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July 12 - July 28

The Complete Joseph Losey (July)

For nearly all of his long and remarkably productive career, Joseph Losey (1909-1984) was a filmmaker in exile. Losey's brief yet promising Hollywood career was abruptly derailed when his outspoken commitment to leftist politics made him a choice target of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Threatened by almost certain blacklisting and possible imprisonment, Losey fled to Europe in search of work and political sanctuary. Once abroad, he began to refine his more complex, mature style and draw the attention of European critics – especially the French, who first recognized him as an important auteur. Although Losey remained deeply contemptuous of the American film industry, he nevertheless longed, in vain, to make another film in his native land. Losey's difficult experience of the blacklist and the long, wandering life of an expatriate indelibly marked his career, shaping certain dominant motifs of his films – the recurring figure of the outsider, the recasting of class and gender roles into dark, ritualistic role-play, and the pessimistic representation of mainstream society as a world ruled by coldness, hypocrisy and implacable violence.

The extraordinary range of Losey's oeuvre is showcased in the HFA's once-in-a-lifetime complete retrospective. Beyond the bold, uncompromising political convictions that unite Losey's work lies a rich and underappreciated experimental vein that alternately embraces the high camp of Boom! and Modesty Blaise, the sheer, wonderful weirdness of Secret Ceremony and the sophisticated comedy of The Romantic Englishwoman. The seeming contradictions of Losey's oeuvre remain among its most fascinating aspects – its marriage of mid-Western chastity with European decadence, of fierce political allegory with an obscure, operatic aesthetic and a restless searching for redemption and spirituality within the worn and degraded. Losey's status as one of postwar America and Europe's most accomplished filmmakers rests in the rare and often uneasy balance found within all of his work between complexity and lucidity, between profundity and shimmering, treacherously entrancing reflective surfaces.

Special thanks to Patricia Losey; Isa Cucinotta, Film Society of Lincoln Center; Pierre Jutras, Marco de Blois, Stéphanie Côté, Cinémathèque québécoise; Peter Conheim; Fleur Buckley, British Film Institute; Bob McMinn, Lakeshore Entertainment; Carmen Accaputo, Cineteca di Bologna; Caroline Yeager Lee Ann Duggan, George Eastman House; Mark McElhatten; Mary Keene, Film Department, Museum of Modern Art (New York); Marleen Labijt, Netherlands Filmmseum; May Haduong, Academy Film Archive; Christine Houard, Ministère des affaires étrangères; Brigitte Bouvier, Consulate General of France, Boston; Delphine Selles-Alvarez, Cultural Services of the French Embassy (New York); Kathy Dunn, Boston Public Library; Monique Faulhaber, Cinémathèque française; Sara Rubin, Boston Jewish Film Festival.


Saturday July 12 at 7pm

Pete Roleum and His Cousins

Directed by Joseph Losey.
US 1939, 35mm, color, 16 min.
Print courtesy of Cinémathèque Québéçoise

Despite Losey's involvement with leftist politics and culture in the 1930s, his first film was made, ironically, for the oil industry, to be shown at the Petroleum Building of the 1939 New York World's Fair. Pete Roleum explains the importance of oil for modern industry and manufacturing and warns of dire consequences should the world's supply run short. The stop-motion animation was done by Charley Bowers, the remarkable filmmaker (and slapstick comic) whose long-forgotten work has recently been rediscovered. Shot in color and 3-D, the film is now available only in 2-D and in an incomplete state, missing a few minutes of footage.

The Boy with Green Hair

Directed by Joseph Losey.
With Dean Stockwell, Pat O'Brien, Robert Ryan
US 1948, 35mm, color, 82 min.
Print courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art

Losey's remarkable debut feature combines the magical realism of a children's story with the bold, message-driven radicalism of the Depression-era proletariat theater where he received his first crucial training as a director. Dean Stockwell stars as the titular boy whose mysterious transformation awakens the fears and prejudices dormant in his small hometown. A cult favorite and among Losey's most enduring films, The Boy with Green Hair is also one of the more outspokenly Leftist films of the 1940s, a final vestige of Roosevelitan Hollywood on the eve of the Red Scare that would count Losey as one of its most prominent victims. This film has been preserved by The Museum of Modern Art with funding provided by The Film Foundation.

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Saturday July 12at 9pm

First on the Road

Directed by Joseph Losey.
UK 1960, 16mm, color, 12 min.
Print courtesy of the British Film Institute

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Losey partially supported himself in Britain by making commercials for such products as Ponds Cold Cream and Rose's Lime Juice. One of Losey's longest commercials, this advertisement for Ford automobiles reveals his great acumen as an editor and his skill at discovering formal challenges even within his more mundane assignments.

