The Sleeping Tiger (Joseph Losey / United Kingdom, 1954):

Denied country and billing, Joseph Losey makes masterpieces anyway. "London... a winter’s night." "No slum brother," the young hood (Dirk Bogarde) stays at the home of the psychiatrist (Alexander Knox) he tried to mug for a six-month therapeutic sojourn. While the doc passes his verdict on the juvenile’s circle of pain ("Hate, guilt, and fear"), his American wife (Alexis Smith) goes through her own psychic-carnal program with Bogarde, from contempt to abandon. The exile’s coiled comedy of abrasion and displacement. Dissolving homes and psyches, Lacan and Glaucus, a print by Miró amid the doctor’s rigid bric-a-brac: Losey’s revolt against the stylistic lid of realism, started in The Boy with Green Hair, finds its place (a bourgeois dungeon of mirrors) as the Yank’s brute force collides with the gentility of 1950s British cinema. The titular beast lurks in "the dark secret of every human personality," the geometrically charted aristocratic mansion and the liquid, sexed-up jazz dive are equal arenas of power plays. The young misfit is soothed as the lady of the house is inflamed, Bogarde’s breakthrough with Knox is too pat to pacify Smith’s freed fervor: "It’s a little too late in the day for conscience." The beauty of the film is in the way it keeps pushing past the pop-Freud resolution of the hero’s troubles and into a stormy parallel narrative of repressed female ardor, modulating from Knock on Any Door toward Senso. Smith’s passionately crumbling patrician takes over, both as Losey’s expat proxy ("I came from two homes thousands of miles apart, and I was a stranger in both of them") and the motor thrusting the story toward its psychosexual climax. Losey finds a Ricci composition behind the mangled Esso billboard (the Leaping Tiger) the heroine's car barreled through, the signature of an artist willing to set up sledgehammer symbols only to tear them apart. With Hugh Griffin, Patricia McCarron, Maxine Audley, Glyn Houston, and Harry Towb. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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