The Servant (4K restoration) ****
Starring: Dirk Bogarde, James Fox, Sarah Miles, Wendy Craig
Director: Joseph Losey
In 1963, Biritsh matinee idol Dirk Bogarde (Victim, Death In Venice) won a BAFTA for his performance as Barrett, the titular manservant in Joseph Losey's The Servant, which would be the first of four collaborations with the director. To celebrate the centenery of Boagrde's birth, Studiocanal have issued a new 4K restoration of the classic movie. Written by lauded playwright Harold Pinter based on a novella by Robin Maugham, the character's overt homosexuality in the original source material was dilluted during adaptation to suit its 1963 release, but Bogarde - who was gay and living in the closet at the time - was able to maintain restrained and coded references to these origins in his remarkable performance.
Tony (Fox - A Passage To India, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory) is an upper-class bachelor who has recently bought a stylish London townhouse. He employs Barrett as his manservant and the two settle into domestic cohabitation fairly easily. Tony's girlfriend (Craig - The Nanny) takes an instant dislike to the servant, however, who convinces his empolyer that he also needs a maid, suggesting his fiance Vera (Miles - Blowup, Ryan's Daughter) but pretending she is his sister. It's not long before Tony and Vera become involved sexually and the four inhabit the house with increasing resentment, awkwardness and downright suspicion toward each other.
Last year's Parasite is a clear development on The Servant, which similarly sees the staff of a rich household trying to usurp their masters. For though Barrett is a dutiful and loyal valet on the surface, his actions behind closed doors are self-serving and discontent. The house becomes a goldfish bowl inside which he aims to flip the social dynamic, with his caustic and decidedly British stiff upper-lip masking his Machiavellian envy. A superb performance from Bogarde, this icy but complex character maintains the homoeroticism of its origins, even if it doesn't play them out literally.
This crisp 4K reissue sees this landmark film restored to its former glory. The work of great auteur Losey (The Go-Between, Accident, Monsieur Klein), this great British classic was a landmark moment in LGBT+ film and this loving restoration is a must-have for cinema fans.
UK Release: 4K UHD Collector’s edition Blu-Ray, DVD & Digital from 20th September, released by Studiocanal.