Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 11, No. 4. April 7th, 1948
Films and Stage
Films and Stage
A gamblin' aristocrat of the Regency or thereabouts stakes the family halls against his evening's losses, these comprising all his cash and mother's jewels. He loses, We witness the shift to a humble farmhouse, and the introduction of our bankrupt's son (Dennis Page) to a life of toil. Enter a technicolour Margaret Lockwood as Jassy, pursued, accused of witchcraft, and carefully daubed with mud. Dennis to the rescue. Alarums and excursions, culminating in the befriending of Jassy by Dennis' boyhood sweetheart (Patricia Roc), who is expelled from finishing-school for elopist tendencies before she is properly finished. Back to the family halls held by Patricia's father, a cad if ever there was one, Jassy becoming Patricia's step-mother but retaining her virginity. Dumb girl accounts for Jessy's husband with rat poison-more alarums and excursions, final triumph of British Institutions, and Dennis gets back the family halls with Jassy thrown in.
Verdict: If you like J. Arthur Rank melodrama, this is for you.
Deep are the Roots
The questions of racial discrimination, inequality and persecution have been among the main issues of political and sociological thought of this century. The fact that the evidence of anthropology has so completely and convincingly disproved the theory of white superiority has not to any extent diminished the tenacity with which this theory is still held. Jews are still victimised in New Zealand; Aboriginals are denied education and civil rights in Australia, and Negroes are still lynched in America.
The tension and conflict which characterise the relationships between people of different national or racial groups provide excellent material for the dramatist, so it is not surprising that some of the best modern plays have been written around this theme.
"Deep are the Roots" is a recent play on the Negro question, written by two US Army veterans. It treats the subject in an unnecessarily emotional manner, but it is unique in that it presents anti-Negro feeling from almost every possible angle.
It was produced recently by Michael Benge and presented in a not quite finished state to an audience of Drama Club members and friends. The play, the acting and the production were so good that it is a pity that it was not performed publicly.
The producer had the unusual task of staging a play demanding a high standard of acting with a cast which had very little experience. This was not evident in their performance. Miss McKenzie as Alice, Miss James as Nevvy, and Mr. Tallboys as Senator Langdon, gave performances which showed an unusual sympathy and understanding of their parts. The other actors, particularly those in the three difficult Negro parts, were almost as good.
It looks as if the Drama Club, with this influx of competent players, is likely to recover its position as one of the important dramatic societies in the city.
Thoughts on Two Foreign Films
"Kameradschaft" is a German film, made, believe it or not, as long ago as 1931, and produced by N. Pabst. It is so good in its own way that I cannot help comparing it with a Greek tragedy, because it has little that is superfluous and all the incidents add to the total effect. It shows man, struggling not with other men, nor against his Gods, but with the forces of nature he is trying to control. And this elemental conflict is portrayed so sternly, so imaginatively, and so truthfully that the film, although it is in many way a narrative only, does not become tedious. There is no ornamentation, no sub-plot, and the characters have a sharpness and urgency common to us all when overtaken by a great disaster. But although "Kameradschaft" is about a mine disaster and how a German rescue unit helped trapped French miners, it does I think ask us the question, "Why does it need something as terrible as this to show us the real meaning of the phrase, 'the brotherhood of man'?" This film has faith in humanity, not so common a thing nowadays, and faith in the possibility of international understanding. It is a film to see, not only because of its theme, but also because of its occasionally brilliant photography, and sparing but most effective use of sound. It will be shown again later in the month by the Wellington Film Society at the Public Library Concert Hall.
The other foreign film, "Retour a l'Aube," at the Embassy, has left a negative impression on me. There is the usual visual pleasure in French films, but having praised the freshness and charm of this, there is nothing left. One could blame Vicki Baum and go into a detailed analysis of the melodramatic improbability and shallowness of the plot, but this hardly seems worth while. The reader of "Grand Hotel" or "Grand Opera" will be familiar with the method, and if you saw "Week End at the Waldorf" you will appreciate how banal this attempt at profundity can become. No matter what the characters themselves may have thought about their sudden precipitation into "real-life" (whatever that may be), the effect on at least one member of the audience was very real disinterest and disbelief in their motives. They were not real people. It is kindest to say that this is a melodramatic story of young love awry—for it is certainly not real disillusionment, which is a much more moving and sometimes even tragic affair—and that it is not one of the better French films, which is a pity, because we see so few French films that to sniff one's nose seems not only discouraging but also bad taste. Still there it is.
The Lost Moment
Robert Cummings is a rich young publisher from the U.S.A. of 30 years back, who goes to Venice in search of the love letters of a poet who disappeared in that city many years before. He buys a gondola, a gondolier, and his way into the mansion of the poet's one-time lover Juliana (Agnes Moorehead), now getting on in years. In fact she is 105, and gnarled appropriately. Susan Hayward is her schizophrenic niece, who becomes the Juliana of 80 years ago in the evenings and consequently doesn't get much sleep. The letters are located after various setbacks. Perhaps the most disturbing of these is due to the advent of an artificial bird reminiscent of the bat in "Lost Weekend." which does a couple of circuits of Juliana's boudoir, flies headlong into the wall, and has nothing whatsoever to do with anything. The letters are obviously strong medicine, for though we are not permitted to dip into them Robert Cummings is, and his eyes are fit to be knocked off with sticks. All ends with our publisher losing both the letters and the chance of calling Juliana "auntie" but gaining an ex-schizophrenic bride, and ourselves learning that deceased poets apparently inhibit plant growth in Venetian gardens.
Verdict: Mystery-romance in the Hollywood manner, but a little above average.