AS BEAUTY is said to bc partly in the eye of the beholder. our view of history surely varies according to the time and distance from which we survey it. Ship of Fools (Odeon, Leicester Square, "A") seems liable to mean something quite different to those with no pre-war memories and to those of us who can remember wherl arguments were still possible shout Nazis and films like "Grand Hotel" were made.
Not that Stanley Kramer's film or Abby Mann's screenplay is enybody's wildest dream of an historical document. Nor, I should imagine. was Katherine Anne Ponei's novel on which their film is based even a. tentative history of early Nazism.
And yet these passengers 'from Vela Cruz to Bremerhaven in 1933, Nazis and Jews are authentic reminders. There are a rurnantic chug addict (Simone Signoret), a susceptible doctor (Oskar Werner). an anti-Semite (Jose Ferrer) and several shades ifm:tidling good Germans. including on who had married a Jewess. and there is a Jew so happy to be German he couldn't believe what was happening. "After all, what can they do -kill us all?" he asks blandly.
The piercing irony of this has been criticised as hindsight. Hindsight. of course. does enter into appra:sal of this movie today; hindsight by an audience which remembers. It is one of the elements which makes tDis film an authentic slice of nostalgia. For thtk other important element contributing to the film's atmosphere it's the time ol its own standpoint.
Katherine Anne Porter wrote the original hook in 1933 I believe. I have not yet read it. But I remember being fascinated by a full-length interview of this perspicacious, elderly American novelist in Europe, so that I now feel sure her foresight in 1933 was the all-imporrant contribution to th:s movie a generation later.
The style of the movie itself is rather old-fasbioned. The fact of setting it on board ship is quite irrelevant. One never has any sense of leaving the studio floor. Jose Greco and his danctrs are also irrelevant passengers, though not uninteresting.
Indeed, most of the not specifically German or Jewish characters seem just that --passengers in the cast. Especially the younger ones become lade more thee stereotypes, although Elizabeth Ashley once more is intelligently credible above the average ingeeue, as one of a couple of lovers who can't like each other enough.
IAN JAMES ON T.V.-RADIO
VOL( A NUMBER of weeks I have refrained from corn menting on the BBC late-Saturday-night "satire" show, BBC-3 because 1 wanted to give it an opportunity to find its feet. Alas, the infant is still very much at the crawling stage and gives little indication that it will ever do otherwise.
In the days when Mr. Frost presided over "TWTWTW" one became angry, occasionally disgusted, hut very rarely bored. Under the new regime one is simply bored. The whole programme is like a bottle of soft drink from which the gas has been allowed to escape.
Last week the only thing that raised a titter was the imitation of the Prime Minister which was very good indeed -but we heard it the week before and the week before that There was a long discuss:on on laughter, one can only assume because it was the only way of bringing laughter into the programme.
Never, never did 1 imagine I would miss David Frost. But Saturday evening is now not quite the same without him.
Just how effective television can be in providing the back-s ground to a world situation has been demonstrated during the last couple of weeks on the quest:on of Rhodesia. Journalists may work hard, write well but the television cameras can so often tell effectively the type of story that escapes the pen.
I think I have read almost every dispatch from correspondents who are on the spot. But it was not until I saw the This Week programme. much of it filmed in what appeated to be a bar or club. that the deeper feelings and fears of many of the White populat:on got through to me.
Many of those interviewed did not know why they felt the way they did. They were arrogant. selfish. patronising -the country was theirs, they said: the coloured people were below And so to the acting. the other important element in bringing some of the ship's complement of fools alive. Most particularly th:s is the work of three stars. Simone Signoret does everything with her unfailing conviction. although I can hardly imagine her more miscast than as an aristocratic Spanish drug-addict in love.
Oskar Wernet, the brilliant actor who played with Jeanne Moreau in "Jules et Jim", makes every line he speaks absorbing, however dull the part of the doctor who helps and falls in love with the drug addict.
But the real star performance, the one who comes in late with her big scene and sparks real life on to the screen, is Vivien Leigh. As the neurotic. even sadistic divorcee she is Itiperb in period, style and beauty.
I suppose the realisation that the best in this movie is the acting of three parts, and the original book, is a confession that the film is less good than at the time of seeing it. What is surprising is that Stanley Kramer should have wanted to apply his rather heavy talent to the shrewd delicacy of Miss Porter's writing. Still, enough survives to make it an enjoyable reflection for anybody old enough to remember.
Ballet companies and film producers stubbornly persevere, unable to believe that no magic formula has yet been achieved for making" ballet come alive on a screen which amputates its movements.
I persevere too, not so much hoping one day to see ballet translated into film --as in "West Side Story" or "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"—but feeling that a documentary record of baHet is better than no ballet.
The Sleeping Beauty (Odeon, Haymarket, "U") by the Kirov Ballet, Leningrad, has most of the qualities and some of the burdens we associate with modern Soviet ballet: the multitude of technically superb dancers, the vigour and virility of the male dancers; and the heavy, static scttings for fairytale drama.
I found Act I enormously enjoyable for the dazzling dancing of the Princess Aurora by Alla Sizova. The second seemed to diminish some of the familiar diversions from the Aurora's Wedding entertainment and is rather dwarfed by the Wagnerian realism in the forest. Nevertheless a spectacular entertainment.
contempt; they would have UDI and to hell with the consequences.
There is a case for the White settler in Rhodesia. But the difficulCes of Mr. Wilson's mission became terribly apparent when the cameras captured the unreasoning rejection expiessed by these men and women.'
During his interviews in this country Ian Smith was able to win through television a considerable amount of sympathy and support. Since then, those interviews filmed with White people in Rhodesia must have swung the pendulum back the other way.
A radio station which broadcasts from off-shore and beams almost non-stop music to a Fairly young audience gives over part of its broadcasting time each evening to what I suppose can be loosely called a religious progiamme.
One should be thankful that this station finds time for religion. It is a pity that such a good intention should fall so very short of its objective.
The programme, which is recorded in America, wins my Oscar for "the contribution most likely to put people off religion for ever and ever". • It is a whining, Bible-bashing harangue that is as tasteless— and therefore, I am sure.'as useless—as anything that has ever been foisted on a suffering public. It may be that there is still a place in the United States for hot gospelling.
I would like to think that we have grown out of this sort of thing in Britain. Since the programme is so bad, one final thought crosses my mind.
I wonder whether perhaps it is paid advertising and is broadcast not because the station sees it as a public service but as a means of boosting its income.