WHO is he?

American scenarist, film and theatre director who made over 30 feature films between the 1940s and the 1980s. Losey was blacklisted in Hollywood by the House Committee on Un-American Activities for his connections with the Communist Party and he moved to England, where the greater part of his career unfolded. His film The Go-Between won the Golden Palm at Cannes Film Festival in 1971.

WHAT are his films about?

Themes

Losey's films are very political and explore the politics in the relationship between genders, classes and identity groups. Characters are emotionally unstable, appear to inhabit a heightened, more-politicised reality and are frequently forced to break out of their socially-defined roles and to come out of their secure, conservative lives. They are made to confront their antitheses, only to have them realise that they are dependent on each other for their existence. The physical space of a house, with its connotations of security, warmth and affluence, holds a central position in these works.

Style

Losey worked with radical theatre theorist and director Bertolt Brecht, whose method informs his later films. His style is notably ornate, with numerous camera movements, unsettling angles, contrasting use of music and deep compositional spaces. The three films in which he collaborated with Harold Pinter are especially abstracted, with fragmented dialogue and anti-naturalistic acting. Perhaps most significant is Losey's use of architecture and interior spaces — typically claustrophobic or extreme — to reflect the psychology of the characters.

WHY is he of interest?

Widely considered a British filmmaker despite being an American, Joseph Losey is one of the few filmmakers who had to leave America for Europe to find work. Informed by left-wing analytical acumen, Losey’s films explore the influence of politics in relationship between individuals and everyday interactions without resorting to reductive worldviews or convenient good/evil characterisations.

WHERE to discover him?

Though made at the twilight of Losey's career, Mr. Klein (1976) ranks among his greatest achievements and stars French icon Alain Delon as a wealthy art-dealer in Nazi-occupied Paris increasingly obsessed with searching out a Jewish man who shares the same name, in the process losing his own identity. This remarkably directed film charts the transition of the protagonist from apolitical apathy to commitment as he is forced to recognise the existence of an invisible “other” that, he learns, gives meaning to his own.

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