Released by the BFI Flipside strand, Jerry Skolimowski's 1970 film is ripe for reappraisal.
Although released in 1970, Deep End can be considered the last great British film of the swinging 1960s - which tells the unrequited love story of naive teenager Mike (John Moulder-Brown) and Susan (Jane Asher), after Mike takes a job at a rundown public baths where Susan is the female attendant.
Skolimowski's foriegn eye and view as an outsider pays credence here, as he has no objective viewpoint of public culture in London or is not making a comment about Englishness. The Polish filmmaker is more concerned about his characters, their hopes and dreams, fears and aspirations. He is very much linked to Mike and how his desire for Susan can be both uncertain and both definite in its totality.
Mike first makes physical contact with Susan by rubbing her up in a porn theatre whilst she is on a date with her fiance (a scene that might have been lightly plagarised by Taxi Driver for awkwardness sake), and it is a wonderfully handled scene where the camera is predominantly fixed on Asher in the middle gaze and Brown swaying in the background. After her initial compliant, Susan kisses Mike fully on the lips and she turns back and smiles lightly - but you can tell she is happy she has done it. Mike is needless to say delirious. But a scene that could have been farcical is instead handled maturely.
Like a lot of swinging 60s cinema, there are moments of submissiveness (Diana Dors' cameo as a woman getting off on the name Georgie Best), permissiveness (the idea of a 15 year old engaging in a physical relationship - but this is no rites of passage story) and anti-authority (all the suits are stuffy and has beens).
Much like his compatriot Polanski's own London set film (Repulsion, 1967), the film follows a luminous lead female but on this occasion Jane Asher is not the one driven to distraction. Moulder-Brown's engaging lead performance as Mike holds the film together.
The film though can be held up as an example of sexual politics as Susan, mainly due to her age, manipulates the emotions of Mike leading to the bewildering conclusion.
Yet what remains true is the brilliant direction of Skolimowski - who handles Mike like a barometer for the temperature of a changing London, and uses fantasy sequences to his advantage to develop Mike more as an individual and utilise the fine camerawork of Charly Steinberger. The film also had a brilliant soundtrack by then up and coming Cat Stevens and French rock band, Can.
The DVD is released by the BFI Flipside on Monday 18th July. Special features include a Skolimowski's documentary (74mins), Deep End:Deleted scenes (12mins), Original theatrical trailer, a Jane Asher short from 1977, Careless Love (10mins) and essays from David Thompson, Yvonee Tasker and Skolimowski's expert Ewa Mazierska.