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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 32, No. 16. July 16, 1969

Films — Non-commercial

page 7



Apart from the consistent one or two good commercial films lately (Bullitt and I'll Never Forget what's 'isname) there has been a good recent selection of films screened non-commercially. Furthest buck was the Wellington Film Society's June offering, Paris vu Par (1964) a six-part colour collage of Paris as seen by eminences of the French cinema. Each film was shot in 16mm (and looks it) and was supposed to represent the absolute in free movie making. Most of it was trivial, boring and hardly original cinema.

The first by Jean Douchet (St. GrmaindesPres) begins with the seduction of an American girl art student by an artful young Frenchman—from there on its hardly chop. Jean Rouch (Gare du Nord) shows us at great length a couple having breakfast in a high-rise apartment to the tune of pneumatic drills—but the "live sound" recording is more piercing than the drills. The breakfast scene begins to show us a couple's problems and ends with a Woman's Own style melodramatic suicide by a knowledgeable voting chap who seems to know all her problems by ESP.

The third is one of the better episodes, reminiscent of the Monica Vitti sketch in Bambole. A dishwasher picks up a prostitute for the night but of course cannot rise to the occasion. But at least its concentration on the man's big yokel eyes and slurping eating sounds make for relief in an otherwise unrelieved film. For the record: Rue St. Denis by Jean Pollet.

Eric Rohmer has a slight effort in his "Place de L'Etoile" which shows little more than that there are a hell of a lot of roads to cross going around and around the Arc de Triomphe. A hasty move with an umbrella livens things for a minute or two.

Everyone's favourite Jean-Luc Godard presents a neat but inconsequential tale of a girl who thinks she has confused letters to her two lovers—to each she gives the same explanation, both kick her out because there has been no confusion in the first place. The added interest (apart from Johanna Shimkus shedding her sweater) is the complementary nature of the two men. One is a sculptor who works with old car hulks, the other a motor mechanic. Title: "Montparnasse and Levallois".

The best episode (La Muette) is also the most professional. Claude Chabrol directs himself an as indulgent opulent husband who dashes after the vuluptuous maid while his wife chatters on the phone about her latest complaint. There boy, sick or the eternal noise (heightened on a very good sound track) decides to use ear plugs. Things go on just the same—without sound. He destroys the bathroom and leaves for school unaware that his mother has fallen, presumably fatally down the stairs after a violent argument which the boy of course never heard. A macabre little study of how little people seem to take notice of each other—sound on or off.

Technically few of the films can be differentiated by the uninitiated, which would include everyone of the audience. Rouch's episode is shot in two long takes, but more for accomplishment rather than effective, achievement. Whether these vignettes of Paris are representative, accurate or parody it is hard to assume. But then it rapidly became a question of who cares?

Courtesy of the Japanese Embassy a screening of Akira Kurosawa's Red Beard enabled one to sample a little of the relatively unseen Japanese cinema. Kurosawa is not unknown. At the beginning of the year the Vic Film Society showed Seven Sammurai and, for those who remember, an Americandubbed kidnapping yarn called The Ransom occasioitally pops up.

Red Beard is in customary Kurosawa style—a long but entertaining drama excellent performances from the cast. The story centres around a young doctor who gradually turns his ideas around about helping humanity rather than taking advantage of it. In this he is helped by the personality and authority of Red Beard (Toshiro Mitune), the head doctor of a clinic in a poverty stricken region.

Several episodes are directed with such power that they remain constant images— the mad girl's near fatal rape of the young doctor, the explosive violence when Mifune lays out a crowd of men ("Perhaps I did go a little far"), the barbarous surgery episode with no faking and the young girl nursing the doctor back to health.

Kurosawa uses the extended two-shot which John Ford and Howard Hawks have made the classic Western style. The companion moreover between these does not stop there.

Despite an excess of 3 hours telling the film is packed with incident, humour and passion. The only thing wrong, and which makes a minor Kurosawa opus, is the oversentimental last 30 minutes in which the slosh flows interminably. Nevertheless a considerable film experience which provided a useful comparison to Mifune's acting in an American-made film which was screening elsewhere at the same time—John Boorman's Hell in the Pacific.

The Vic Film Society's weekend screenings of some film by Don Siegel and Fritz Lang were poorly attended but featured three excellent features of differing attitudes showing the movement in American films dealing with violence.

Fritz Lang's justly famous The Big Heat (1953), obtained specially for the weekend as it has officially been withdrawn, was one of the first American films to extend the frontiers of violence depicted on screen. Though Lang tones this down by implication rather than event—it had more effect than the usual sterile bashings seen on today's screen.

