Airplane's finger lickin' surprise laughs
PEOPLE are supposed to like surprises but I don't. Almost automatically I think them nasty just because they are surprises. But one surprise is a specialtreat for film critics. That is when they find a film much better — and especially if it's funnier — than expected.
Most of the reviews I'd read of Airplane (Plaza 1) were decidedly patronising. Not being a great admirer of the three or four "Airport" annuals, I found it easy to believe the comment that it would he difficult to make a parody of the series more ridiculous than the original.
I don't want to go to the opposite extreme and raise expectations too high by overrating the folds y siMple humour of the bland airhostess bedside manner, the agitated passengers seeking •guidance like a flock of scattered sheep, the little old lady (a la Helen Hayes), the nun lending her guitar to soothe passengers suffering from fish poisoning, one really splendid moment of surprise from Ethel Merman, the fellow-travellers driven to suicide from boredom by listening to the wartime confessions of the hero, a spoiled pilot forced to take over the controls, and the successive professional men trying to talk him or the automatic pilot. Otto, down at the climax.
I can only say I laughed more than at any movie for a long time. If you were amused by Hellzapoppin long ago and by Kentucky Fried Movie, made by the same team of Abrahams (director) and Tucker and Son (authors) you may enjoy the laughter too.
THE POETIC lore and picturesque legends of Georgia make The Wishing Tree (Camden Plaza) an attractive new movie. Based on the short stories of Giorgi Lconidze, Tengiz A buladze's portrait-in-film of a prerevolutionary village in what is now Soviet Georgia has the fascination of fantasy and quaint characters.
The delicate and sensitive picture of village customs and characters is interwoven with a village romantic tragedy of tradition supressed. This is a genuine attraction for anybody with a taste for the out-of-theordinary film about people's .roots,
Barbara Stone and her husband David took a risk when they launched the Gate Cinema, Notting Hill. They have already opened Gate Two in Bloomsbury and are now branching into Mayfair where the old Starlight Cinema in the Mayfair Hotel will henceforth be known as Gate Mayfair.
I welcome the Stones' success and applaud the enlightened policy which has achieved it. But I regret the choice of such a primitively controversial subject as The Consequence ("X" Gate Notting Hill and Gate Mayfair) with which to open the new venture. Not that this German movie is wholly primitive. But it is about Martin (Jurgen Prochnovv) a teenage homosexual condemned to prison for seduction of a minor. Given the film's premise that all loves are equal, its initial handling of Martin's relations with the friend he makes in prison is comparatively intelligent and sensitive. But the whole bias of the film is in the contemporary direction of caring more for the criminal than his victim; and of blaming his perversion on the callous stupidity of harems and brutal oppression by authorities, These are so piled on as to jettison the movie's credibility. In Edinburgh the thirty fourth International Edinburgh Festival opened last week, offering such a range of riches that the sample chosen to show the London Press is the more frustrating.
At the ICA in the Mall. we were shown The Secret, taken in Hong Kong. This is not a martial arts adventure but a so-called psychological thriller. I found it frustrating because I don't understand Chinese, and the subtitles are too small to read with any hope of keeping pace with the dialogue. After two hours was ready to relapse into wonder that an Oriental company could make such a relatively polished though stereotyped western kind of movie.
Suddenly one of the two nearly indistinguishable leading girls plunged a two-pronged fork into the juvenile lead: all three fell on each other making ferocious jungle noises; and the screen became soon as bloodstained as any i have seen since Bonnie and Clyde.
AMONG promised festival attractions which on paper most tempt me are: Honeysuckle Rose by Jerzy Schatzberg director of the brilliant political comedythriller, The Seduction of Joe Tynan; Death Watch, Bernard Tavernier's science fiction offering starring Rorny Schneider and Harvey Keitel, and Brubaker, Robert Redford's latest sally into heavier political drama as a prison warden set on cleaning up
the state prison system. Two novelties bound to reach us in time are Constant, another of Zanussi's comments on contemporary Poland, and Polanski's Tess.
A WEEK is to be devoted to such treasures from the National Film Archive as Piccadilly (1929) starring Anna May Wong and Charles Laughton, the late Sir Alfred Hitchcock's first talkie. Blackmail, Rene Clair's Sous les Toots de Paris and Lubitsch's Paramount on Parade (1929).
We may get a further selection from Edinburgh next month when the ICA in the Mall opens two series as a tribute to ten years of the Edinburgh Festival.
Meanwhile tributes are the order of the day and ICA is showing a retrospective season of the work of the great Italian director. Roberto Rossellini while the British Film Institute is about to mount a season of the earlier (Thirties) Italian cinema starting with such pioneer mammothe spectaculars as Carmine Gallone's Scipio. The Rossellini season at the ICA celebrates that later Italian film renaissance of the end-of-war and post-war socalled neo-reatism, a renaissance virtually begun by Rossellini's Rome — Open City which made an international star of Anna Magnani.
The season at the ICA opens with two slightly later Rossellini's both starring Ingrid Bergman (at that time swept off her feet into marrying Rossellini), In Voyage to Italy (1953) which I had never seen. she stars with George Sanders in a not uninteresting film of the impact of Italy on the rather tired marriage of a singularly non-communicative Anglo-Saxon couple. The other half of the double bill revives the great volcanic Stromboli, in which Bergman plays a Lithuanian (or Czeehoslovak) "displaced person" who escapes from the political frying-pan of a post-war "D.P." camp into the alien fire of marriage to a Sicilian peasant and tuna-fisher. living on evermenaced volcanic slopes of Stromboli.
is immensely powerful, but the impact of the profound naturalism of that Italian "neo-realisf" movement is as powerful now as it was in the latter Forties and early Fifties — and on the life and career of Ingrid Bergman. Both these Rossellini revivals are enormously well worth seeing.
Freda Bruce Lockhart ribollin. T