From Publishers Weekly
Novelist and historian Caute's (Frantz Fanon) biography of director Losey (1909-1984) is admirably judicious and articulate. At their worst, Losey's films were pretentious and stylistically overwrought. His best married "human emotion to the physical world," as in his famous collaborations with playwright Harold Pinter, especially The Servant (1963) and The Go-Between (1971), the summit of Losey's career, according to Caute. The author examines the leftist sympathies that color Losey's life and work: he collaborated with a thorny Bertolt Brecht, staging Galileo in New York City; blacklisted, he fled to England to avoid the protracted scrutiny of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Caute also explores the pervasive misogyny in Losey's films and attributes "his lifelong hostility towards women" to his unfavorable image of his mother. Though the director worked successfully with such headstrong talents as Jeanne Moreau, Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Fonda, perhaps only Elizabeth Taylor was spared his prickly hostility-in films like Boom! that ironically were among his worst. Photos.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
This mean-spirited recounting of the life of the expatriate American filmmaker gives a new meaning to the term ``critical biography.'' As profiled by Caute, a prolific author with a specialty in the history of the political left (Sixty-Eight: The Year of the Barricades, 1988, etc.), filmmaker Joseph Losey emerges as a domineering, womanizing sourpuss, a humorless, often dour man with a certain visual flair and a knack for alienating longtime friends. Caute traces Losey's career in a needlessly complicated structure of flash-forwards and flashbacks, beginning with the 1963 triumph of The Servant, his first collaboration with screenwriter Harold Pinter. He then moves back to Losey's childhood in Wisconsin (Losey was one of a trio of great filmmakers from that state who emerged in Hollywood in the '40s, the others being Orson Welles and Nicholas Ray), his years at Dartmouth, his budding radicalism, his stage work in the '30s, and onward to his Hollywood work. Losey was blacklisted because of his Communist affiliations and left the US to avoid a subpoena, continuing his career in England, Italy, and eventually France. Caute follows his growing reputation as a ``European'' filmmaker, his long collaborations with Pinter, Dirk Bogarde, and cinematographer Gerry Fisher. He describes each of Losey's films in detail but seems neither engaged with nor interested in them. The book is a stifling compilation of minutiae, and Caute never lets a statement by his subject go unchallenged. But why should recollections by Losey's sister or by his collaborators be more reliable than Losey's own? The book's elaborately nonchronological structure renders Losey's development as an artist all but opaque, and Caute's literal-minded readings of the films, filled with quibbles about plausibility and faithfulness to details of British class structure, reveal his blindness to the films' own universes. An encyclopedic catalog of Losey's shortcomings and sins, unleavened by any sense of historical context, artistic development, or even sympathy for his work. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.