HELICOPTER AS HUNTER
IN -an art gallery. "Landscape
with Figures" or "Still Life" are conventional labels attached to pictures without themes, with more form than content.
Joseph Loscy uses an ana' logous title, for his latest film, Figures in a Landscape ("AA," Carlton) is very nearly an abstract film where neither figures nor landscape can be really identified.
The landscape is spectacular enough, and varied, too, covering a wide range of scenery— from many-coloured mountains and rushing streams to woodland. rock and mixed crops. The figures are two men, MacConnachie (Robert Shaw) in his forties and Ansel! (Malcolm McDowell) in his twenties.
They are fleeing across the landscape with their wrists tied, so they are presumably escaping from some kind of captivity; but whence or what we never learn.
A third protagonist on the scene is the helicopter pursuing the two men. Helicopters have been seen before on the screen. hunting men, and it is not a pretty or comfortable sight.
McConnachie becomes almost suicidally obsessed with the pilot of the pursuing helicopter. The only other figures are also the anonymous frontier guards.
There is, of course, a slight character contrast between the two main figures, but it is hardly enough to replace a human story, especially as the harassing, predatory helicopter reduces both men to a state of degradation which the younger recognises as animal.
There are scenes of great beauty, and thrills not notably different from the sensational thrills of a roller-coaster. But
could not feel 1 was watching more than an essay (supremely skilful, of course) in abstract film-making.
Robert Shaw wrote the screenplay (from Barry England's novel) as well as playing the principal figure. I cannot think of any actor writing a more unselfish script for himself, * It is impossible not to admire the best Japanese films, which is not to say they are always easy to enjoy. This makes the great Kurosawa's latest film to reach London, Sanjuro ("A," Academy Three) all the more welcome. All the elements which ever make Japanese films popular are here, plus comforting shades of the Mikado and the Lord High everything. The period, we are told is early nineteenth century. Trouble arises in one of the great clans during its "laird's" absence.
Eight young Samurai act as a sort of private army or troop of cadet swordsmen trying to intervene with the authorities about rampant corruption, and play off one group of conspirators against another.
Toshiro Mifuno, the great Japanese actor, appears as Sanjuro, a sort of freelance Samurai who puts himself at the head of the young men, fights their battles for them, helps them to rescue the Chamberlain's kidnapped wife and daughter and generally sort out the game into happy families.
Once we feel sure the humour is intended, there is a very happy pantomime air about the whole adventure. brandishing swordsmanship and all, I suspected that for the Japanese this might be the same kind of tongue-in-cheek treatment of a traditional form as we enjoy in such Westerns as "Butch Cassidy."
I was very specially struck by the marvellous performance of the elder actress playing the Chamberlain's wife: a real Japanese comedienne.
Acrobatic argument might. 1 suppose, present Cool It, Carol ("X," Windmill Cinema) as either a cautionary . moral warning to teenagers of the dangers of the big city, or as a piece of pornography. It left me with two reflections on the ever-recurring problem of censorship.
Some years ago, the phrase which put "consenting adults in private" beyond the law won wide sympathy. But films in cinemas are not shown in private.
And while we are all urged to preserve the physical environment from pollution, it is surely equally urgent to preserve the intellectual and moral environment. too.
We are now reaching the last week of the London Film Festival. Among the major attractions still to be seen are: Wanda, the surprise hit directed by Barbara Loden (who also stars), wife of the distinguished American director Elia Kazan.
There is also Ingmar Bergman's The Faro Document and the great Indian director, Satyajit Ray's Days and Nights in the Forest, none of which I have yet seen.
Bernardo Bartolucci's muchpraised The Spider's Strategy is also showing. I found it indeed very stylish; decorative and clever in its attempt to trace a Fascist crime, but also immensely involved and suffering from the excessive walking up and down which sometimes afflicts the very best Italian films. Hoa-Binh (showing on Sunday) is a touching if rather sentimental picture of women. and children in Vietnam, directed by Raoul Coutard, the magnificent photographer of many Godard films
Two remarkable FrancoItalian productions shown at the Festival were Franju's picture of Zola's novel, La Faute de L'Abbe Mouret and Chabrol's Le Boucher. Both, madc with superlative skill, have a believability, a real realism I find only in French pictures, as intense in lush or glossy colour as in the old sophisticated black-and-white.
The power of Franju's film is indisputable, until the vaunted realism of Zola gives way to romanticism.
No Catholic, however, could fail to he distressed by the vitriolically anti-clerical story of the young priest's lapse; or even his surveillance by the sadistic puritan Brother — a type fortunately rare in the Catholic Church, except in the Jansenist era.
Chabrol's "Le Boucher" I thought in many ways the most satisfying success of the Festival films I saw. Always talented, Chabrol has gone from strength to strength.
Technically and successfully a thriller, "Le Boucher" succeeds in being for about threequarters of its length a beautifully 'lucid account of a friendship (rarest of screen relationships) between a small town schoolmistress (Stephane Audran) and a local butcher (Jean Yanne).
The acting is superb, and every grey brick and blade of grass as authentically provincial French as the wedding dance at which they meet.