Goodbye Gemini

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Sometimes known as Twinsanity – a title that promises way too much – Goodbye Gemini is a peculiar British film from 1970, and is perhaps best bracketed with Performance, which came out the same year.

It’s a 1960s Swinging London film with a hangover, the day after the night before, and stars Judy Geeson and Martin Potter as a pair of blond fraternal twins who arrive wide-eyed in the big city and are then plunged into a maelstrom of metropolitan hipness, where they struggle to keep their heads while everyone around them parties like it’s the end of times.

Of the two of them, Julian (Potter) struggles more. Jacki (Geeson) isn’t burdened with a sibling sexual fixation, unlike Julian, and so adapts easily to London life when groovy London face Clive (Alexis Kanner) introduces them to all its worldly temptations in a grand tour of all the vices of the times, sex across traditional boundaries being vice number one (though in many ways Julian and Jacki are ahead of Clive, unless he’s also got an incest thing going on).

As in Performance, the arc consists of a transfer of almost vampiric hipness, from the Mick Jagger character to the one played by James Fox in Performance, from Kanner’s Clive to Potter’s Julian here, with death always lurking as a possibility if the procedure goes wrong.

It’s another Lord of Misrule performance from Kanner, who’d also been pivotal in the closing episodes of Patrick McGoohan’s quintessentially 1960s TV show The Prisoner. Though what the Canadian-raised Kanner’s accent is meant to be is anyone’s guess – Irish? Cockney?

Buoyed by 1967’s To Sir, with Love, Geeson was riding high at the time, and this is another of her steely dolly-bird numbers, while Potter does OK here, as the confused, hurt and out-of-his-depth little boy who can’t grow up, better certainly than he did in Fellini’s Satyricon the previous year, where he was woeful.

A bizarre almost-role goes to Freddie Jones as one of the older guys on the swinging scene, presumably a chickenhawk hoping to pick up a wounded fledgling, and Michael Redgrave is in the offramp of his career as a politician and TV personality who might swing any way available and is also skimming the surface of youth culture for whatever’s floating.

A transvestite on the London scene

This is a very well directed film (by Alan Gibson, who’d later do two late-arrival Dracula movies with Christopher Lee) with lovely technicals. Geoffrey Unsworth (of A Night to Remember, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Tess) gives it the soft, hazy, pastelly look of a high-spend early 1970s advert and Christopher Gunning’s score is just right, particularly when things get urgent and a touch of Pyscho strings are called for. The sets are gorgeous, overstuffed, red-plush and very Victorian. There is mood to burn.

Full of non sequiturs and psychological dead ends, with a topcoat of freak-out horror to make up for other shortcomings, the whole thing doesn’t quite work but it is a hellishly interesting failure. It’s all bun and no beef, and might have done better if it had retained the grand elements of Greek tragedy in Jenni Hall’s original novel, Ask Agamemnon. These survive in remnant form as a black teddy bear called Agamemnon – symbol of the twins’ childlike manner – who is consulted whenever the going gets tough.

The fabulous house that the twins live in is on Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, a hip part of town. Mick Jagger had a house on the same road when this was being made, and it’s easy see the film as being about the 1960s themselves, with the twins representing something that’s gone wrong in the zeitgeist, the siblings who are struggling to grow up, while around them everyone continues partying even though the party is over.

Poorly received at the time, it arrived on screens at the same time as Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly, another film with a suggestion of incest. Both got a hard time in the press as a backlash against the permissive 1960s took hold.

An intensely prescient film ushering in the bleaker 1970s? Or a Swinging London movie late to the party made by squares desperate to be hip? Fascinating.

Goodbye Gemini – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2023

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