Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 17, No. 8. May 27, 1953
Film By Ian Rich — Importance of Technique
Film By Ian Rich
Importance of Technique
Manon . . .
The film version is Prevost's story brought up to modem times, and with it comes all the harshness and cynicism associated with this ago of ours. We have the bold talc of faithlessness and faith between two strangely restless young lovers in the vortex of post-war France. The ageless story of fickle women. Once again the oddities of love are displayed with as much enthusiasm in French film as in French literature.
Gallic frankness if you like, but did the director have to give us so much brutishness, sadism, immorality, pessimism? Not one glimpse that I remembered of the original story. What a censor's nightmare! I hated this film and it was only the technical brilliance of the thing that kept me there.
The presentation la masterly. Camera angles, photography, cutting, atmosphere, pictorial effects and acting. Manon, vivid lovely little blonde, natural, lively, sure, perhaps naive. Bust measurements available from the director, also detailed analysis of camera angles and make of camera used. Serge Reggiani as the heavy unscrupulous opportunist—his usual polished performance. Henri Clouzot, the director, a magnificent technician. Hail him! Women and men, we live in the age of factories. And cinematic technical virtuosity. Technicians be praised, and b—the artists!
Grading: * * * (*)
High Noon . . .
Although this film is also mainly a technical piece, I say at the beginning that I give it a higher grading than "Manon." The central character kane, is interesting; he is not the perfect hero, but ha weaknesses like you or me.
Stanley Kramer is again the producer and Fred Zinnerman the director. They and the musical director, have collaborated to give a film of almost continual high tension. Beginning with the gathering of the outlaw's gang, the film penetrates the atmosphere of heat and dirt, to reveal the apathy of the citizens and the urgent appeal for help of the sheriff as the hands of the clock move round to high noon. Director Zinnerman uses such devices as re-repeated shots of clocks, and the train lines which will carry Frank Miller, the outlaw. His fine sense of editing, his Judgment as to the exact length of a sequence, is all reinforced by composer Dimitri Tiomkin's High Noon ballad (for the film's theme look at Its words), and the rhythmic beat of his music High noon approaches. Gary Cooper fully enlists our sympathy, and with dread we watch the hour hand move around to twelve.
Part of my sense of dread was a doubt as to whether the last gun-fight would sustain the brilliance of presentation that I had already seen. It did not. The crucial part of the film has nothing more to commend it than any ordinary western. This gun fight's "Choreography" la full of conventional steps and turns. The director has planned it with great care, but it is the touch of the artist that is missing. The film, however, is not altogether an anti-climax. When Kane throws his sheriff's badge into the dust, the psychological and moral implications return.
The film has it's short-comings. Not only the last sequences, but also the sometimes too obviously contrived reasons for keeping the citizens out of the streets, so that the sheriff will have to fight the outlaws alone. But in spite of these faults, and the director's objective attitude, "High Noon" remains a western with a difference. There is a sense of character and genuine excitement.
Grading * * * *
A New Critic
I find it impossible to see all the worth-while films showing in Wellington each week, so I have roped in a co-critic. It is difficult to decide what is a film critic's Job but I shall in future confine myself to one or two pictures a week. In spite of continual opposition, I feel that a varsity newspaper should not provide a film guide, but a basis for discussion and argument. I shall therefore continue my subjective approach, in the belief that anyone's opinion is more interesting than a mere list of a film's credits. And with this belief in mind. I make the following appeal: If anyone (anyone at all) feels like expressing an impression that a film has made on him (to the film's credit or not), he should do so and his remarks will be printed in these columns (provided, of course, they, are above a certain standard). He should put the article (addressed to me) in the letter rack, before the Friday night preceding the next issue.
Now over to Brian Shaw.
Bwana Devil . . .
It was the release of this film using natural vision which started the stampede toward 3-D. After read-ing the Tudor's splurge I was wondering whether or not to see this "new 3-D film in real colour,"—actually filmed by a major studio on location." However. I paid my 2/10, collected a pair of cardboard blinkers from the usherette and sat down in the middlebrow section and contemplated the empty seats in front of me. After seeing "Man in the Dark" I was not expecting much from this film and my expectations and forebodings were fulfilled.
The story tells of a young Englishman sent by his grandfather to work on a railway somewhere in Africa. Man-eating tigers terrerise the community and kill twenty-odd porters, which gives them the idea of leaving the place to escape from the "devils." Then the young man is told of the death of his grandfather, which thus leaves him free to leave the African wilds and return to England and so-called civilisation: but his typical British prestige and self-esteem is such that he is determined not to leave until the devils are killed. Barbara Britton—"a woman in a man's world"—is his wife. The rest of the film is taken up with the details of the Hon hunt, with experienced colonels and other types from Poona giving advice which provides some weak humour. The film ends with the usual potential paternal embrace.
This film gives the impression of having been very hurriedly made. It is not particularly realistic for the most part; a lion Jumps towards the screen but misses the orchestra pit by miles; a spear thrown at the audience la fascinating as it swings from side to side, but no one was hypnotised. Considerable blurring occurs, and at times (too often) the projectors are unequally illuminated, resulting in a very uncomfortable eyestrain and unreal effect. Entertainment value? About third-rate: but it is to be hoped that 3-D colour films will continue to aspire to perfection over the years: we have not had a sufficinet sampling of 3-D to have a criterion. We can only say: "It is the best so far": we cannot say that of "Bwana Devil."
Grading * *(*)
The House of Wax
This is the best effort yet seen of 3-D. but it is also in no respects a first-class film However, it is definitely an Improvement on the Tudor's shows. The brilliant "Warner Colour" is shown at its best, and for thrills, there are one or two good ones.
The plot of the story is old, and has been filmed before. There are some very good scenes in this film, especially wax models of Marie Antoinette and St. Joan of are which, were beautiful (my sense of the aesthetic has not been altogether blunted by Extrav rehearsals). The scene in the morgue was reminiscent of Capping Day.
The depth effect is well used in a see no in the chamber of horrors, where the girl (beautiful Phyllis Kirk) is trying to escape from the unseen terror which all know must inevitably confront her. Amid the murderers, assassins, executioners and death masks, every shadow in the dim half-light comes to life and the audience feels somewhat chilly in spite of their companions sitting adjacent to them.
Atmosphere? Yes there is atmosphere. The 3-D effect is best demonstrated at the beginning of the film when an Iron bar is thrown at one of the actors who ducks to let it come right on to the audience. There is no blurring with the glasses (not cardboard ones), no eyestrain. But there is still the annoying five-minute break between reels—time to let off steam and emotion (if any). The acting is competent, and full marks go to Warnercolour. This is truly a taste of belter things to come. Let us hope mediocre thrillers are not the only type to be seen here. It is not great but can be classed as good entertainment if you like goose-pimples.
Rating: * * * (*).
—Brian C. Shaw.