taylor vive in una villa su un'isola del mediterraneo, reduce da cinque divorzi e molto malata e sta dettando la propria autobiografia, quando arriva Burton, il quale ha fama di arrivare sempre due giorni prima della morte; Taylor si immedesima con passione nella leggenda e Burton la asseconda, ma quando lei muore lui le ruba i gioielli, lasciando nel dubbio che si trattasse soltanto di un ladro.

Secret Ceremony (1968), perhaps his masterpiece, is a psychological drama about a morbid mother-daughter love between two lonely women. The story is drenched in a claustrophonic atmosphere, thanks also to a dissonant soundtrack. The first part is almost silent. The film stages a reversal of fortunes, as the one who wanted the other is eventually the one who rejects the other, and the one who did not want the other eventually begs the other one to want her. It's a film about mirror images: a mother who lost her daughter and became a prostitute versus a daughter who lost her mother and is still a virgin. The man in this story is nothing but the mirror who turns one into the other.
The film is hardly spoken, flooded by objects. A decadent, erotic, Freudian nightmare. Almost a horror movie.

Leonora (Elizabeth Taylor), an aging prostitute (but the tv version removed any reference to her profession), takes the bus. A young girl, Cenci (Mia Farrow), comes to sit next to her. Leonora ignores her. Leonora gets off at a church and briefly watches as a child is being baptized. Cenci is standing behind her. Then Leonora walks to the cemetery and visits the tomb of her daughter, who died at the age of ten. Cenci senses the pain inside the woman and takes her hand. Cenci drags her out of the cemetery and to her own house. Cenci is all excited as she shows Leonora in. Cenci's house is colossal and richly decorated. They have exchanged no words. Staring at a giant photograph of the girl with her mother, Leonora sees herself with the girl. Leonora is struck by her resemblance to the girl's mother. Cenci hugs her and calls her "mommy". Leonora has to use violence to disentangle herself from Cenci's embrace. Cenci stares at her speechless. Cenci treats her like her mother, implying that it was she (Leonora) who let the maid go and that she (Leonora) knows that she divorced her husband. Suddenly Leonora, who is obviously still upset for having lost her daughter, is going along with the game, yelling at Cenci like it was her own daughter and having a major argument about her husband. Cenci keeps calling her "mom" and reminisces when her mom did not come back (she died in some kind of accident), whereas Leonora goes back between being herself (pitying the poor rich girl who lives all alone, is delusional about her mother and needs affection) and impersonating the girl's mother. Leonora takes a bath in the luxurious bathroom of the mansion. Cenci undresses and jumps in the giant tub with her. Cenci makes a joke about drowning and, for a second, Leonora is petrified (a reminder of her own daughter's drowning). While Leonora takes a nap, Cenci revives an episode of her childhood. She talks to an empty chair that represents her father. Leonora's husband molested her sexually but she kept her virginity. Cenci rolls over on the table giggling. Leonora wakes up and witnesses the scene in which Cenci reenacts the rape. In the morning Leonora enjoys playing the role of the mother, who was an aristocratic who even attended the queen's birthday party. Cenci combs Leonora's hair. Cenci tells her she shouldn't look like a whore, and Leonora is hurt.
Two ladies come to visit Cenci. They are the sisters of her biological father and we learn he is dead when they pick up a photograph of him. They are grotesquely happy to tell her that her stepfather Albert has been arrested for molesting a minor. Leonora hides outside and see that they steal objects while the girl is not watching them. They insist on walking into the old room of Cenci's mother and it's obvious they want to steal the expensive furs. Cenci objects when they try to take Leonora's favorite fur. The hypocritical ladies finally leave. When Leonora wants to make sure that Cenci didn't tell them about her being there, Cenci replies launghing that they think she is dead, as if it were an absurd thought and they (the aunts) were crazy.
A man comes to the house with a bunch of roses while Cenci is out. Leonora does not open and the man goes away. When Cenci returns home, Leonora tells him that Albert (Robert Mitchum) was there.
Leonora leaves the house and goes to visit the aunts at their humble shop and residence. She is wearing one of the dead woman's dresses, and one of the aunts initially feels she is seeing a ghost. Leonora introduces herself as a cousin of the dead woman, Margaret. The aunts pretend that they cared for Margaret, but Leonora exposes their hypocrisy accusing them of taking advantage of the poor child and of stealing objects from the house. She warns them that she is ready to call the police on them. The ladies meanwhile had gingerly described how Cenci's father died when she was eight, and then her mother Margaret married the seductive Albert, and how one day Margaret found Albert molesting Cenci and kicked him out of the house. Margaret died after three months of agony, firing everybody from the house because she was afraid that they were poisoning her. Cenci was the only one assisting her till the end. When Margaret died, Cenci did not accept the truth. She even missed the funeral, telling everybody that her mother was just momentarily out. Cenci, now 22 years old, has been insane ever since, and leaving alone ever since.
At the house Cenci receives a visit from Albert. He asks her where mother is, implying that he does not know she's dead. Cenci simply relies that her mother has gone out. He asks her if she is still a virgin and she replied "yes". He tells her that in the last year he has had sex with several women. She is amused by him. He kisses her and she lets him do it. When he leaves, she jumps happy all around the house.
Meanwhile, Leonora is in a church praying and begging God to let her have that child and promising to take good care of her. She begs God to forgive her: whatever she has been doing was not for the money, but to help the poor men with whom nobody would sleep.
At the villa Cenci plays with the sheets of her mother's bed and reenacts or imagines having sex and an orgasm. Then she cuts a finger and let a few drops fall on the sheets. When Leonora arrives, Cenci hides under a table, pretending to have been violated by Albert.
Albert walks with the aunts in the cemetery. They are cheerful like good old friends.
Leonora and Cenci take a hotel room at the beach. Cenci is dressed and behaves like a child. Leonora is now impersonating her mother all the time. At dinner Cenci puts a pillow under her dress to look pregnant and then behave like a pregnant woman. Albert spies on them and eventually confronts Leonora at the beach. He doesn't deny molesting Cenci. In fact, he takes pride in it. He accuses Leonora of turning Cenci into a zombie and helping the young woman regress to being a child, whereas he makes her feel like a woman. Leonora is terrorized but also attracted to him. She defends herself with a knife and even cuts his cheek. He does not use violence but asserts his right to be the guardian of the child.
When Leonora confronts Cenci about her fantasy of being pregnant, Cenci re-lives or imagines a forced abortion. Then Leonora can only watch powerless from the terrace as Albert makes love to Cenci on the beach, this time for real. Cenci comes back a different person, a real woman. For the first time she treats Leonora for what she is: an impostor. She tells Leonora to get out.
When Leonora visits next to return the key of the house, Cenci talks like a haughty and mean aristocrat. She calls her Leonora and treats her like someone applying for the position of housekeeper. Leonora tells Cenci that she once tried to commit suicide. She has her own trauma to get over. Leonora gets on her knees and begs Cenci to let her stay. The roles are now reverted from the beginning, when it was Cenci who was begging Leonora to be her mother. Cenci shouts "no". Leonora leaves crying. Cenci swallows a lot of pills and dies of the overdose. At the funeral Leonora waits for Albert to show up and then stabs him to death in front of Cenci's coffin.
Figure In A Landscape (1970) e' un racconto espressionista e un po' kafkiano sulla condizione umana che ha per protagoniste forze astratte. Losey non dice quasi nulla dei due fuggitivi, del loro passato. non fa vedere chi pilota l'elicottero. Non descrive i soldati che inseguono. Sono tutte forme astratte. Il quarto protagonista e' il deserto, forse il piu' feroce e selvaggio. L'odissea di due emarginati in trappola. Non e' tanto una fuga, quanto un inseguimento: l'elicottero kafkiano e' il deus ex machina che tutto vede e controlla, il piu' feroce degli animali. Due carcerati, un omicida e un maniaco sessuale, evadono e si dirigono verso la frontiera, con le mani legate dietro la schiena e inseguiti dalla polizia che viene guidata da un elicottero. Nel paesaggio desolato e violento si stabilisce un rapporto a tre tra i due fuggitivi e l'elicottero, sempre piu' estremo e selvaggio, sempre piu' "degradato". Quando sono ormai vicini alla salvezza il piu' feroce dei due, con un gesto di disperazione, non da' ascolto all'altro e inizia un duello con l'elicottero, che lo uccide. Il giovane trova i soldati ad attenderlo al confine e si consegna: e' stato tutto vano.

