By GRACE CONWAY 'Catholic Herald' Film Critic
THIS hasn't been a vintage year for the cinema —but it has been a very full year. I should say that I have seen about 200 films.
'What a lovely job!" say some of my friends. "How on earth can you bear it?" say others. Well. I suppose you've got to be interested in films and to take the tripe along with the caviar.
Looking back through the file of THE CATHOLIC HERALD, I find that there has been less tripe than usual. No wonder, since we are told that the cinema is fighting for its life. I simply don't believe it. But I do believe that competition is getting fiercer between the Americans and ourselves. Italy has not kept up its challenge of a few years ago and even France hasn't sent us as usual quota of distinguished films.
All the same, I give the year's palm to France for that austere and lovely "Journal d'un Cure de Campagne," with honourable mention to Robert Bresson, its director, and Claude Laydu for his moving and unforgettable work as the young priest.
rtOMING down to earth, let us see "-'what the British studios have done that is worth remembering.
Coming in at the last moment and very fresh in my mind as I write is "The Kidnappers," a triumph for Director Philip Leacock, his adult cast, and those two clever children—
not forgetting the baby. I feel a bit sorry for Duncan Macrae, Jean Anderson and Adrienne Corn—they have joined the vast company of accomplished actors who have been sacrificed to make a child actor's holiday.
Among the peaks I find "The Heart of the Matter" (so unlucky in its lack of a lengthy West End showing but soon to go out on release); "The Intruder," "The Malta Story," "The Man Between" (though not Sir Carol Reed at his most inspired), "The Cruel Sea" and the modest but excellent "The Long Memory," with its constructive message on the futility of revenge. John Mills did good work in this.
ON the lighter side British studios gave us "Genevieve," a lively comedy about the old cars; "The Final Test," which thrilled the cricket fans and the layfolk as well. None of us thought "The Captain's Paradise" was wicked until it got to Amesica—and there it was hung with the badge of shame. I'm sure no one was more surprised than Alec Guinness.
Honour must be paid to the magnificent Coronation films—"Elizabeth is Queen" (made by Warner's) and "A Queen is Crowned"—worthy records of a great occasion. And to companion them came "The Conquest of Everest," which only a few disgruntled dessicated people didn't like.
How many people enjoyed "The Beggar's Opera"? I didn't—much. But I thought "The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan" good fun. So was Ealing's fantasy on an old train, "The Titfield Thunderbolt."
uiE still look to Hollywood for V V our major film fare, so it isn't surprising that we get more rubbish than we get from Britain's sparser output.
But lots of worthwhile stuff came along this year—such diverse pictures as "The Medium," that faithful translation of Gian-Menotti's opera on to the screen by himself, and "Come Back, Little Sheba," a film with a sermon if ever there was one (how to put up with each other !).
The year 1953 will be specially remembered for (a) the magnificent "Julius Cesar"—and I have no second thoughts about the stirring perpormance by Marlon Brando; and (b) the advent of Cinemascope.
In spite of the Canutes—like those who thought to keep the talkies at bay by saying how bad they wereCinemascope is among us to stay until something even more revolutionary comes along. Strangely enough, I find that people who can remain glued to their tiny television screens hate the wide, deep screen. (Those who suffer from long sight say their eyes get tired wandering over the great open spaces.) And while we talk of Cinemascope we must talk about "The Robe,' which brought us the new "depth without specs." Shall we remember it? For that impressive Crucifixion scene, at least, yes.
HOLLYWOOD continues to give us some surprisingly candid views of American life and character. Films like "Stalag 17" and "From Here to Eternity" shock us by their sordidness—but strange to say this type of film gets good notices from the Americans themselves.
Again, there was a pretty horrible picture of brutal police methods in "The Secret Four." While we must admire this honesty and moral courage, we can't help wondering at their exporting it.
Thanks to Hollywood, too, for "Desert Rats," which we looked forward to with mixed feelings (painful memories of Errol Flynn's Burma). But this time they have made honourable amend.
Two high-lights of the year, "Moulin Rouge" and 'Call Me Madam." were shown while I was on holiday" and 1 never caught up with them. Both were liked by the guest critics.
Walt Disney has been with us, outraging the Barrieites with his tough young Peter Pan and beguiling all of us with his superb True Life Adventure films: 1 find these a neverending delight.
A MONO the bright and happy ramoments were "Roman Holiday" and "Young Bess," with two young British actresses, Audrey Hepburn and Jean Simmons, shining as they would never have done in a British film, Does that sound extraordinary? Just think. British girls seldom shine in British pictures. At least, they never outshine the men.
What about Bing and Bob? Both are still with us and it would be a dull year without either of them.
One type of film Hollywood does better than anyone—the great out of doors—and of these the best was "Shane."
Things I could say good-bye to without a tremor—savage bashings; mawkish, sloppy scenes between mothers and sans; long gooey kissing close-ups; loud orchestras in the out of doors, and heavenly voices in or out,
'THE Diary of a Country Priest" .1 I've already mentioned.
"Are We All Murderers?" M. Cayatte's searing comment on capital punishment, is not easily forgotten. "Don Camille"—although an oversimplification of the political conflict in Italy—was pleasantly distracting.
The French Himalayan documentary was interesting to put beside our own "Conquest of Everest."
"Les Belles dc Nuit" (how enraged Rene Clair was at its translation into "Night Beauties") and "The Moment of Truth--these were some of France's best.