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A Deserter in Forties Drag
George Melly reviews Stephen Dwoskin's Dyn Amo, Observer Review, 18th November 1972

EXACTITUDE in a film-maker, loving attention to detail, inspires trust. Michael Apted, director of The Triple Echo (The Universal Theatre, Lower Regent Street) and a new graduate from the small screen to the large, has this virtue. Set in Wiltshire, based on a powerful if rather melodramatic story of H. E. Bates, Apted's first film suspends disbelief because it places a bizarre sequence of events in the exact landscape of wartime England.

The story is simple yet bizarre. A farmer's wife, whose husband is a Japanese prisoner of war, becomes friendly with a young conscript, also a country boy, who mends her tractor and then becomes her lover. He spends his leave with her and decides to go AWOL and stay on. To avoid suspicion she dresses him, reluctant to begin with, as a girl, her 'sister' In proof that, in this case, the clothes unmake the man, he grows increasingly more feminine and their relationship changes in consequence. She becomes the wife in a surrogate lesbian household, worrying over the bills while he, his nails painted, lazes petulantly in a chair.

A rival enters, a randy foul mouthed brute of an NCO who lusts after the transvestite and persuades him to come to the Sergeant's Christmas ball. A grope reveals all, and nemesis follows. For the second time this year a filmed version of one of Bates's stories ends with a shot-gun fired for complicated motives from a farmhouse window.

It's visually ravishing, intended as poetry, not prose, but although I liked it very much indeed I can see why many people may find it pretentious and self-indulgent. The marvellous Blues Like Showers of Rain remains to share the bill.

After two showings the London Film Festival, Steve Dwoskin's Dyn Amo is to have a season at the Electric Cinema Club, 191 Portobello Road, and can also be seen at the ICA this evening and on 26 November. Not so much based on the play by Chris Wilkinson as suggested by it, the film is set in a tatty Soho strip club. Four girls do their act, the first three with contemptuous lack of conviction, the obscenity lying in the indifferent pantomime, the denial of eroticism.

The fourth girl is a different case. She is assaulted, insulted and handled by some indifferent men, turned from a doll into a suffering girl. Towards the end of the film the camera stays on her beautiful face. She struggles to suppress her hysteria, twists her hair, bites her hand, tries to smile while her lip trembles. It's painful to watch but very moving. I haven't liked Dwoskin's earlier work but this is a real film. The final sequence, with the girl restored to impersonal nudity surrounded by her persecutors holding sparklers, is remarkable. Gavin Bryars's music takes an important contribution to its success.

George Melly
George Melly is a Jazz performer, writer and art lecturer. He was critic for the Observer from 1965-1973.
Observer Review
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