Looks at the Films
THE CRANES ARE FLYING Certificate U: Curzon. Director: Mikhail Kalatozov
THE best film of the week comes from Russia—in black and white for a change and fresh from winning the Grand Prix at this year's Cannes International Film Festival.
Briefly the film is the universal one of two young star-crossed lovers—happy, secure, watching the cranes flying in formation one bright morning in Moscow, even breaking into poetry about them.
Then, suddenly, like thousands of young folk in many parts of the world about the same time, war is upon them. Happiness dies. There is the agony of parting. The people at home arc bombed. The soldiers at the front die muddy deaths. All at once youth disappears and the world is an ugly place. A too oft
told tale but treated here with unusual sensitivity.
Refreshing, too. in a contemporary Russian film is the absence of the "party" note. Indeed. there is one quite surprising moment when a little mild fun is poked at a factory slogan just as though a sense of humour is creeping hack. The old grandmother is even allowed to make the sign of the Cross on the young soldier's forehead before he goes off to war and no one seems to object.
Interesting. too, is that section of the film that shows how, even in the perfect monolithic state the sly young men could get exemption by a little judicious bribing; how some officials had time to entertain their glamour girls at jolly parties and when they couldn't get hold of a car tried to commandeer an ambulance or a fire engine for a bit of excursioning.
I'm sure Russian films will have a bigger market if they continue to drop the universal cloak of selfrighteousness as they do here.
There are one or two superbly handled crowd scenes—one when the girl is trying to find the boy to wave him goodbye. But they never do meet again—even when, as in Longfellow's "Evangeline", they are within a stone's throw of each other.
Poignancy without sentimentality is something to cherish in the cinema today. The two young actors, Tatiana Samoilova and Alexei Batalov, head a talented east. From Mr. Cecil Bargate, of the Curzon cinema, who has brought
so many worth-while films to London, I learned that "The Diary of a Country Priest" is now having a successful run in Dublin—after two years of negotiation.
"Monsieur Vincent", which the Curzon also pioneered, has had 1,700 screenings to date. "I even gave my wife a private vieWing on our dining room wall as she missed it when it was first shown," he said.
Also on the programme is a beautiful "short" on the life of Rembrandt that includes some superb reproductions of his works.
GOD'S LITFLE ACRE Certificate A: London Pavilion. Director: Anthony Mann
VVERYBODY in this hot. sticky story of hot, steamy Geolgia seemed to be bawling their heads off at each other, and I kept wondering where all their energy was coming from when it would have been more appropriate to just sit down and fan away the flies.
Central figure and loudest shouter is Robert Ryan—as the farmer who keeps digging up holes all over his land in an abortive attempt to find gold. And, of Course. there isn't any. His unfortunate sons have to dig too, anti awfully hard on theta for their minds are on other things.
Front what we have seen of the Deep South on the screen it is a place to keep out of.
THE FIEND WHO WALKED THE WEST Certificate X: Rialto Director: Gordon Douglas
THE X is for sadism, I suppose. and there is a deal too much brutality—eye-bashing and the like. Also I feel we are being asked to be too sympathetic to a great, strapping chap (Hugh O'Brian, otherwise Wyatt Earp--idol of the American TV public) who as Dan Hardy has robbed a bank—armed —and had the misfortune to get locked in the safe he was helping to rifle.
The "fiend" of the title is a spinechilling pathological killer (well played by Robert Evans) who is one of those crazy, mixed-up horrors we are meeting all too often in Westerns today.
Not in the top Western class. THE FACE OF THE CAT
Certificate A: Cameo Poly Director: Henri Decoin
pRANCOISE ARNOUL as a beautiful girl resistance worker turns out to be a curse instead of a help. Through her falling for a German who says he is a Swiss journalist, a whole group is wiped out. 1 feel sorry for that good actor Bernard Mier as the resistance chief who employs so bad a risk as this silly girl.
Treachery did occur, we know, but not so blatantly.