Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Ipcress File (Film)

A treat to see this again, courtesy of iplayer. And to itemise the pleasures: the very young Michael Caine winning us over from the first shots of him making a proper pot of coffee; the drab, dingy look of 1965 London; the observation of class, with officer types sporting blimpish moustaches, enjoying military bands and valiantly negotiating supermarkets; satirical stuff about bureaucratic forms and clearance procedures (Ooh, you'll never get a CC1!); the amazing range of camera angles, which have us looking over people's shoulders, up at the ceiling, in focus, out of focus, making us feel like we're spying on the spies; John Barry's score, making a memorable motif capture different moods through inventive arrangements; and the use of sound elsewhere, like the humming lights in the garage scene; the whiff of science and technology without the gimmicky gadgets of Bond; and the super-smooth villainy which stays just this side of nutty caricature. Well, that's plenty of items. I still don't quite get why Mr Bad Guy is allowed to stroll around London with his heavies with impunity: perhaps they have nothing concrete on him?  No one seems to object to doing deals with terrorists - but presumably that's part of the 'we're all dirty in this trade' message. And why wasn't the Caine character just bumped off? Perhaps he was useful for experimental data. Or something. Anyway, it's about style, not plot, and The Ipcress File oozes with it. Like Le Carre, it gives us a sardonic and searching picture of the Brit establishment groping about in a post-imperial world. Years since I read Deighton, but I remember being addicted to Game, Set and Match once upon a time. Must make a return visit to that, too.