Farewell, Film Review! — Film notes..
Farewell, Film Review!
We suppose it was too good to last. For some 500 (is that correct?) weeks, the National Film Unit at Miramar has been turning out their Weekly Review. At the beginning, they were undoubtedly pretty corny at times; the audience could sense this, and were a little hard on the lapses—the marching opening became one of the national institutions for a while—remember? There were times, too, when the messages were just too frightfully earnest about rationing or careless talk or some other deadly serious topic treated too seriously.
It's hard to say when the weekly Review really became adult. The film which first stood out might have been "Coal Comes from Westland" which was a documentary with some real [unclear: sense] of the locality and the people who live their lives out in it. The Unit moved on from strength to strength—not without occasional backward lapses; true, it produced a lot of junk, and much of this was of the inevitable newsreel style which loses its glory even faster. Nevertheless, it managed to get on to celluloid odd comers of the New Zealand scenery and industry which no-one else has been able to capture; and anything which does a small bit to show one section of the community to others in a human light is doing an essential service.
"The Coaster" will possibly be remembered as the full flowering of the reviews. Starting somewhat self consciously in the tracks of Auden and the "Night Mail," with a poetic sound track which was always interesting rather than in tune with the movement of the scene, it did catch, though, a genuine enough atmosphere. The film on the Railways in some ways was even better: it had the good qualities which marked the Unit's productions. But now and again, it got too far ahead of the public—and not even the intriguing Lilburn music saved its Eurhythmies from the philistine New Zealand audiences—who greeted scenes which would have pleased a continental audience with either bored sighs or smutty giggles.
But still, the Unit had its feet on the' ground most of the time, and we traversed a fairly wide section of New Zealand Industry with them.
Unlike a lot of overseas films of the same sort, the local product was never overawed by the mechanics of industry into forgetting people: it may be that it was fortunate, because our industries are seldom in large enough units to make the men look small. But however it was, the Unit started from the men and worked out. And as we said before, anything which does something to show one section of the community to another is doing an essential service.
Wait a moment, though! Did we say "essential"? But it can't be. It may be true that society is big and unwieldy, and the very amorphous nature of it makes one section unlikely to understand and sympathise with another's viewpoint: the very lack of sympathy may lead to the common belligerency about other sections—hear a business man on "the wharfies." And this belligerency may be at the root of much of our internal dissension. But, in spite of this the Government can liquidate a service which is almost specifically designed to iron out the wrinkles on the fair face of our society. It's even stranger when we think that it is the Communists who are allegedly—what's the phrase?—trying to "disrupt our society by encouraging class struggle and misunderstanding." And it is the Government who is saving us from the "evils" of such machiavellian conduct. Really, Mr. Holland!
Of course, we might expect this of a Government which bases its policy, insofar as it has one, on a laisser-faire philosophy outmoded by the middle 19th. century. This explains the contradiction of a Government forced to act against its own professed beliefs because of its economic policy: it's almost an example of economic determinism!
And how footling it is to try to measure up the worth of something like the Reviews so that they must justify their existence "on a trading basis." New Zealand does need something of this sort to foster some consciousness of the nature of its own society: we are too small to support a number of commercial units, and the need can only be met, as it has in so many other fields, by state ventures—and was met long before even the Labour party was heard of. It is not even as though the Reviews had been a failure: in many ways (like the journal "Education") they had been an outstanding success which we need not be ashamed of showing to overseas countries. But what use is it trying to convince a Government which looks at life through the grid of profit and loss columns that some things have value from a monetary one?
The Unit will now concentrate on making "departmental films." Enter the corporate state through the back door ?