Freda Bruce Lockhart
On the eve of the 17th London Film Festival, which opens next week with "Ape and Superapcby the world-famous Dutch documentary director Bert Haanstra, a wave of new pictures enlivens the West End cinema scene. There is a new Truffaut, a new John Huston. a new Godard, a new Raymond Chandler, two vigorous thrillers, the latest "Carry On" and the best film about fox-hunting I can remember.
Fox-hunting has become if not a dirty word, a matter of divisive, head-on controversy. I had not read David Rook's story of the fox cub fostered by a foxhound bitch, with her pups for friends — in particular one called Merlin. Scripted and directed • by James Hill and produced by Sally Shuter, The Belstone Fox ("A", Odeon, Leicester Square) makes an outstanding animal film for the holidays (except for a possibly too-distressing pre-credit sequence).
Transferred to Somerset, the spectacle is stunning the
huntsman's white cottage, the pink brick mansion, the hounds,
horses and "pink" coats streaming across the superb green countryside. The friendship between the two animals has been wonderfully managed and the dance they lead the hunt must delight any watcher.
Doubts whether any huntsman would be allowed, or allow himself, to become so passionately involved in the friendship between natural enemies are allayed by Eric Porter's impressive performance. It seems apposite, too, that Bill Travers should play Tod, the woodman who brings in the orphaned fox.
The film illustrates the paradox of animal hunters being so often animal-lovers. It also provides ample reinforcement for controversialists on either side of the argument — including anybody like myself who feels almost evenly divided.
Truffaut is a baffling director. "Les Quatre Cent Coups" was an immediate international hit. His subsequent films have been uneven, always clever, sometimes more, sometimes less appealing, but never up to that first standard. Day for Night ('AA," ABC I, Shaftesbury Avenue) is a triumphant return and fulfilment of that promise.
It is Truffaut's film about film-making, a day in the life and artificial light of a film studio in action, about its business of reflecting and reversing life, with Jean-Pierre Aumont, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Truffaut's regular hero, and a bravura performance by Valentine Cortese as an ageing star.
The colour is brilliant, the jokes technical and allusive, and the whole a brilliant diversion nostalgically satirising and fantasticating a lifetime of movie memories and the mad, mad world of movie-making.
Another nostalgic hark-back is The Long Goodbye ("X," London Pavilion) from Raymond Chandler's novel and reviving his famous detective Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould). Neither Ilumphrey Bogart's nor Dick Powell's Marlowe is among my most vivid film memories. But this version — especially its in-and-around Hollywood scenes, evoked them enough to entertain — enough, too, to suggest that some aspects are
not quite in character, especially the last shooting. Nina van Pallandi (of television's Nina and Frederik) does well as the inevitable blonde.
Two widely different thrillers both suggest distant connections with James Bond, by their hectic antics and the bewildering mystification of their stories. The Mackintosh Man ("AA." Warner and West End) is directed by the great (if erratic) John Huston. and stars Paul Newman and James Mason.
Yellow Dog ("X," Astoria) is directed by a new British producer-director, Terence Donovan, written by Shinobu Hashimoto who wrote "Rashomon" and "Seven Samurai." and stars Jiro Tamiya.
Tamiya plays a Japanese agent sent to London apparent ly to trail a certain Dr. Bewsley. As this mission develops he is attacked by spies from all sides
and opposed by . Robert Hardy of the Special Branch. Newman plays a mysterious diamond thief, who operates under orders, breaks out or prison and ends up involved with government nfcicials and descendants of a wartime resistance movement.
Each story is so mystifying and deliberately puzzling that it would be easy to confound them. Both are exciting more by incident than by plot. But both are so fast-moving and well acted as to be entertaining for those undeterred by violence. Jean-Luc Godard's Tout Va Bien ("X," Paris-Pullman, late nights only) is a disappointment. Not even Yves Montand and Jane Fonda and one comic sequence in a sausage factory can elucidate or enliven this nonstop chatter about the role of the intellectual in revolution.
Friday, November 16: BBC 1 Blue Peter :Special Assignment. Valerie Singleton visits the city of Rome, including the Vatican where she meets Pope Paul.
B11C2 Robert Hardy goes to the Tower. The 700-year-old Ceremony of the Keys is the subject of this week's Heritage. Gemt4ny,Awake in the World Cinema Series is a fascinating documentary which shows how Joseph Goehhels conditioned the mind of the German people by a subtle combination of propaganda with entertainment.
Monday, November 19: Granada — The Messengers. In 16th Century Italy, Michelangelo fought to create his vision in the Sistine Chapel. in to-day's world, pup cult figures like John Lennon fight fit their kind of freedom. By using scenes front "The Agony and the Ecstasy ', The Rebel-, "Song. Without Fnd" and -Imagine'', this schools programme takes a look at the freedom of the creative artist.
Thames — Two new children's series have recently been launched by Thames. Michael Dentine's Potty Time re-enacts famous classical hooks and stories. Michael Benzine says this series is the most important thing he's ever done: "When I visited hospital recently buys and girls of all ages despite their pain were asking about the Pottys. Hence this new series. Robert's Robots is a sevenweek series for children from nine to ninety.. Its about robots, not the sci-fi type bat humanoids. A bit frightening if you approach it solemnly, but hilarious if you don't.
Tuesday, November 20: Granada — Katuraemu: the Search for Ratnyaka. First of two film documentaries on faith — on the extraordinary beliefs and rituals practised by fanatical tribesmen in remote corners of the East. Filmed in the paddy fields of East Ceylon, It was while the Granada team were working on Kataragama that they discovered the appalling conditions of workers un Leylon s tea estates. The discovery resulted in the World in Action expose. "The Cost of a Cup or lea." which is still echoing around the world.