By GRACE CONWAY `Catholic Herald' Film Critic
THE LOVE LOTTERY Gaumont: Certificate U Director: Charles Chrichton
IT is something of a shock to see Ealing, our all-British studio stronghold, coming out in a rash of Technicolor and to look out of the window and see a Hollywood landscape.
This is how "The Love Lottery" begins, and even when the scene moves briefly to a London hotel (in the Aldwych), and later to the Lake of Como, it is a somewhat bedizened Ealing wearing her newly found nylons and sequins a trifle selfconsciously.
In short, our prestige studio has gone all international on us. Its cast has British David Niven, Irish Peggy Cummins. French Anne Vernon (remember her in that beguiling trifle "Edouard et Caroline"?). Czech Herbert Lom, Vienese Theodore Bikel, Scottish Gordon Jackson, Belgian Eugene Deckers—to mention only some.
Charles Chrichton, the director who gave us such essentially British comedies as "Hue and Cry." "The Lavender Hill Mob" and "The Titfield Thunderbolt" keeps his polyglot team well in hand. He also uses his group of Italian extras as competently as he did the Cockneys in Ealing's stay-at-home days.
But why has befallen for the rather outworn technique of the dream sequence which. even so, is only a poor relation of its lavish Hollywood cousin?
A Hollywood "star" (David Niven), driven to the point of a nervous breakdown by perpetual sword and dagger parts, swinging on the chandelier, and all that sort of superman stuff, with the biggest fan mail after Fang (the Alsatian dog), pursued by screaming bobby-soxers wherever he goes, buys himself out of his contract and sails for England.
In an interview with an American columnist before he sails, he has irritably announced that he might well put himself up as first prize in a lottery.
Arriving in London. he is greeted by the suave owner of an orgahisation (Herbert Lom) calling itself the International Syndicate of Computation, who takes him up on his "joke." His luxurious offices are in a palace by the Lake of Como. For bait he uses the beautiful mathematical genius of the firm—Anne Vernon. And his base scheme works.
In spite of an excellent basic idea, a grand company of intelligent and attractive actors. lovely Italian scenery and lots of comic situations, the joke doesn't quite come off. If the film had come from any other studio less might have been expected of it. Let's take it as "time off for synthetic fun" and hope that Ealing won't feel in need of another blood transfusion for a long time to come.
BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN La Continentale: Certificate X Director: Sergei Eisenstein
ISENSTEIN'S most famous film _Li—one that is talked about in reverent and hushed tones and has become almost a legend, can now be seen for the first time in London since 1935.
An orchestral score has been added (it was. of course, a silent film) and this procedure is to be commended. Nothing is more irritating than a jingling piano (such as is being used without Interruption in many "silent" revivals just now).
The event which forms the subject of this revival is the mutiny on the
Russian battleship Potemkin off Odessa in 1905.
Eisenstein was only 27 when it was finished. He said of it: "We tried to take the historical events just as they were and not to interfere in any shape, manner or form with the process as it was actually taking place." But the political slant is obvious.
For instance, there is a truly terrifying priest on board the battleship who looks like the wild man of Borneo, waving a crucifix and behaving altogether in an unpriestly manner. And the officers are all thugs and bullies.
But that, with the background in which Eisenstein worked, is to be expected. What makes a visit so well worth while is the general composition and the fluidity of movement.
The classic scene of the massacre on the Odessa steps is remarkable for the use Eisenstein made of individuals in the crowd, bringing them close to the camera to register terror and panic, while the soldiers mow them down with the precision of a tank.
Eisenstein also put on record the shocking state of the "man below deck" in those Czarist days, The mutiny in question was brought to a head because of the meat crawling with maggots which the sailors were given to eat.
One sequence to cannot agree with: when the body of the dead sailor is brought and placed on the quayside at Odessa, not one of the mourners (and this is a long scene) makes the Sign of the Cross. It was not for another 12 years that even the young Russians stopped making that Christian gesture in the presence of the dead.
Eisenstein would have been a greater artist if he bad not allowed his politics to colour his screenwork. Obviously, he was very much the product of the times he lived in.
VON STROHEIM SEASON
STUDENTS of the silent film have an oppportunity to examine the technique of another famous director if they are members of the National Film Theatre (they can be for 5s.) on the South Bank. A 12week season of his works is being shown which includes his most representative films. including "Greed," "Queen Kelly." "The Wedding March" and "Foolish Wives."
In addition. the von Stroheim season will show films in which he has acted. These will be chosen from "Five Graves to Cairo." "Sunset Boulevard" and "La Grande Illusion."