by FREDA BRUCE LOCKHART
THREE films reviewed be
low contribute to our view of the cinema today. Whether as a more general reflection of contemporary life, or as a direct expression of its art, they form to combine an impression of decadence, supreme skill and talent in execution, with little that is clear or constructive to say.
The important exception, the one positive effort to say something original, is in the Polish director, Andrzej Wajda's Everything for Sale ("A," Academy Two), and the very title perhaps is fair comment. Wajda's fascinating picture is also so elusive and, to a foreign audience at least, so obscure that on a first viewing it is almost impossible to interpret with certainty.
On the analogy of an in-joke this is an in-drama, a film within-a-film where the characters are players in a film inspired despite disclaimers, by the brief fame and death of the young Polish actor Zbigniew Cybulski, who, wearing his dark glasses, made such a world-wide impression.
The characters, especially at first the women, are seeking their leading actor who failed to turn up for the first day's shooting. The film is seeking to identify the true personality of the actor.
The deeper they go, the more nebulous the actor becomes. The director still wants to make his film about a dead actor. When a herd of horses gallops across the field where the unit is on location a young man who has given up being an athlete to try to be an actor rushes open-armed among them. Presumably he means to rejoin real life, but even then the camera has a last word.
The film has its longueurs and its irritations, but most of the acting is splendid. Wajda's profound sense of involvement is not to be resisted, though it is not easy to be sure whether he is more involved with the nature of the actor, the nature of the cinema. or Poland Joseph Losey's Secret Ceremony ("X," Curzon) is every bit as complicated to much less purpose, as it seemed to me. This is a typical case of the supreme mustering of skill on a worse than worthless subject which would surely be laughed off the screen if performed by lesser fry than Losey's star team : Elizabeth Taylor, Mia Farrow, Robert Mitchum, Pamela Brown, Peggy Ashcroft.
Because I admire all these clever people I resent seeing them in such grotesque melodramatic rubbish, and myself being mystified by their goings-on. Why is "Miss Leonora" (Elizabeth Taylor) on coming out of church one morning pursued in the bus by an obviously part-witted girl (Mia Farrow) who moans and calls her "Mummy".
Why does Miss Leonora live in such a huge, earlyHollywood palace somewhere in W.2? Is the girl, Cenci, her long-drowned daughter? When Leonora's second husband (Robert Mitchum) appears, is Cenci the victim of rape, incest or delusion? Can it be that Miss Leonora is a man-hater? Why, anyhow, arc they all allowed at large?
Any sense in it all seemed best summed up by the closing lines to the effect that: Two mice fell in a pail of milk and one was drowned.
The other pedalled round and round till in the morning he found himself on top of butter.
Losey has treated the odious nonsense in his familiar style of quasi-baroque opulence. Claude Chabrol, the versatile, almost glossy French Director, has done the reverse with La Femme Infidele ("X," Continentals).
He takes what must be a commonplace case of a wife's infidelity. discovered almost accidentally by her husband's investigation and treats it classically. The husband is a reserved type, but they are "civilised people" and on an unhappy impulse he goes to call on his rival with surprisingly positive results for the marriage.
The meticulous discipline and restraint with which this modern drama is told in terms of familiar realism gives it a quality of credible horror and suspense in its charming outof-Paris setting, oddly reminiscent of Chaplin's "Monsieur Verdoux," without the laughs.