Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 10, No. 1. February 28, 1947
Film and Stage
Film and Stage
Let us try to be reasonable about the Americans. If all American adults had a mental age of twelve or under, and if they were really all pathetic sex-ridden emotional wrecks, it is clear that many of the great achievements of the United States would have been impossible. Despite their popular films, songs and magazines, despite the "American way of life," yet in almost every large town in the United States individuals can be found who have reached emotional and mental maturity: to deny this is sheer blindness and social chauvinism.
I mention these things lest it be supposed that what I am going to say is prompted by any prejudice against America. My attitude is simply this: that American films, music and literature, at least those supplied to us in any great quantity, are poisonous rubbish which we should not import; and that if we can't avoid importing them, surely we can avoid imitating them. We can easily be neighbourly to our great ally without shamming any false esteem. In the case of films like "The Southerner" we should be ready to make exceptions. A company wide-awake enough to engage a Frenchman to show them how to make a sensible film should be given due credit.
Unfortunately we not only import large quantities of American canned culture; we also absorb it. In our remotest Maori villages the old chants have been forgotten. A pity, but perhaps inevitable. Is it inevitable, though, that they should be superseded by such songs as "Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey," translated into Maori? Early in the war some obscure Maori poet wrote a noble battle-hymn, urging the young warriors to take with them, on their journey across the Great Ocean of Kiwa, the battle-cloaks of their ancestors. The words were inspiring the conception lofty and mythopoetic; the tune was "Gonna Lock My Heart and Throw Away the Key."
If this sort of thing was happening only in New Zealand, we could regard it as a temporary phase, and hope that our own national culture would in time assert itself. But it is happening all over the world. The British soldiers ran the Nazis out of Africa to the tune of "Gonna Buy Mahself a Paper Doll to Call Mah Own."
Fierce, class-conscious Italian partisans in their mountain strongholds crooned "Polvere dl Stelle," i.e., "Star-Dust," as they meditated revenge on the invaders. In a gondola on the Grand Canal I gazed across at the Doge's Palace, the Bridge of Sighs, the Cathedral of St. Mark, and wafted on the wave I heard "I Got Spurs that Jingle, Jangle, Jingle," played by an Italian orchestra.
That is why it is so refreshing to see a film like "The Overlanders," where the dialogue, the scenery, the characters and the whole atmosphere are Australian. After the film on "Smithy," we needed some reassuring. Here there are no lofty but bogus sentiments, no smiling through tears such as warms the American heart and rouses the normal gorge. When things look black, the hero does not gaze into a technicolour sunset and mouth a spurious sentiment; instead he rallies the despairing with the words "Think of that bonus."
So far, our own New Zealand films on short subjects have set a high standard. When the time comes for us to make our own full-length films, let us make our own mistakes, not American ones.