Saga of slavery
CLIBAIs; cincrna used to seem a combination of political crudity and artistic energy, which might be expected. Then a year or two ago, at the National Film Theatre's Cuban season, a powerful impact was made by two films by the director T. G. Alea — "Death of a Bureaucrat" and "Memories of Underdevelopment".
Alea's latest movie, The Last Supper ("AA" Academy Cinema Two) is again an impressive and powerful piece and an interesting slant on Cuban history in the tradition of Alea's great Spanish anti-clerical master, Bunuel.
The period is 17th century, the setting a thriving sugar plantation worked by slaves under a ruthless overseer (Luis Alberto Garcia) and a devout and sympathetic young chaplain (Silvan° Rey) for a pious aristocratic owner of the kind fashionably described as paternalistic (a fine performance by Nelson Villagra).
One year the owner for his own and his slaves' edification. proclaims the re-enactment of Holy Week. Twelve of the slaves are invited to supper, with him self emulating Our Lord by washing the slaves' feet.,
At the very long supper he expounds Christian doctrine to them (with some risk of sacrilegious confusion with cannibalism) and tells them that on Good Friday no work may be done, and supper proceeds to conviviality over the cups.
On the morning after however, all turns sour. On Good Friday, to the dismay of the slaves and of the nice young chaplain, the overseer's orders are "work as usual" and the owner refuses to countermand them. Reconciliation and good intentions all gone agley, the conviviality ends not indeed in a crucifixion but a mass decapitation.
Slavery in Cuba at least inspires a more human movie than Nazihunting in South America by a trio of ageing actors in The Boys from Brazil ("X". Classic Hay.market). Gregory Peck, made up to look like an elongated Fu Man Chu with a face-lift, is the chief monster in Nazi post-war strategy in Latin America. James Mason continues to perfect his smart impersonation of a 'disciplined Nazi officer. Laurence Olivier, as a Jewish investigator into the holocaust, takes up where he left off' in "Marathon Man".
Investigations uncover only a development of minimal interest for well over a boring hour. Then a door opened by a very ordinary housewife discloses a more than usually obnoxious teenage son (Jeremy Brain).
A particularly bloody-looking tooth-and-claw encounter between Peck and Olivier, threatened by a pack of baying Dobermanns, leads to the
discovery of Nazi post-war aims as a revolting genetic experiment with so-called cloning to produce millions of identical little Hiders all over the world. I thought the film first boring, then beastly.
Most people who care for the English resent the takeover and corruption of' the word "gay" to its contemporary — "vulg" as the dictionaries say — meaning. Anybody who may fear the Nighthawks ("X", Gate) as our first frankly homosexual feature film which tries to glamorise its vicims may rest assured that this film too is mostly boring and very far from gay in the word's normal It is a dreary and dismal saga of uniformly unattractive young men crawling from club to club or disco in search of others of their kind. The central figure is a school teacher, and his rather pathetic experiences only really come to life when his pupils suddenly pounce to question him — a finale which may tend to confirm anxieties over the recent decision to permit homosexual teachers.
I am so seldom absolutely bored by a film that I hardly like to confess to having found a third film last week predominatly boring. This is Same Time, Next Year ("AA", Plaza and Classic Oxford Street) a two-some adapted from the stage and costarring the delightful Ellen Burstyn from "Alice Doesn't Live Here Any More" and Alan Aida/ from television's "Mash".
They play a couple, both married to others, who interrupt a summer holiday (hers on a convent retreat) for one romantic night which they try to extend into an annual event for 26 years. There are very occasional funny lines or moments, but nothing like enough.
The one bright, magical, exquisite jewel among new arrivals at London's cinemas is the 26-year-old Madame De ... ("A", Camden Plaza). This is the penultimate masterpiece of the late great director, Max Ophuls, whose posthumous fame the NET celebrated last year.
"Madame De . ." is a characteristic fin-dc-sleek romantic melodrama of love, frivolity, infidelity, mischance from the high comedy of the opening to the final tragedy. Ophuls pursues with all his familiar grace and elegance, the Sweeping camera, perfect taste and period sense, the movement of a pair of earrings given by a husband, sold to pay debts, recovered and given again by a lover.
With all this and the superlative acting of Danielle Darrieux, the late Charles Boyer, and Vittorio de Sica, if asked — as I often am — to recommdnd a film show I shall say: "Go to the Camden Plaza."