The Big Heat is probably one of the best indictments against crime ever filmed. Glenn Ford is a police officer who while handling an apparently straight-forward suicide by a policeman soon becomes involved in trying to get to the bottom of a huge crime syndicate which has corrupted the entire police force. His wife is killed and Ford soon resigns from the force to turn the crime into a personal vendetta. He succeeds but not without becoming effected himself— "revenge is a bitter and evil fruit".

Lang shoots the film from Ford's point of view and the audience is with him though his weaknesses show clearly. His situation would be that of anybody—but a situation few would want to be in.

The most violent happenings are not shown on screen—the audience is left to react individually, to imagine what would be, and by dint of suggestion rather than statement achieve a greater impression of violence and thus a more violent reaction to it.

Though made 16 years ago it stands the test extremely well. Its story is remarkably undated and its direction still an example of the best in crime films.

Lee Marvin, who plays a heavy's heavy in The Big Heat, was the star in The Killers 11 years later. Don Siegel's thriller has since gained a growing reputation among connisseurs and despite evidence of its origins in Universal's endless series of tasteless TV-pilot features, it remains a superior example of the action movies. Marvin, helped by his offsider Clu Culager, wants the big killing so he can rest his weary bones, tired of existing on the extremes of society. The killing is the loot from a robbery master minded by Ronald Reagen (his last film appearance before his new heavy role). Gradually the others are eliminated till only Marvin, Angie Dickinson and Reagen remain. After Reagen is wiped out Angie pleads once more but Marvin, the true professional, is unmoved—"Lady, I haven't the time".

A Scene from John Frankenheimer's "The Fixer". Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Bernard Malamud, the story takes place in Russia over 50 years ago, when antisemitism was rampant. It was filmed on location in Hungary, two years ago now, and stars Alan Bales, Dirk Bogarde, Carol White, Jack Gilford, Elizabeth Hartman and Hugh Griffith. MGM does not seem to be bothering to release the film in New Zealand (or Britain) despite it receiving a certificate 2 months ago.

A Scene from John Frankenheimer's "The Fixer". Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Bernard Malamud, the story takes place in Russia over 50 years ago, when antisemitism was rampant. It was filmed on location in Hungary, two years ago now, and stars Alan Bales, Dirk Bogarde, Carol White, Jack Gilford, Elizabeth Hartman and Hugh Griffith. MGM does not seem to be bothering to release the film in New Zealand (or Britain) despite it receiving a certificate 2 months ago.

Seigel, an action director to the last frame, also contributed The Line Up, again a TV-based feature. The brisk story encompasses drugrunning, a spectacular car chase, which unlike Bullitt introduces the personal element, a paranoid professional killer (Eli Wallach) and several gruesome exterminations. Though not dwelling on the obvious, Siegel wastes no time with implication or subtlety. His no-nonsense aproach differs from Lang's closely planned mise-en-scene; neither extend the audience's patience but nor do they pander to its vulgarity.

* * *

Coming up:

University—Tonight. Polanski's Fearless Vampire Killers and an above-average exploration of the supernatural, The Curse of the Demon; Friday week Frankenheimer's Seconds.

Princess Rosemary Baby, Polanski's most recent and worth a second visit: Kings— Hollywood's Che! follows Bullitt; Wellington Film Society—a Japanese film by Susumi Hani, He and She tonight and tomorrow.

This is my favourite piece in this opera, for now, amid the weeping and wailing of woeful women, a bright ray of light reaches upwards, and bursts forth in gay masculinity as Siegfrieds theme is sounded bravely and boldly. This optomistic portent of the future contrasts with the sadly predicted turmoil we heard at the end of act two. And now act three and the opera plod to their mutual conclusion. For Brunnhilde there is oblivion as in a long Scene, electric in its tension, Wotan pronounces sentence on the wilful Valkryie who bad disobeyed him, and in a finale saturated with pathos, Brunnhilde is laid to sleep on a rock to be awakened by a hero, whom we know by the distant call on the horns, to be Siegfried

With the fearful clanging of his spear thrice upon the rock, Wotan summons the fiery Loge "Loge Hor" to surround the sleeping Brunnhilde with flames through which only the bravest hero may pass. Fire bursts forth from the rock, encircling Brunnhilde as the flittering music of Loge, god of fire and deceit, surrounds us with its swirling mystique. And as Wotan sings "Wer meines speeres, spitze furchet, durshsschreite das feur nie!" The horns burst forth with the bold phrases of Siegfried's motif, subsiding into darkness and silence as the curtain falls.