Deep End (1970)

Deep End (1970), directed by Jerzy Skolimowski.

Mike, an innocent 15 year old, gets his first job in a decrepit bath house. Susan, a little older and much more experienced, shows him the ropes. It's the sort of place where men and women can both swim and get light sexual services, paying in tips.

Mike falls in love with Susan with jealous, idealistic, hormonally supercharged and all-consuming adolescent passion. She doesn't mind toying with his virginal naivete, but has serious business of her own to mind and bigger fish to fry.

In a long segment both funny and surreally disturbing, he stalks her when she's out with her boyfriend, steals a cardboard cutout of her posing as a stripper, finally tossing it in the pool and diving in with it, a foreshadowing of later tragic developments.

This was a great find. I had never heard of it until looking through the filmography of Jane Asher, last seen in The Masque of the Red Death (1964) and Alfie (1966). That face, hair, slim figure and intelligent demeanor: I could look at her all day. I had just read Philip Norman's massive Paul McCartney biography and she was a big part of his early life.

(Aside: McCartney was from a working class background and suddenly became a superstar. Asher was more posh: her father was an eminent physician and her mother a professor of music. She'd been acting since age 6. When she took up with McCartney at age 17 her parents allowed them to live together at their home. He had to sneak in and out by secret ways to avoid his fans. Several of his songs were written for Asher -- "And I Love Her", "Here, There and Everywhere" -- and they announced they were going to marry. It didn't happen, his fault for screwing around. He said: "The public never forgave me for splitting up with Jane Asher". I think their romance deserves a good film treatment).

The score uses Cat Stevens ("But I Might Die Tonight", composed for the film), instantly suggesting Harold and Maude (1971), and it does have the look and tone of Ashby's film. Another similar looking film would be Robert Altman's 3 Women (1977), also with a spa theme.

According to the film's wikipedia article, in 1982 David Lynch said:


I don't like color movies and I can hardly think about color. It really cheapens things for me and there's never been a color movie I've freaked out over except one, this thing called Deep End, which had really great art direction.

(He started doing rather vivid color himself thereafter).

Kudos to the young leads for doing their own nudity and passion scenes. He was 17, she 23.

Note that Mike's first "special services" customer is Diana Dors, a blonde bombshell of the 1950s. Last seen in The Long Haul (1957) and briefly in Theater of Blood (1973). Everyone says she had a great sense of humor.

Available on Blu-ray, an all-region import from BFI. The package includes a PAL DVD version, booklet and a good set of extras. I don't believe there has ever been a North American edition, but this version is excellent.

The image shows distinct film grain and is often nicely detailed, depending on the scene and lighting conditions. Beautiful color.

The British Film Institute produces good home video products.