The Criminal (aka The Concrete Jungle)

Directed by Joseph Losey.
With Stanley Baker, Patrick Magee, Sam Wanamaker
UK 1960, 35mm, b/w, 97 min.
Print courtesy of the British Film Institute

Losey paints a searing, stunning portrait of a corrupt world in this dark crime film that contrasts
swinging London with the stark theatricality of prison life and the bleak winter landscapes gorgeously captured by master cinematographer Robert Krasker (The Third Man). Stanley Baker unleashes an intense performance as a stylish ex-con whose ties to a crime syndicate draw him into an ill-fated racetrack robbery and the hands of a sadistic prison warden (Magee) determined, at all costs, to find the hidden loot. The Criminal marks the first of five collaborations between Losey, a passionate lover of jazz, and the great British jazz composer John Dankworth, whose wife Cleo Lain is heard singing the haunting ballad "Thieving Boy."

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Sunday June 13 at 3pm

The Romantic Englishwoman

Directed by Joseph Losey.
With Michael Caine, Glenda Jackson, Helmut Berger
UK 1975, 35mm, color, 116 min.
Print from the Harvard Film Archive Collection

At the end of his fruitful collaboration with Harold Pinter, Losey turned to British playwright Tom Stoppard for a notably different take on the taut dramas of entrapped bourgeois life so successfully explored in the Pinter- Losey films. The result is one of Losey's most endearing and genuinely funny films – a sophisticated comedy about writer's block and the perils of an overripe imagination. Featuring the wonderful pairing of Michael Caine and Glenda Jackson as a couple struck by mid-life crises, The Romantic Englishwoman follows the entrance of a mysterious stranger – a handsome young man who is either a poet or a gigolo, or both – who seems to answer both characters' desire for change.

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Sunday July 13 at 7pm

A Gun in His Hand

Directed by Joseph Losey.
With Tom Trout, Richard Gaines, Anthony Caruso
US 1945, 35mm, b/w, 19 min.
Print courtesy of Academy Film Archive

The protagonist of this morality tale cum crime drama is a crooked cop who uses his insider knowledge to lead a gang of thieves. His criminal enterprise is complicated when a fellow police officer is gunned down during a heist. Part of the studio's Crime Doesn't Pay series, this crisply directed short dates from Losey's brief stint at MGM (where he directed Elizabeth Taylor's screen test for National Velvet).

M

Directed by Joseph Losey.
With David Wayne, Howard da Silva, Martin Gabel
US 1951, 35mm, b/w, 88 min.
Print courtesy of British Film Institute

As the Hollywood blacklist swung into high gear, Losey found an ideal vehicle for his increasing
alienation from the studio system in this striking and much admired reinterpretation of Fritz Lang's classic tale of a tortured child killer and the malignant society that is unable to help him. Losey assembled many of his stellar cast from the New York theater, including Howard da Silva, Norman Lloyd and the talented David Wayne, who adds a new level of perversity and poignant loneliness to his portrayal of M's hunted psychopath. A key American film of the early 1950s, Losey's M offers a dark cautionary tale for the television age that sees the corrupt intertwining of politics and media fanning the flames of mass hysteria.

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Sunday July 13 at 9:15pm

Secret Ceremony

Directed by Joseph Losey.
With Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Mitchum, Mia Farrow
UK 1968, 35mm, color, 109 min.
Print from Universal Studios

Based on a script by radical Hungarian playwright and screenwriter George Tabori, Secret Ceremony is a mysterious film about vulgar characters caught up in an obscure ritual that they can only dimly understand, despite the fact that it controls their actions. All of the baroque tendencies in Losey's cinema find full expression in this lavish, star-studded production – Losey's second film with Elizabeth Taylor – cast this time as a high-end prostitute mourning the recent death of her daughter. The impressive cast also includes Mia Farrow as the waif who bears an uncanny resemblance to the dead girl and Robert Mitchum as her strangely demanding stepfather. The increasing complexity of staging and mise-enscène in Losey's European films is clearly marked in Secret Ceremony's moody and dramatic use of the Art Noveau mansion which, much like the houses in The Servant and The Go-Between, acts as a character in the film.

