30 March 2015

Blu-ray Review - Darling (1965)

BD Release Date:
30th March 2015
John Schlesinger
Julie Christie, Dirk Bogarde, Laurence Harvey, Roland Curram, Alex Scott
Buy: Darling - [Blu-ray]

Darling stars Julie Christie at the height of her fame during the 1960s. John Schlesinger, who would go on to make other classic films later like Midnight Cowboy and Marathon Man, directed it. It’s a terribly dated, but fascinating slice of the swinging 60s.

Christie plays the model/actress Diane Scott in the midst of the changing values of the swinging 60s. She is married to an immature yet perfectly decent bloke, but she meets a literary interview/TV personality Robert Gold (Dirk Bogarde) and they start an affair. Both of their respective marriages end and they end up getting married. Scott however isn’t faithful to her husband and screws the advertising executive Myles Brand (Laurence Harvey) so she can get a part in a euro trash thriller. The rest of the film is basically the inner conflicts she has with herself, and the relationships she has with both men and eventually a third while she rises in her fame. Near the end of the film she is hounded by a paparazzi.

Julie Christie of course looks great in the film; one of the film’s Oscars was for best costume design. Bogarde who as everyone knows was a tormented man (he was gay) gives a performance of world-weariness and dissatisfaction with his middle class life and brings some much-needed darkness. Laurence Harvey however is the standout as Gold, he is a amoral and corrupt to the core, he is so twisted and evil it reminds me of the Bill Hicks routine where he tell anyone in advertising to “kill yourself, it’s the only way to save your fucking soul”.

The film attempts to be a satire on the emptiness of the rich white middle class lifestyle. The film has an extremely unsubtle opening where a poster of Diane covers a charity poster of poverty stricken kids in Africa. However the satire never really works, there is a scene where they are upper class ball/dinner and black kids are dressed up in servants’ costumes. It’s obviously supposed to show up the hosts as racist bigots but it just left a bad taste in my mouth.

The film does look best as a dark cynical slice of British New Wave cinema. It is taking it’s cues from Truffaut, Godard and most overtly Antonioni. The 3 leads are outstanding in this forward thinking film. At the time it was a daring film that touched on abortion, homosexuality, infidelity, the changing sexual roles in society etc. The hipness of the film is too knowing for it’s own good, and the lack of knowledge of popular music is strange, there is like one pop song in the whole film despite the mention of Diane’s large record collection early on. It’s certainly doesn’t nail the zeitgeist as much as the later Blow-Up, or even Schlesinger’s game changer Midnight Cowboy, but it’s a solid film.

Ian Schultz

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