Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Salient: An organ of student opinion at Victoria University, Wellington. Vol. 23, No. 5. Wednesday, June 15, 1960

Film Fare — Eisenstein's Last And Best

page 10

Film Fare

Eisenstein's Last And Best

"Ivan The Terrible"

A spectacular run of Russian films has been on in Wellington recently: included was Eisenstein's last and most fully developed movie, "Ivan the Terrible" Part II (I). Undoubtedly the foremost foreign film to be seen in this city for many years. The film, made some fourteen years ago, was a long time in cold storage in the Soviet Union due to its supposed allegory on the Stalin regime (Eisenstein was obliged to make a humiliating recantation for Party purposes.)

Conceived as a trilogy, with the last part never made, Part II deals with Ivan's overthrow of the Boyar-dictators, and his instalment on the throne of Russia. The movie as a composite whole is magnificent; every detail is so meticulously worked out, every player is so obviously suited to his part that it is hard to point to any minor or major discrepancies in Eisenstein's direction. Two perfectly composed sequences were those in the Polish court and in the church, where Ivan encounters the wrath of the Metropolitan Philip. Everything is just so masterful: the incredible harmony between camera and lighting, the skilful blending of Prokofiev's music into the film, and the casting itself. As Ivan, Nikolai Cherkasov gives a truly unforgettable performance; his gestures (one may think a little too "method school type" at times— I don't), are purposefully executed, and his characterisation of Ivan is one of the most graceful and penetrating performances I have ever seen.

The system of grading films is as follows:

I: Excellent

II: Good

III: Average

IV: Fair

V: Poor

"Anatomy Of A Murder"

"Anatomy of a Murder" (II) is the latest movie from Otto Preminger, a director noted for such diverse works as, "Moon is Blue", "Carmen Jones", and "Man with a Golden Arm." In "Anatomy," Preminger is his usual slick-self and the film leaves no doubt as to the intentions of its maker— to obtain the nearest thing possible to authenticity. However, it is not so much the direction of the film that the audience is made primarily aware of, but rather the living persons in the story. There is no obtrusive and superfluous camera-work, no flashy trick-shots; Preminger keeps his adaptation well above the panic line as he allows his camera to observe the actors in a calm, almost too personal, objective manner.

James Stewart plays the hero of the tale with undoubted feeling and calculation. He is in the eye of the camera for most part of the movie, and fortunately, his performance never lags or suffers from lack of sincerity. His manner and humour are sometimes a trifle too farcical and there may have been a tendency for Preminger to have over-done the small town lawyer smart-aleckness. But as a whole his role is well played out and I doubt if any other actor could have created quite the lawyer James Stewart has. He is well supported by Lee Remick (a performance of some maturity), Ben Gazzara and, of course, the presiding judge, Josef N. Welch.

In Brief

Apart from "Ivan" (I) we have seen two other Russian films recently; "Don Quixote" (I) and "Cranes are Flying" (II). Both are superlative. Nikolai Cherkasov, who figured so admirably as Ivan, displays his amazing versatility as the pathetic Don—a performance of incredible dimensions. If "Don Quixote" is to be remembered for its superlative dubbing, the "Cranes" will be for some magnificent sequences in which characters' subjective visions are expertly reproduced by the film as objective reality. Another top runner is a movie entitled "Golden Age of Comedy" (I). This, as the title suggests shows scenes from various early comedies c.1930; featuring Laurel and Hardy, Mack Sennett, Harold Lloyd, etc. This is a fantastic movie with some absolutely brilliant scenes: e.g. that of Laurel and Hardy, dressed as sailors, irately pulling cars to pieces with bare hands. A film of undoubted historic and cinematic value. Paul Czinner's "Royal Ballet" (II) did well in Wellington, and deservedly so; this is a brilliantly photographed and edited ballet film. Lavish costumes, colours and sets, combined with immaculate dancing and fresh librettos, complement an exceedingly well made movie. However, with "Sink the Bismark" (V), the "stiff upper lip film" returns to Wellington. An incredibly dull, tedious and outdated movie. Surely the time cannot be far away when the British will be celebrating their 2000th war film premiere. Unfortunately the Italian Opera films, to which many people were looking forward, did not come to much; the prints were old, the sound sparse and distorted—a great pity.