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Monday July 14 at 7pm

The Servant

Directed by Joseph Losey.
With Dirk Bogarde, James Fox, Sarah Miles
UK 1963, 35mm, b/w, 115 min.
Print courtesy of British Film Institute

Losey's first collaboration with Pinter resulted in the director's best-known and certainly one his very best films. The gradual entrapment of a wealthy layabout – James Fox in his debut role – by his duplicitous manservant, powerfully captured by Bogarde, offers an allegory for the psycho-sexual perversity of the British class system. The screenplay is pure Pinter, with dialogue acting primarily as a ritualistic mask designed, yet ultimately unable, to conceal the characters' misshaped lives. One of the best of Losey's many collaborations with artistic consultant Richard MacDonald, The Servant underscores the decadence of its subject with deliriously extravagant cinematography and mise-en-scène, using unexpected camera angles and frames-within-frames to illustrate the story’s multiple layers of deception, roleplay and power struggle.

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Monday July 14at 9:15pm

The Assassination of Trotsky

Directed by Joseph Losey.
With Richard Burton, Romy Schneider, Alain Delon
Italy/France 1972, 35mm, color, 103 min.
English print with French subtitles
Print from Tamasa Distribution

Among Losey's more openly political works is his sober and gripping reenactment of Leon Trotsky's murder in Mexico
City on August 20, 1940 by an agent of Stalin. Often read as a partial apology for his previously held Stalinist
sympathies, The Assassination also returns to the theme of the intruder central to Losey's cinema and the dark implication that an intruder, like a vampire, must always somehow be invited in. Alain Delon's sangfroid portrait of Trotsky's killer projects both the nefariousness and innocence that are templates for intruders throughout Losey's cinema – although Delon's icy killer remains focused on every detail of his mission, he is also bewildered by the violence of the task assigned him.

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Friday July 18 at 7pm

Eva (aka Eve)

Directed by Joseph Losey.
With Stanley Baker, Jeanne Moreau, Virna Lisi
UK/France 1962, 35mm, b/w, 103 min.
In English and Italian with Finnish subtitles
Print from Kino International

Losey made a bold gambit that his three hour version of Eva would become his most "important" work. Despite the removal of over one hour by its producers, Eva did, in fact, dramatically redefine Losey’s status as a director of European art films. At the heart of this surprisingly dark story of a bored and embittered author and his fatal tryst with a mod seductress are two riveting, careerdefining performances by Stanley Baker as a seedy, Welsh Hemingway figure and Jeanne Moreau as Eva – the cruelest of the many femmes fatales in Losey's cinema, and a fascinating epitome of frayed glamour. Something like an Antonionian film noir, Eva dispassionately observes a writer's total disintegration and defeat in the hands of a cold blooded temptress like a moth caught in a cat's deadly, idle game. With its crisply baroque camera work and mise-en-scène and a gorgeous score by nouvelle vague great Michel Legrand,Eva introduced a new note of eccentricity into Losey's work.

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Friday July 18 at 9:30pm

A Child Went Forth

Directed by Joseph Losey.
US 1941, 35mm, b/w, 20 min.
Print courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art

An early expression of Losey's fascination with alternate perspectives of childhood, this rarely screened poetic documentary depicts life at a progressive camp where rote education is replaced by unsupervised interaction. A product of Losey's association with the seminal leftist film group Frontier Films, A Child Went Forth features the poignant music of noted composer Hans Eisler and the able photography of John Ferno (The Spanish Earth). Losey sold the film to the US government, who saw the short as an effective tool to prepare parents for the possible evacuation of children from cities to rural areas, should that become necessary during the upcoming World War, as it did in London during the Blitz.

The Big Night

Directed by Joseph Losey.
With John Barrymore, Jr., Preston Foster, Joan Lorring
US 1953, 35mm, b/w, 75 min.
Print courtesy of George Eastman House

Among Losey's most powerful and personal films are those that deal, like The Big Night, with youth and the difficult passage into the adult world. John Barrymore, Jr. gives the performance of his tragically foreshortened career in this story of a young man shaken to the core by the sight of his father's humiliation at the hand of a sadistic mobster. Wandering through seedy nightspots, the boy encounters a frightening and fascinating nocturnal world that he has never known. By carefully refusing expected stereotypes, the refreshingly awkward and unpredictable characters in The Big Night reveal the complexity and nuance of character and motivation that stands among the important achievements of Losey's cinema.

