Friday, 1 May 2015

PRESSURE POINT











d. Hubert Cornfield (1962)


I've always loved films about psychoanalysis, mainly because they provide so much scope for offbeat and inventive attempts to turn the objective camera into a subjective eye. I particularly enjoy dream sequences, haunting visuals, unusual staging, blurred edges, atonal electronic music and lots and lots of mime. Pressure Point is almost mainstream in many ways, but has some fascinating components that keep it plenty weird enough for consideration on this somewhat specialist blog. 

The very great Sidney Poitier is the prison psychiatrist, Bobby Darin the prisoner patient, an American Nazi imprisoned when the USA entered the war with Germany. They are diametrically opposed from the outset, of course, but the tension between the racist loser and the black high flier sparks some soul searching from each of them, which makes for a fascinating conflict. 

Their sessions together open up all sorts of odd, abstract flashbacks from Darin's less than illustrious past, sometimes staged in anonymous dreamscapes (the scenes where a young Darin bullies his imaginary friend), sometimes in Poitier's office (the venue for a fantasy about Darin ordering an elephant to stand on his pathetic hypochondriac Mother's head). It's pretty intense, particularly the restaging of a unsettling incident in which Darin and his drunken friends play Noughts and Crosses on every available surface in a bar - including the landlord's wife.   

Although the narrative is framed as a fairly conventional tale of triumph over adversity, Pressure Point does a lot more besides, riveting the attention and stimulating the imagination, and the performances, particularly from the under-rated Darin, are excellent. 

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