The Servant

1963, Movie, NR, 115 mins

Review

SERVANT, THE
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Opaque but hypnotically absorbing allegory of power, exploitation, and sublimated sexuality in a class-based society. British screenwriter Harold Pinter and expatriate American director Joseph Losey (he'd run afoul of anti-Communist witch-hunters in the US) married disparate sensibilities to tell the story of a dissipated Cockney servant (Dirk Bogarde) who trades roles with his master (James Fox), a classically effete aristocrat.

Although THE SERVANT's critical reputation has declined in recent years, it was initially received as an important, groundbreaking film, and won British Academy Awards for Best Actor (Bogarde), Most Promising Newcomer (Fox), and Best Cinematography (Douglas Slocombe, whose astonishing credit list encompasses over 70 films, including major works by Alexander Mackendrick, Roman Polanski, Steven Spielberg, John Huston, and Ken Russell). Pinter's adaptation of Robin Maugham's novel employs his customary strategies (e.g., fractured dialogue, cryptic silences, pregnant discussions of ostensible trivialities) but lacks the cockeyed humor of his best work for the stage. (Pinter appears in a cameo as a society man.) After working in major films throughout the 60s, Fox experienced a religious conversion in 1973 and retired from movies for several years. He is the younger brother of Edward Fox (DAY OF THE JACKAL, A BRIDGE TOO FAR), with whom he is often confused. leave a comment

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