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Sunday July 20 at 3pm

Galileo

Directed by Joseph Losey.
With Topol, Edward Fox, Michael Lonsdale
UK 1974, 35mm, color, 143 min.
Print from Kino International

As the first director of Bertolt Brecht's 1947 play Galileo (in which Charles Laughton played the lead
role), Losey was the logical choice to helm the screen adaptation for Ely Landau's American Film Theatre production. Written and produced in the shadow of the anti-Communist witch hunt that ultimately caused both Brecht and Losey's permanent exit from the United States, this story of the seventeenth-century Italian astronomer – forced by the Catholic Church to recant the scientific discoveries that ran counter to religious doxa – had an obvious timeliness. But in typically Brechtian (and Loseyesque) fashion, this Galileo is no hero. Oscillating between narcissism and cowardice, Galileo instead illustrates the necessity, and difficulty, of ethics – a problem as relevant in 1947/74 as 2008. The overtly theatrical nature of performance, dialogue and mise-en-scene in Galileo combine to establish an aptly Brechtian frame between screen and audience.

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Sunday July 20 at 8pm

Time Without Pity

Directed by Joseph Losey.
With Michael Redgrave, Alec McCowen, Leo McKern
UK 1957, 35mm, b/w, 88 min.
Print courtesy of British Film Institute

One of Losey's best British genre films, Time Without Pity is a tense thriller told largely in real time about a recovering alcoholic who has only has twenty-four hours to prove the innocence of his son, who has been sentenced to death for the murder of his girlfriend. Immediately deflecting the whodunit aspect of the plot by revealing the killer in the pre-credit sequence, Losey transforms the film into a furious and moving protest against capital punishment. Time was both the first feature since The Big Night for which Losey could receive a directorial screen credit using his real name and the film that launched his reputation in France as an emerging talent.

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Monday July 21 at 7pm

The Sleeping Tiger

Directed by Joseph Losey.
With Dirk Bogarde, Alexis Smith, Alexander Knox
UK 1954, 35mm, b/w, 89 min.
Print courtesy of British Film Institute

In his first British film, Losey maps the territory of sexually inflected power games, infidelity and simmering class tension that he would spend the rest of his UK career exploring. Dirk Bogarde debuts with Losey as a young tough whose attempt to mug a psychiatrist (Knox) lands him in the doctor's home as part of a social experiment in rehabilitation over punishment, a test that is complicated, inevitably, by the interests of his benefactor's wife (Smith). A fiercely energetic film that far transcends its limited budget and formulaic story, The Sleeping Tiger channeled the resourcefulness of form and performance that Losey learned on the stage and in the Hollywood studios.

A Man on the Beach

Directed by Joseph Losey.
With Donald Wolfit, Michael Medwin, Michael Ripper
UK 1955, 35mm, color, 29 min.
Print courtesy of British Film Institute

An injured thief – dressed in drag – is forced to take refuge in a remote cabin inhabited by a blind poet in this oddity directed by Losey for Hammer Studios. Although Losey viewed A Man on the Beach primarily as a continuation of the experimentation with color begun in The Boy With Green Hair, this early British assignment also continues his exploration of crime, sexual deviancy and mercurial power relationships.

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Monday July 21 at 9:15pm

Les Routes du sud

Directed by Joseph Losey.
With Yves Montand, Laurent Malet, Miou-Miou
France/Spain 1978, 35mm, color, 97 min. French with English subtitles
Print from Tamasa Distribution

Perhaps the most direct link between Losey and Alain Resnais lies in this rarely screened political melodrama, based on the sequel to the novel La Guerre est finie, which Resnais filmed in 1966, with Yves Montand playing more or less the same character in both films. Like The Assassination of Trotsky and Resnais' film, Les Routes du sud looks ruefully back, with reluctant maturity and bitter clarity, at failed political idealism. Montand brings a meditative world-weariness to the part of an exiled Spanish screenwriter living in relative wealth in France but haunted both by Franco's victory and by his own retreat from politics. A late life opportunity to reengage with Spanish politics suddenly allows him to confront his ambivalence about both his past and the son with whom he has grown estranged.

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Friday July 25 at 7pm

The Prowler

Directed by Joseph Losey.
With Van Heflin, Evelyn Keyes, John Maxwell
US 1951, 35mm, b/w, 92 min.
Print from the Harvard Film Archive Collection

Losey's personal favorite of his studio films offers a brilliant critique of the blind careerism of middle-class America. Van Heflin gives a revelatory performance as a corrupt police officer who is both predator and victim, the first in a long series of fractured, contradictory protagonists that recur throughout Losey's films. Co-written by uncredited blacklisted writers Hugo Butler and Dalton Trumbo (who, in an inside joke, speaks the role of the radio dj), The Prowler's jaundiced view of structured family life is a quintessentially Loseyian depiction of human relationships as a perverse and sexually tainted game of power.

