By Freda Bruce Lockhart
"FREDERIC° I. I ',LLI Nl's latest work, Eight and a half ("A", Cameo Poly) arrives as award-winner from the Festival in Moscow. The title is presumably analogous with numbered symphonies. The theme has been said to be broadly autobiographical. Certainly, the movie is a masterly piece of film composition. What it means is harder to discern.
A famous director (Marcell° Mastroianni) is so harassed by the general surrounding hysteria of the film world, that he enters a clinic. There he more or less embarks on his own cure by bringing forward in dream and memory the various experiences, people and problems of his past life.
Through the no-rhan's land of film studio, of dream and of memory parade the women, wife, mistress. actress—involved in his life —anonymous actresses in concealing picture hats or others in formrevealing jeans. Mastroianni himself also draws on the young man's experience of a seminary, his consultation of clerics.
The record is fragmentary. kaleidoscopic. It is like a suit basted together on a tailor's dummy. The fragments are dazzling; so is the confusion. I was all the time delightedly conscious that the French call the director the "rnettuer en scene". For it is like a ballet rehearsal waiting for a magic wand.
A Fellini is the man to come and give the clue that sets them in place, puts them on the picture. He keeps them whirling with such dazzling brilliance—the beautiful women in his life, Anouk Aimee as the wife, Claudia Cardinale as the sweet, well-balanced young actress, Sandra Milo as a deliciously foolish mistress. or a whole sequence of noisy children going through the day to its quiet end, even a Pope for counsel.
At the time of watching all seems confusion and this is certainly not a picture to understand or to review at first heat. But the longer away from it I stay the more beau likely clear it grows and the more superlative a piece of cinema.
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WITHOUT a doubt the most distinguished. interesting and for many people enjoyable entertainment in the West End cinema is still the Garbo revival season at the Empire. Having now seen four, I can confirm their—and her— astonishing datelessness.
Marie Walewska, the story of Napoleon and his Polish patriot mistress, today has, if not the precision perhaps demanded now, a sumptuousness and sweep. a sense of period in the Polish scenes that are very splendid.
Still more does Queen Christina (if we shut our interior eyes and forget John Gilbert as the Spanish Ambassador to Sweden). seem a far better film than I had remembered and an inspired vehicle for Garbo.
Beautifully dressed. whether in royal robes or men's clothes. she is able to combine quite magically a sense of fun in charade, with unanswerable authority in her addresses to peasants of parliament or in her abdication speech.
In all three films another surprise is that we ever counted Garbo a gloomy tragedienne. Every opportunity she seizes for gaiety, fun and tenderness. But it is in Camille (just off yesterday, I fear) that she stands confirmed as the most consummate actress the cinema has ever created. discovered or realised. This is acting of the kind which discovers seeming depths and sensibilities to a character until even Marguerite Gauthier. the basic "courtesan with a heart of goldin this old war-horse of French romantic melodrama. serves to express the feelings of a whole woman.
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Best of the whole school of what I may call schoolboy spectaculars is Jason and the Argonauts ("U," Columbia and general release). Directed by Don Chaffey, with a non-star cast, it carries the complete conviction so, often lacking to these charades where familiar stars appear got up in fancy dress.
The Greek myth More or less) being presented as a game of chess played between Zeus and Hera, looking down from Olympus on the puny mortals they use as pieces, serves as a very acceptable framework. There arc scarcely any of the ludicrous anachronisms which usually punctuate such films with embarrassment.
Instead, a skilful use of trick camerawork (the Harpies are splendid. half-bat. half-human) gives a convincing air of an early conception of the supernatural. A rattling pace, forthright delivery and well-chosen cast, make Jason a triumph for director Chaffey and a boon to uncles and aunts.
Dr. Crippen ("A." Warner) is— or should he—far from a holiday affair. It is a grey little piece about a grey little man, whose claim to fame is deepest black. The documentary drabness is slightly belied by the film's undisguised sympathy for Crippen as the murderer of a wife (Coral Brown) who might have driven any man to murder for a girl (Samantha Egger) who was an angel of sweetness. Donald Pleasance gives his usual first-class performance but the wonder remains at the relationship between this mousey man and either the splendid. flamboyant tyrant of a wife or the pretty girl.