Page 10, 12th March 1976

12th March 1976
Page 10
Page 10, 12th March 1976 — A spectacular 'Moses' but outshone by De Mille

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Organisations: Court of Pharaoh
Locations: Rome, Jerusalem, London


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A spectacular 'Moses' but outshone by De Mille

QUALI HES of imagination — literary, pictorial, dramatic, even religious and sacrilegious — are most diversely illustrated in a plentiful batch of new movies.

Hollywood, or the commercial cinema, has its .own tradition of Biblical movies led by the late Cecil B. De Mille who gave us two lots of "Ten Commandments." The new Moses ("A", Dominion) comes to us through Sir Lew Grade and Italian television. The affinity with "spaghetti Westerns" is unmistakable.

The story begins, correctly enough. in the bullrushes (Ingrid Thulin as Miriam) and goes on to the Court of Pharaoh. Neither the young Moses (William Lancaster, son of Burt) nor the venerable patriarch (Burt Lancaster) has the fire of the last screen Moses, Charlton Heston. Nor do the spectacular set pieces, such as the parting of the Red Sea. have the vigour or grandeur of De Mille s. The early scenes in Egypt do have a certain decorative quality, and my escort assured me the Middle Eastern scenery and costumes were more than usually authentic. But the further trek into the Promised Land is decidedly pedestrian in inspiration as well as interminable in execution, despite attempts to enliven it by scenes of ferocious brutality among the tribes.

Burt Lancaster also dubs the Voice of God. reading from no immediately recognisable version what sounds like a blend with the American Constitution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. A late appearance of the Daughters of Jerusalem suggests the forerunners of Women's Lib.

The film lasts for 2 hours 20 minutes, and the only really impressive performance is Anthony Quayle's, who brings his usual intensity of conviction to the part of Aaron.

A double bill of feminine autobiography at Academy Cinema Two is certainly original. Even the longer half, Karen Arthur's Legacy ("X"), is 1 suppose an exercise of imagination by the director and her author-star Joan Hotchkis, though it may be of the quality of women's magazines. It is a long soliloquy by a well-to-do married woman poring over her frustrations from bath to marriage bed and dinner-table.

I found her meanderings both tedious and distasteful, though no doubt they have some of the irresistible authenticity of feminine nostalgia.

The other half of the bill, Autobiography of a Princess ("A") is a real work of imagination by the novelist Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Directed by James Ivory from his own hook scripted with all the delicacy and irony Ivory brought to his Indian Studies "Shakespeare

Wallah" and "the Guru".

The Princess (Madhur Jaffrey) is an Indian princess, daughter of one of the maharajahs dispossessed by Indian Independence. The film is her interview with an elderly Englishman (James Mason) who had been her father's tutor in India.

Over tea in London, they look at some archive film and exchange memories of the Royal India for which she yearns, while his memories of old ceremonial merge into the book he is writing about a pioneer of modern India. The film is enchanting, a beautifully played miniature work of real originality and imagination and a model of adaptation of the written word to the movie medium.

Walerian Borowczyk was the Polish director of the hest film I have seen in the last last ten years. This was "Blanche" for which he translated a Polish play set in medieval France. Now, in Story of Sin ("X" Electric Cinema) Borowczyk has returned to his native Poland and to her turn-of the century novelist Zeromski for a subject which might be a Polish "Madame Bovary". Borowczyk began as an art student, which gives his imagination the visual dimension to make the nineteenth century period setting of "Story of Sin as immaculate and exquisite as the medieval setting of "Blanche".

Evidently the possibility of blaming the heroine's decline into degradation on the difficulty of obtaining divorce in Catholic Poland makes this a classic acceptable to the present Polish regime. Thus, when her romantic hero, after getting his divorce in Rome, marries another, the film follows its heroine into every degradation as immaculately represented as the earlier scenes.

Imagination is generally recognised as an essential ingredient of children's tales, and there is enough imagination at work in The Sky-Bike (ICA, Sunday afternoons) to make a very engaging adventure of the efforts of a small boy and his father to win a prize for the first man-powered flight. The invention is tried out on disused airfields and the inventor played by Liam Redmond.

Genuine imagination has a part, too, in Aloha, Bobby and Rose ("A" Warner). This is a sad little teenage tragedy played out in cars to a noisy rock accompaniment, but it holds the attention.

Sacrilege is again the context of To the Devil . . . a Daughter) (" X" Empire and ABC Edgware Road) is a confection of Black Magic and Faustian legend which might be mistaken for "Rosemary's Granddaughter".

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