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Friday July 25 at 9pm

The Intimate Stranger (aka Finger of Guilt)

Directed by Joseph Losey.
With Richard Basehart, Roger Livesay, Constance Cummings
UK 1956, 35mm, b/w, 95 min.
Print from the Harvard Film Archive Collection

The Intimate Stranger offers an ironic, sordid echo of the situation faced by Losey and its blacklisted screenwriter Howard Koch, best known for his co-authorship of Casablanca. Koch's story substitutes sexual peccadillo for politics as an American film editor, drummed out of Hollywood by an unnamed sex scandal, finds success in England by marrying a powerful producer's daughter. The invitation of an American star – also the writer's ex-girlfriend – brings disaster in the form of a string of anonymous letters from a woman claiming to be another of the writer's former lovers.

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Sunday July 27 at 3pm

Don Giovanni

Directed by Joseph Losey.
With Ruggero Raimondi, Kiri Te Kanawa, José van Dam
Italy/France/Germany 1980, 35mm, color, 185 min. In Italian
Print from Gaumont

Mozart's opera version of the Don Juan legend proves a perfect fit for Losey, with its dark story of an unrepentant libertine – a rapist and murderer – pursued by the aristocrats he has ruthlessly victimized. A summit of Losey's complex mise-en-scène and meticulous attention to period detail, Don Giovanni was shot in Palladian villas in and around Venice and Vicenza. Although Losey cared far more for jazz than opera, he nevertheless managed to direct one of the great opera films, assembling an exquisite cast of opera luminaries and drawing out the Loseyian aspects of Mozart's tragedy of sexual cruelty, infidelity and class conflict.

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Sunday July 27 at 8pm

Figures in a Landscape

Directed by Joseph Losey.
With Robert Shaw, Malcolm McDowell, Henry Woolf
UK 1970, 35mm, color, 110 min.
Print courtesy of George Eastman House

Losey returned to his roots in genre filmmaking in this minimalist reinvention of the paranoid political
thriller so popular in the 1970s. Robert Shaw and Malcolm McDowell are two anonymous fugitives, just escaped from an unknown prison in an unnamed country and relentlessly pursued by a malevolent police helicopter. Despite their sympathy, the local population can do little to help the men and by the end it becomes clear that the two protagonists are playing out another of Losey's rituals of power and role-playing, albeit on a more ambitious scale than usual. Losey reportedly despised the gratuitous violence of the source material and enlisted Shaw's skill as a writer to craft a screenplay that would be a tough critique of militaristic violence. The result remains an intelligent and suspenseful film that powerfully uses the scenario of the chase as an existential metaphor.

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Monday July 28 at 7pm

Accident

Directed by Joseph Losey.
With Dirk Bogarde, Jacqueline Sassard, Stanley Baker
UK 1967, 35mm, color, 105 min.
Print courtesy of the British Film Institute

Often held up as one of Losey's uncontested masterpieces, Accident is a lucid and chilling summary
of his pessimistic view of human relationships, a taut ensemble piece about simmering mid-life dissatisfaction and repression. Focusing on the tense rivalry between two married Oxford dons over an attractive young Austrian student, Accident boasts one of Pinter's finest screenplays, revealing his incredible ability to make even the simplest phrases shimmer with malice and unease. Tracking back and forth from the titular accident, the film unfolds a complex flashback structure that only gradually reveals the labyrinthine relationships between a professor and his colleagues and students. Accident's sophisticated time structure no doubt owes something to Alain Resnais, who returned the favor by professing his unmitigated admiration for the film.

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Monday July 28 at 9pm

The Gypsy and the Gentleman

Directed by Joseph Losey.
With Keith Michell, Melina Mercouri, Flora Robson
UK 1958, 35mm, color, 107 min.
Print courtesy of the British Film Institute

Regency rake meets femme fatale in Losey's first costume drama, set in early nineteenth-century England. A mercenary wastrel enters into an arranged marriage strictly to acquire the dowry, but just before the wedding, he meets the gypsy of the title, played with spirited intensity by Mercouri, in her first English-language role. Full of mutual deceit and tempestuous passion, their role-playing relationship echoes the power games of The Prowler, Eva and The Servant. And like the title characters in those films, Mercouri's gypsy embodies the figure of the outsider, the intruder who awakens the violence and sexuality concealed just below the surface of a rigid social system.

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