Film Scouts Diaries

2012 Torino Film Festival Diaries
Part 4

by Henri Béhar

Joseph Losey : The Panel

The venue: a film theatre not far from the Corso Vittorio Emmanuele II. An almost full house where "regular" filmgoers mix (collide?) with Italian film critics and historians. At the centre of the table, facing the crowd: Patricia ("Pat") Losey, the director's widow and actress Sarah Miles (The Servant, Steaming). Bookending them, so to speak, two aficionados/world experts on all things Losey. On the left, Michel Ciment, critic, magazine editor (Positif), film teacher and author of The Book of Losey, a Hitchcock-Truffaut-like conversation. On the right, Pierre Rissient, film guru extraordinaire who, in his younger days as a "press attaché" (as PRs were called then), almost single-handedly established Losey as a major filmmaker – certainly in Europe (America caught on much later).


Soon after the participants were introduced, the question came up: What is going on with Eva? Was it the true director's cut we saw a day or two ago? If not, is there a "complete" director's cut? And if there is, where is it? At which point, Ciment and Rissient launched into a heated debate: "Originally, it was 155 minutes. – Then it was cut down to 116. –But the UK version is slightly different. – Yes, but in France… -- The most complete one is in Finland. – Still…" As the two men went gleefully at each other (though they are the closest friends), Pat Losey's and Sarah Miles's heads were shifting left to right, right to left, as if they were watching the Wimbledon finals. Until Sarah Miles gracefully piped in: "Does it really matter?"

The situation now gently but firmly back under control, the two women finally had their say. Excerpts:

Pat Losey: "Working with Joseph Losey was not easy – but we talked a lot. Of course, on Don Giovanni, [librettist] Da Ponte had written the perfect script."

Sarah Miles: "The key word was 'Trust'. (…) [On the set] he was a Teddy bear… certainly compared to David Lean!" (Lean directed her in Ryan's Daughter)

Pat Losey: "He loved actors. He gave them space."

Reminiscing her first experience with Losey on The Servant, Sarah Miles, who comes from Great-Britain's upper-class, remembers being scolded by her mother for a) playing – eek! – a maid; and b) having a sex scene with James Fox (Miles's boyfriend at the time.) "She said: 'How could you humiliate us this way?' Only when the first reviews came in – all glowing – did she [back-pedal] and purr 'how proud she was' of her daughter! (…) Besides, there is no sex scene in the film. It is shot in such a way that you think there is one. Well, there is one, but only in the viewer's mind." (I checked on the DVD, she is right)

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