From Gershwin To Beethoven
THE CINEMA IS DOING ITS JOB
From IRIS CONLAY, Catholic Hera1:1 Film Critic
The two new filtns this week are both musically inclined. They are, however, as different as—Gershwin from Beethoven, or Fred Astaire from lgnace Paderewski- nevertheless no one could deny either the name of musical.
When you hear that Shall We Dance (Regal) claims the Ginger Rogers-Fred
Astaire twins, has had its syncopation adniinistered to it by George Gershwin, its lyrics by the other Gershwin, Ira, and even allows Edward Everett Horton to have an occasional look in, you will expect a lot for your half-crown. Nor should you be d isappointed.
Moonlight Sonata (London Pavilion), the film which that benevolent giant of the
piano, Ignace Jan Paderewski, has made With the material (so he tells us, but we don't know whether to believe him) of his own life, is, in parts, most beautiful. It is most beautiful, that is to say, whenever Ignace Jan Film Star is not acting, and Paderewski Musician is at the piano. Not even Marie Tempest in all her glory, or the new little girl of the studio, Barbara Greene, can save the film from horrid unmistakable mediocrity. But we forget all that.
We forget everything directly the first shots dawn upon our eyes. For the first three-quarters of a blissful hour we are in a concert hall not only listening to that virtuoso's liquid falling notes (recorded withoet any possibility of tone-distortion), but watching his every movement, seeing right into his inspired imagination.
We are beside him, above him, with his hands on the keyboard, with those flashes of his thoughts which take him into the auditorium, which sweep the whole rhythm of the building, which remember not less the penniless student than the appreciative millionaire. We know the pucker of the brow, the occasional frown between the eyes, the strain upon the muscles, the power behind the pianissimo, the violence behind the fortissimo, all the ranges of feeling we can watch and know things that the composer himself can scarcely express.
All this is not only brilliant recording of sound and beautiful photography (it is incidentally both those things) but it is brilliant cinema. It does all the things the cinema should do, but just doesn't. It bring its audience right up to its subject so that there is nothing about that subject that the audience may not share, it is the most naked and unashamed portrayal of character that any art can ever hope to give us. The cinema can do this, but how seldom does it even recognise its possibilities.
Movies, But Not Quickies
Often the foreign film attempts, and often succeeds. English studios have never before dared these heights, preferring apparently to copy slavishly—and badly, the Hollywood " Quickie " method.
Everything for speed. I say nought for speed in serious production. and everything for slow motion, slow development, then the effect is overwhelming.
I will go again and again to this film, but I will only stay for that concert performance in the beginning which fades out with the playing of the Moonlight Sonata. And I will go not solely because I like to hear the notes of this musician—if it were merely that I might just as well buy myself a gramophone record—but because am sure that this sequence is the best piece of cinema that British studios have ever produced. It only reminds of one other film experience, a like concert scene in the German version of Bergner's Dreaming Lips, but here the centre of interest has shifted from player to audience. It is the player that is infinitely the more important.
Machine Room Rhythm
After the serious purpose of Moonlight Sonata, it is difficult to switch back to the wild fun of Shall We Dance, but in its other fashion, it also is a top-notch picture. It is apicture in which all the component parts do justice to each other, unlike Moonlight Sonata, which distinctly has its ups and downs. Gershwin's crazy rhythms are interpreted with all the frenzy of which Astaire is capable. Edward Everett Horton has the kind of lines he knows how to use, and Ginger has the kind of part she looks best in.
The direction is never missing either. Most brilliant conception of all, which I guess was a pot pourri of the brains of everyone concerned, was the Astaire dance to the rhythm and pattern of the machine room of an Atlantic liner. Fred's feet, piston throb and movement, Gershwin's sound, all together built something which was exciting and new.
Only one grumble — I wish Fred and Ginger would never stop dancing, then perhaps they would never have time to act. Everything would be better that way.
Two weeks ago I wrote upon a religious service that had been made for the screen by an Anglican minister. In the course of my article I said that it was out of question to make film services out of the Mass or Benediction. I am afraid that what I said caused misunderstandings. Very beautiful screen pictures have been made of the Mass by our own Catholic Film Society, which thousands of people must have found very devotional. They were, however, made as something beautiful to look at and as aids to prayer, not as a substitute for the real Mass.
The difference between the Anglican film service and that of the Catholic Film Society's Mass, is that the Anglican understands the service in the same spirit as that held in church, whereas the C.F.S. would not consider a visit to their film sufficient for Sunday's obligation.
Am I right, Catholic Film Society?