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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 17, No. 1. March 4, 1953

Two Films With Feeling

page 9

Two Films With Feeling

David Lean is probably Britain's most lyrical film director. His "The Sound Barrier" is often breath-taking; the corn swaying in the fields after a jet has swept above; a bird, in a screen solo, giving a display of aerobatics just before the take-off a "Vampire" which will do a similar performance, not with the same grace perhaps but with twice the excitement.

'The Sound Barrier'

Lean has imagined the div-climbing and spinning manoeuvres of the De Havilland Vampires as "steps of a modern screen ballet." The sight of these jets—"the beauty and ease of their gliding flight, vapour peeling off wing-tips at the end of a dive"—Lean admits gave him almost sensuous pleasure. The spirit of exploration and adventure has enthused Lean to produce an adventurous and exciting film. At least it is when he takes us off the ground.

The trouble is the paying public would not be content with merely an air pageant. A story must be provided, and this is where "The Sound Barrier" falls down. Terence Rattigan, the script-writer, has given us rather enventional film characters struggling with a rather conventional fate or destiny. We have Ralph Richardson as the misunderstood "Jet magnate." Nigel Patrick as the unimaginative test pilot. Ann Todd as his harrassed wife and John Tustin as the test pilot with a flair. I suppose these four actors do their best to make their parts convincing or even interesting, but I can report only a 50 per cent, success rate. Nigel Patrick is too unimaginatively the unimaginative pilot: Ann Todd's performance is thin. But Tustin played a not too difficult part well and Ralph Richardson is magnificent. With careful restraint, he gives the most moving display of fine film acting that I've seen since I first saw him in pictures.

Fine efforts. Messrs. Lean and Richardson; Especially Mr. Lean. If there we ever any barriers to break in the development of the film, he is sure to be amongst the first to get through.

Grading: ****(*).

'The River'

Now for a lovely, lyrical, peaceful, leisurely film, a delight to watch and a delight to hear. Jean Renoir's love-poem; no bitterness, irony or satire. A Song of Sympathy for people and their habits, sung in a moving way by one of the artists of the screen.

It is a long time since I saw this film, so only the deeper marks are left in the sand. I remember:
(a)The film's presentation of the simple story of life that is caught in the river of Time, which brings alt and takes all.
(b)The director's brilliant inter-woving of the colourful Indian ceremonies and rituals—the Kail Puja and Holi Day festival—Into his story of a young girl growing up.
(c)The colourful use made of the natural and artificial by the film's photographer.
(d)The simplicity of presentation, from the homely tragedy of Bogey's death to the complete naturalness of the players.
(e)The film's sound track with the ritualistic drumming which hauntingly sets the tone for so many scenes, the gay kite song and the Strauss waltz which is the "signature tune" of the love scenes.

What is my greatest memory? it is that this film made a great Impression on me. I was moved by it and that is praise enough. But let me give it more. "The River" was the best film of 1952. Dare I call it "great"? I confidently answer "yes."

Grading: *****