Thursday, January 22, 2015

Celluloid London: A Dandy in Aspic

A Dandy in Aspic (1968), a cold war spy thriller set in the UK and Germany, was Anthony Mann's last film. He suffered a fatal heart attack while filming in West Berlin and the film was completed by its star Laurence Harvey.

After the opening sequence which seems to be shot in Surrey, the first half of the film is entirely set in London and demonstrates a cleverly mapped series of movements in the city which I have pinpointed here:

Unlike many other London films of the period, Anthony Mann's move in London is geographically rational. By that I mean eschewing the urban inaccuracies of films such as Victim, in which when the car turns around a street, we face an impossible jump to a location miles away.

What Mann does is keeping every move in the city within the logic of its material space, hence drawing a map in audience's mind which intensifies the relation between the drama and the place.

Even the Berlin part, a city which I barely know, benefits from the same intensity and accuracy of cinetopographical mapping. I believe it is the same consistency which gives an authentic feeling to Mann's even older, studio-built films such as Side Street (1950).

The exterior movement of A Dandy in Aspic, as you see marked on the map in order of their introduction in the film, develops like this:
1: Café Royal, 68 Regent Street.

2: Albert Terrace Mews. Outside Mia Farrow's studio.

3: Driving from Mia Farrow's to the south, via Battersea Bridge

4: A spy in wait to meet his contact. It must be a location close to Saint Thomas' site.

5: Laurence Harvey meeting a Russian agent in what seems to be under Bridge City pier or London Bridge.

6: Outside a council house on Cable Street, E1, where the Russian agent gets killed.

1 comment:

  1. This is one of those kind of ideas I like, approaching movies in a new way.