LIFE BEGINS AT FORTY
By Freda Bruce Lockhart
UBBING is usually regarded as a most vile practice. That is usually the term in its colloquial sense to describe a film where the actors lines are spoken by somebody else in another language. But the Italians have become masters of that as of so many skills.
Divorce, Italian Style ("A". Carlton-Haymarket) is a demonstration of almost the only tolerable use of dubbing. That is where the spoken word is practically confined to narration, in this case by the hero (Marcello Mastroianni) describing the action.
It is a film so funny I feel I shall never again be able to sit solemnly through one of those sun-baked doom-laden Sicilian sagas where to paraphrase the hero's introduction, ninety per cent. of the population are illiterate and unemployed, the wealthier women hide behind shuttered windows, architecture is magnificent and there are in one small town twenty-seven baroque churches with the great church bell to toll for every event; where the priests try to catch votes from the pulpit arid prisoners can count on a general amnesty before every election.
Divorce, Italian-style, does not seem a suitable title to recommend to readers of the CArtotAc HERALD, for in Italy, of course, there is legally no divorce. But this whole movie is an uproarious if sometimes irreverent satire on the whole Sicilian Establishment, with families (just as likely to be newrich as aristocratic) living and sharing and quarrelling over one of those family apartment houses crumbling at the cornice and overlooking a cobbled courtyard.
In such a one lives Ferdinando (Mastroainni) bored literally to death (but to hers) by his wife's 'giggling, clinging endearments. Therefore he dreams of all possible ways of putting her away and himself marrying her pretty young'
The t solution
found satisfies all parties, though it can hardly be said that crime does not pay, at feast after being paid for very lightly.
Mastroainni himself is the prime debunker. Looking quite startlingly like Mr. Macmillan, in a black drooping moustache, he wholeheartedly debunks the very part he has so often played, and at the end, when he appears tousle-curled and beatnik-shirted, he proclaims lustily "Life begins at forty". This is a rare film to make it seem true.
* * * If the Italian film is a model of how to use dubbing, The Great Escape ("U", Odeon, Leicester Square) is an almost equally exemplary illustration of how to make very well indeed a film that is not very good.
Towards the end of the war, the Nazis committed an atrocity which gave the British a great shock. Up till then the Poles might lose ten thousand of their officer-prisoners of war to the Russians or a million Jews in the gas chambers but hardly ever was anything on this scale inflicted on the British.
At a famous Oflag, however, after a particularly brilliant and large-scale escape, the Nazis machine-gunned fifty British prisoners in cold blood. It is to these fifty that the film is dedicated and devoted. For most of three hours, it is hist another tunnel escape film. Directed by John Sturges, in immaculate glossy colour, everybody looks so beautifully turned out that I find it hard to believe that prisoners of war could keep up such spotless cap-h-pied decorum under such strain. The film also distinguishes carefully between the chivalrous Luftwaffe brother-officers and the Gestapo savages.
But we have had other good escape films. This one only seems original for a moment or two when the desperate tunnellers emerge to see before them a stretch of glassily-serene water beneath green willows and the castellated heights of Germany's most deceptively romantic scenery.
It is also original in becoming truly exciting only after the escape. Steven McQueen as the American prisoner, Richard Attenborough as the escape specialist and James Donald his commander are the protagonists. The film seems more like an overlong if overdue pious tribute and it feels disrespectful if not irreverent to criticise it, * * * TOMMY STEELE has long
since graduated from being our first rock 'n' roll terror into a respectable performer who even ventured into Goldsmith at the Old Vic. Perhaps his new film, It's MI Happening (" U ", on limited seaside release) may or may not repeat the phenomenal success of Cliff Richard in The Young Ones or Summer Holiday, but both stars have something of the same endearing youth-appeal.
Tommy Steele. of course, is, and here appears, a bit older and wiser. Here he is a fairly lowly employee in an agency dealing in discs and entertainers. An occasional chance is thrown his way by an objectionable climber one step above.
Tommy uses every opportunity to help along struggling young hopefuls. As most members of the profession are friends of the friendly Mr. Steele. quite a number of skilled performers (such as Russ Conway) are present.
Most of the songs are surprisingly square, and Mr. Steele's leading lady is Angela Douglas, one of the more common new-style young blondes. Altogether, if it is not an outstanding example of motion picture art, this is an engaging little show that could not hurt even an old-fashioned fly.
Perhaps British television may claim the dubious honour of having inspired a new cycle of hospital films. It is certainly strange that populations who tremble for the effects .of smoking. radiation, fluoride, insecticides and other man-made plagues, find peace and comfort in the celluloid simulation of a hospital ward.