Smooth Talk (Joyce Chopra, 1985)
Far from your average coming of age, or teenage-centric film, this brooding and often startling examination of adolescent psychology never panders to the audience, even taking great risks in terms of narrative structure and teasing ambiguity as a means of advancing plot. Connie is a rebellious teenager who understands that she is attractive and attracted to men, but cannot fully comprehend the full range of consequences that come with her adult body. In a car with a boy, she pushes him away because she is too excited, she doesn’t even understand what she is feeling, let alone the psychological and physical consequences of her actions. The film reaches it’s zenith when an older man drives up one day while her family is out, and asks her for a drive. He is a predator, everything she fears in men, but he also couldn’t be more smooth. The way the rather extended sequence of their back and forths play out is incredible in terms of emotion and tension, and the final effect is something of an obscured dream sequence that feels so appropriately out of place.
The Sleeping Tiger (Joseph Losey, 1954)
The allure of Dirk Bogarde as an actor, is that his performances are consistently insincerely sincere. Every smirk, remark and action seem tainted with double meaning and contradictions, there is no truth to his characters, no sincerity, no conscious. In The Sleeping Tiger, he is Frank Clemmons, a petty thief given the option to be treated by a psychologist for 6 months or go to prison… of course, he chooses the former. He is resistant to treatment, and cruelly seems to undermine the efforts of rehabilitation. He even goes so far as courting and seducing the doctor’s wife. The film is about that darkness that lies within all of us, the “sleeping tiger”, that is waiting to be provoked and awakened. We all have a capacity for evil, it only takes the right opportunity and moment, and we let down all of our conceptions of right and wrong. Beyond Bogarde’s electrifying performance, the film is above average, the visual execution is stunning and the use of music especially is startling.The film loses some ground after a “breakthrough” moment on the part of Frank, but is nonetheless an exciting ride.
No truth to Bogarde’s characters? I sincerely disagree. Watch the ‘sincere’ seriousness of his character in KING AND COUNTRY and his other Joe Losey films. You’ll get so much sincerity it will take your breath away. Of course there is double meaning, but it does not equate with lack of truth, lack of conscious. On the contrary.
When Bogarde played a role, it was seamless. He became the person in all his dimensions.
You are on mark in your second half as you comment on the film and move away from broad generalizations about Bogarde the actor.