The Wheels are Running Down
By Iris Conlay
CATHOLIC HERALD Flint Critic
THE cinema seems to have run down this week. Practically no new shows in London. Reasons two-fold as I see them. Partly there was no need for new shows since half a dozen pictures like " Confessions of a Nazi Spy " are good enough to
last over their allotted span of time, and the rest of the cinemas are feeling the pinch of thinner production from our own and from American studios.
English studios, however, excelled themselves some months ago with a little great picture called This Man is News, which cost nothing much to make but which brought in the shekels by the sack. This dry and arid week has been freshened by the sequel to that picture. This Man in Paris is of the same brand of crimereporter escapism as its predecessor and is perhaps just that much more fantastic and engaging.
It employs the same cast; Barry K. Barnes as Simon Drake, the newssleuth who does better work for Scotland Yard than all its G -men
together. Valerie Marry It. Barnes Hobson, a little less
pert than Jessie Matthews and a lot easier to look upon, plays partner to Barry K., and the ménage is completed by the toothy visage of the dour Scottish news editor, Alastair Sim. Jokes crack upon each others' backs as fast as chestnuts between the bars of a winter fire; situations become almost unbearably taut; and in ten minutes we realise that David Macdonald has directed another winner.
CRANKLY I doubt if Abel Gance is I the director of musical films that we had been led to expect. In straight films, preferably with some serious purpose like J'accuse, he is magnificent, but with all his imagination he could not pull Louise out of operatic shape into cinema shape.
His handling of Beethoven's life and music is not the big, real thing it ought to be. Instead it has descended into very effective melodrama which would be well enough for a fiction theme but which is unworthy of the life-story of the world's greatest musician.
Quite in keeping with the dark, grotesque mood of the film is Harry Baur's interpretation of the character of Beethoven.
• The huge hulk of the man stumbles heavily through the picture suggesting all the tumultuous energy that poured into the composer's work but hardly hinting at the tenderness that filled it also.
Fantastic scenes take place in the Quixotic mill which was Beethoven's retreat from an unsympathetic world, and only when they culminate in the sudden black out deafness which afflicted the composer's last years does the picture become real and poignant through its shots of noiseless sound. While it is possible to be unimpressed by the grimaces with which Baur's flexible face muscles express emotion, it is hard not to be moved at the first intuition that deafness was upon him— that shot of Beethoven beating the piano keys and hearing nothing.
WE critics had a treat lately. We were shown some of those short pictures that are sandwiched between the big feature programmes and are a familiar sight to the whole cinemagoing public—except to us, the critics, who live in rarefied atmospheres of big pictures only. From time to time we emerge into the cinema's every-day world and refresh ourselves—the occa. sion on which we were given this treat of shorts was one we enjoyed.
I'll admit to you right away I had no idea that the average ten-minute picture hit the skyline every time as these did. I was deeply impressed by the programme, which included:
While America Sleeps—a crime-doesnot-pay subject dealing with the espionage system which got me and kept me far more than the long feature picture, Confessions of a Nazi Spy, on the same theme.
Double Diving and Marine Circus, which were Pete Smith pictures of diving and its deep sea equivalent.
The Man on the Rock and The Story of Dr. leaner, both historical films with a controversial twist,
How to Read and An Hour for Lunch, in which a gentleman called Robert Brenchley nearly exasperated me, but was so nicely trying to do his best that I had to smile in spite of myself—
And a cartoon—The Little Goldfish— that would fetch both tears and smiles from a hungry pussy-cat.
Often as not I would rather a cheap little short like these to a milliondollar spectacle. They teach the value that is in compression, and no mistaking it.