The Go-Between (1971), terzo della trilogia di Pinter e tratto da Hartley, torna al decor barocco delle sue opere piu' formali per evocare l'atmosfera d'inizio secolo in un bel mondo di campagna scandito da rituali secolari. Armonioso e proustiano nel rievocare il passato attraverso gli occhi di un bambino, kafkiano nel descriverne il gelido asservimento alla donna e al suo ruolo di messaggero, e' ancora una malinconica meditazione sulla "degradazione" dei valori, della societa'. In ombra rimane il conflitto di classe, la discriminazione, il rapporto servo-padrone (umiliato, per sempre, e' il servo).

Un ragazzo orfano, povero ma educato, trascorre l'estate nella villa di un ricco compagno di scuola. Un po' spaesato nei divertimenti dei ricchi, si affeziona alla sorella ventenne del suo amico e ne diventa fedele servitore. La ragazza lo usa come ignaro messaggero per portare i suoi biglietti all'amante, il fattore. Quando l'innocente capisce di essere stato usato e che la ragazza e' fidanzata a un nobile, vorrebbe andarsene, ma i due lo convincono con le lusinghe a restare. Un giorno pero' la madre della ragazza gli fa confessare di essere stato il messaggero e si fa condurre al luogo degli incontri, dove i due amanti vengono sorpresi in un focoso amplesso. Il fattore si suicidera' e le nozze avranno luogo. Mezzo secolo dopo il messaggero, cresciuto e inaridito nei sentimenti, verra' ancora usato dalla donna per parlare al nipotino, vergognoso di discendere dall'amore illecito con un fattore.

