Darling (1965) – Re-Issue

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Darling 1965 with julie christie
In the opening images of John Schlesinger’s cynical, rags to riches satire, Darling, we see the imagery of poverty from third world countries being covered up by the pretty face of the main character, Diana Scott (played by Julie Christie), along with the tagline ‘My Story’ plastered beside her face. This juxtaposition of the unpleasant with the beautiful is at the heart of Schlesinger’s ‘true-life’ story of a self-made model in the 1960s who is willing to exploit her sexual appeal to make it to the top, all the while hiding the truth from the public.

Moving from bed to bed to reach the top (and banging her head on the ceiling once she gets there), Diana becomes involved with a slue of shallow media moguls, from Dirk Bogarde’s TV producer Robert Gold, to the sleazy advertisement agent Miles Brand (Laurence Harvey).

Chipping away her dignity piece by piece, the naïve Diana is constantly looking for her next step up, unafraid to be sexual in a time when female empowerment was growing. And Diana certainly turns heads as she flaunts around London, Paris, and eventually a rural town in Italy. But her jet-set life becomes shallower and more isolating than she might have thought it would be.

Julie Christie as Diana Scott in Darling 1965For all Diana’s fearlessness to use all her powers to get ahead, at times it is hard to see with whom the power lies amongst the many male/female conflicts that plague Diana’s life. She never divulges her true motivation for becoming a poster girl or why she’s so callous to those around her. Without knowing this it’s hard to decide if her manoeuvres can really be considered a success for her.

Early on we hear a voiceover from Diana as she tells her story to an unseen interviewer, but it only scratches the surface of what is inside the head of this young woman. She effectively trades her sex for success, but to what ends? Success in itself? We’re never let in on the answer, and as a result this aspect of the film feels a tad superficial. Either way, the interview-framing device soon vanishes, leaving the opening monologues to feel very redundant.

Garnering three Oscars and four BAFTA’s, Darling was certainly popular upon release, and it shot Schlesinger onto a career path that would lead him to direct 1969’s Midnight Cowboy, and 1976’s Marathon Man. But the year of Darling’s release belonged to the film’s star, Julie Christie, as she won Best Actress for her part in Darling and also starred in the epic Doctor Zhivago. There’s no doubting that Christie is a fantastic presence in Darling, commenting on whilst also being a part of the 60’s movement of freeing oneself from a traditional buttoned up way of thinking. It’s certainly cynical towards the modelling and movie industry, but this is nothing particularly refreshing and it leaves the essence of the story to revolve around the relationship between men and women in media.

It’s easy to compare Schlesinger’s cinematic style and attitude towards the narrative as derivative of what Godard and Bergman were doing during the radical 60’s film era, and Darling is certainly a captivating watch in parts. Despite its somewhat baggy pacing that causes the film to drag towards its final act – Darling is worth catching if you have an interest in British cinema or a taste for the swinging 60’s.

Darling is released as part of the Studio Canal Vintage Classics Collection on DVD and Blu-Ray. Available from March 30th.

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Whilst swinging from trees of the independent filmmaking world is only a part time pursuit - now it’s other jungles this Gorilla pursues. Oliver began writing film reviews for his universities newspaper before graduating in Film & TV Production.

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