Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Nice Dirk if you can get it

Perhaps appropriately for a film that is about the confusion that ensues when a cool intellect experiences hot emotion, 'Sebastian' (1968) is a haphazard and meandering film that staggers about, reaches no particular conclusion and takes a hundred diversions en route. But it’s full of memorable bits, packed with good performances and is set to a marvellous soundtrack.

Archduke Dirk Bogarde is Sebastian, a brittle and emotionally congested academic who heads up a code breaking unit in London firmly at the forefront of Britain’s cold war defences. Seemingly oblivious to the fact that he is surrounded by young women (their minds are best at cryptography) he lives a solitary life in a bedsit with horrible wallpaper, obsessively working and compulsively making notes, occasionally hooking up with an alcoholic pop star with whom he is conducting a half-hearted affair.

Enter swinging Susannah York, a free wheeling model / it girl with a dangerously non-comformist attitude (she drives a jeep and wears a furry waistcoast) who is fascinated by Dirky’s snooty attitude and sets her trendy beret at snagging him, taking a job at the unit to get near him. & get near him she does, pitching him into an unfamiliar world where, for once, his head doesn’t have all the answers.

Throw in an evil foreign power, a secret code transmitting satellite, LSD, CND, Dirk frugging (sort of) to The Foundations and you have a very diverting one hour and forty minutes kept chugging along by under-rated director David Greene (follow the tags to see previous Greene entries). The performances are pretty good and the cast is great – as well as Bogarde and York, we get Sir John Gielgud, Lilli Palmer, Nigel Davenport, Donald Sutherland and Ronald Fraser – and the music is excellent.

The main score is by the marvellous Jerry Goldsmith, with electronic effects by our old friend Tristram Cary. ‘First Day At Work’ is a good prĂ©cis of the whole score, incorporating all the main musical motifs in an interesting and inventive arrangement. ‘The Trip’ is all dissonance and ominous twanging, as seen in the accompanying video footage below.

‘Sputnik Code’ is an electronic creation by Mr. Cary designed to evoke the Russian codes transmitted from space that Sebastian, with his head and loins in turmoil, struggles to crack until an unplanned encounter with a baby called Jason

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