The Assassination Of Trotsky (1972) e' un inopinato ritorno al cinema politico: nel 1940, piu' che mai giurato nemico di Stalin, Trotsky vive in una casa-bunker a Citta' del Mexico. un uomo riuscira' comunque a penetrare in casa e ad ucciderlo a colpi di picczza. Losey ricostruisce l'organizzazione dell'attentato e la personalita' dell'omicida.

Dopo A Doll's House (1973), trasposizione del dramma di Ibsen che pero', interpretato da Fonda, diventa un comizio femminista, e la versione cinematografica del Galileo (1975), dirige The Romantic Englishwoman (1975), un altro saggio femminista sceneggiato da Tom Stoppard.

Glenda Jackson e' la moglie insoddisfatta dello scrittore Caine, e in Germania si innamora di un volgare avventuriero. Quando lei torna a casa, lui segue le sue tracce, si introduce in casa con un pretesto e instaura un menage a tre. Quando il marito li scopre li caccia e quando gli amanti si ritrovano senza soldi, si lasciano e lei ritorna dal marito.

Losey torna all'astrattismo kafkiano con Monsieur Klein (1976) Il thriller angoscioso sa di "Processo" "kafkiano", ma c'e' anche la filosofia del "servo-padrone": l'ebreo perseguitato che perseguita il ricco mercante ariano e, come in Figures il "persecutore" e' un'entita' "invisibile e onnipotente", una minaccia implacabile fino alla morte. "L'ambiguita'" e' totale: Klein, persecutore, diventa perseguitato e per di piu' ingiustamente. anche qui si assiste ad una "degradazione" totale: da ricco rispettabile ad animale in gabbia in uno scenario da fine assoluta della civilta'; che e' anche una "metamorfosi" (come in the Servant). L'apologo e' "astratto" e indipendente dal tema "politico" preso in esame: il collaborazionismo. Il "potere" del regime e quello dell'individuo.

Un antiquario parigino durante l'occupazione nazista, mentre viene preparata la grande retata di tutti gli ebrei, approfitta della situazione e fa ottimi affari con gli ebrei in fuga; si gode gli spettacoli decadenti dei cabaret in compagnia dell'amante (Moreau); ma un giorno scopre l'esistenza di un suo omonimo, ebreo e partigiano. I tedeschi cominciano a sospettare di lui e l'omonimo fa di tutto perche' cosi' sia. A poco a poco e' Klein stesso a sentirsi ebreo, a comportarsi come tale: e' perseguitato da questo essere invisibile e sente avvicinarsi sempre di piu' il momento della deportazione. Gli amici lo eviatno, gli affari vanno a rotoli etc.. Finisce per rassegnarsi al destino inesorabile e viene deportato su un treno blindato con tanti altri, fra cui il vero Klein ebreo, al quale il sotterfugio non e' servito.

In Francia diresse tre film, cominciando da Les Routes du Sud/ Roads to the South (1978), sceneggiato da Jorge Semprun, con il quale torno` al cinema d'impegno civile affrontando il problema degli esiliati spagnoli.

Montand e' un esule ancora attivo, malvisto dal figlio sessantottino che non crede piu' nei valori della patria e del comunismo e lo accusa della morte della madre, rimasta uccisa nel corso di una missione oltre frontiera. Tutte le certezze gli crollano: scopre persino che la moglie lo tradiva; neppure una potenziale amante e la morte di Franco gli restituiscono l'entusiasmo.

La riduzione del Don Giovanni (1979) di Mozart, primo film d'opera (as opposed to "opera filmata").

La Truite/ The Trout (1982), based on the novel by Roger Vailland, e' la storia di una bellissima proletaria (Huppert) che passa di spasimante in spasimante (ma senza concedersi a nessuno) con una cinica tecnica di seduzione e compie cosi' una spregiudicata scalata al potere, diventando un'industriale delle trote.

Steaming (1985) e' una piece teatrale della moglie, una storia femminista di donne, uscita postuma.

Losey era morto il 22 giugno 1984.

Le tappe significative sono quelle astratte, fuori dell'impegno politico. La condizione borghese assume toni metafisici di condizione umana e allora tutte la tamatiche (discriminazione, emarginazione, frustrazione, degradazione, ambiguita', metamorfosi) e tutte le maschere (persecutore, servo, padrone, emarginato, donna) compongono una tragedia assoluta sull'impossibilita' dell'esistenza.

Partito dall'impegno democratico, cresciuto sotto l'influenza di Brecht e Pinter, Losey e' approdato ad una forma originale di apologo astratto, piu' vicina a Kafka. Lo stile barocco e freddamente intellettuale e' ideale per la forma-allegoria, perche' consiste in una rappresentazione per simboli e in una sintesi logica di tali simboli.

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