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The Complete Joseph Losey
Part Two

For nearly all of his long and remarkably productive career, Joseph Losey (1909-1984) was a filmmaker in exile. Losey's brief yet promising Hollywood career was abruptly derailed when his outspoken commitment to leftist politics made him a choice target of the House Un-American Activities Committee. Threatened by almost certain blacklisting and possible imprisonment, Losey fled to Europe in search of work and political sanctuary. Once abroad, he began to refine his more complex, mature style and draw the attention of European critics – especially the French, who first recognized him as an important auteur. Although Losey remained deeply contemptuous of the American film industry, he nevertheless longed, in vain, to make another film in his native land. Losey's difficult experience of the blacklist and the long, wandering life of an expatriate indelibly marked his career, shaping certain dominant motifs of his films – the recurring figure of the outsider, the recasting of class and gender roles into dark, ritualistic role-play, and the pessimistic representation of mainstream society as a world ruled by coldness, hypocrisy and implacable violence.

The extraordinary range of Losey's oeuvre is showcased in the HFA's once-in-a-lifetime complete retrospective. Beyond the bold, uncompromising political convictions that unite Losey's work lies a rich and underappreciated experimental vein that alternately embraces the high camp of Boom! and Modesty Blaise, the sheer, wonderful weirdness of Secret Ceremony and the sophisticated comedy of The Romantic Englishwoman. The seeming contradictions of Losey's oeuvre remain among its most fascinating aspects – its marriage of mid-Western chastity with European decadence, of fierce political allegory with an obscure, operatic aesthetic and a restless searching for redemption and spirituality within the worn and degraded. Losey's status as one of postwar America and Europe's most accomplished filmmakers rests in the rare and often uneasy balance found within all of his work between complexity and lucidity, between profundity and shimmering, treacherously entrancing reflective surfaces.

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