By Freda Bruce Lockhart
NEXT week's Catholic Film
Festival in London, coinciding with the Film and Television Conference, gives Catholics the opportunity to catch four notable films.
All four are to be shown at the cinema of the French Institute in Queensbury Place, South Kensington. S.W.7.
On Wednesday, September 5. the film to be shown will be Leon Morin, Priest, a remarkable film of the conversion of an agnostic woman by a young priest's understanding and perseverance in his vocation. which has been twice reviewed here. My enthusiasm for the film and especially for the wonderful performance of Jean-Paul Belmondo as the priest, and also of Emmanuele Riva as his reluctant catechumen. is undiminished. But the Catholic Film Institute's warning that the film is "strong meat, fit only for fully adult spiritual digestions" may well be justified for the occasion.
Thursday's film is The Angry Silence, not strictly a religious film. But the courage and integrity of this British film on the inhumanity of restrictive trade union practices constituted such a splendid enterprise by the actors—Richard Attenborough, Michael Craig. Pier Angell, director Guy Green and writer Bryan Forbes who combined and sacrificed much to make it— that it well deserved the priee of the International Catholic Film Bureau at the Berlin Festival in 1960.
Friday's and Saturday's films are also distinguished winners of the
International Catholic Film Bureau's prizes: 11 Posto (Friday's) at Venice, and The Hoodlum Priest (Saturday) at Cannes.
I have also twice here tried to communicate my enthusiasm and recommendation of II Pomo as one of the most nearly perfect films I have ever seen. This tiny Italian comedy of a young clerk's first job reaches depths of humanity few larger films even touch.
The Hoodlum Priest makes a more conventional American religious film. But the story it tells of the Jesuit Father Dismas Clark, with his mission among convicts, is far from conventional. The sincerity of the (non-Catholic) Arnerican actor Don Murray, who engaged in the production as well as the star role of the film, makes the scene where Father Clark aveompanies pne soul to the very last agonies of the electric chair, a memorably inspiring experience.
VER the years a film critic sees enough prison pictures to make him feel he has done time himself. Bird Man of Aleatrez ("A", Odeon Marble Arch) is an altogether different story of a "real and living man". Robert Stroud (Burt Lancaster), we are told through his biographer Tom Gaddis, was condemned to be hanged for killing a prison guard (his third victim). By perseverance, his mother (Thelma Ritter) obtains the intervention of President Wilson to commute the sentence to imprisonment for life. This turns into 50 years of solitary confinement. Stroud's rescue of a drenched 'fledgling sparrow leads him to turning the "solitary" block at Leavenworth into an aviary filled with the song of canaries: and eventually to become a world expert on bird diseases.
This astounding film lasts for two and a half hours.
It draws no easy conclusions, teaches no easy lessons for either gaolers or gaoled. But Stroud's triumph over what seem insuperable circumstances is one of the most inspiring human achievements ever filmed. Both Burt Lancaster's performance and John Frankenheimer's direction do their utmost to make the film express Stroud's assertion that the most important factor to preserve for a prisoner is his individuality.
UNDER the innocuous title Life for Ruth ("A", Leicester Square Theatre), from a producerdirector unit principally known for a mildly pedestrian efficient topicality, comes a minor British film of more than usual interest. Director Basil Dearden. producer Michael Relph and screenplaywriter Janet Green, have before now turned for inspiration to news items. Their latest film has evi dently been inspired by the ease a year or two ago when members ot one of the minor eccentric religious sects refused to allow o blood transfusion because of then total adherence to the letter 01 Biblical law.
The young father (Michae Craig) in the film stands trial fee manslaughter because he has no allowed his eight-year-old daughtee to have a blood transfusion.
I felt the initiative of the agnostic doctor (Patric}
• McGoohan) in himself bringint the action was improbable. Bu many elements ' in the discussiot are vital and valid.
Hart-Jacobs (Paul Rogers), as Q.C. who offers to defend (hi father, is a Jew who sniffs persecu tion in the case; the efforts of th, Vicar (Maurice Colbourne) an ineffectual to help the mother; Catholic newspaperman is told hi might as easily find himself it conflict with hospital ethic (quoting the usual over-simplifiet glib version of the mother-and baby ruling never to take life). Th concluding solution is like th man's principles. almost wholl' subjective. But the making of commercial film on any such issu of principle is a brave an welcome advance.
IT is difficult to analyse th appeal of Ernest Hemingwa• to iltoedinaiyngswpaiyiti, shc.Adventures of . Young Man ("A" Carlton), i based on two Hemingwa; stories. Richard Beymer i thoroughly acceptable as th. young American first-war ideaTisi Nick. sensitively sniffing at lif and poetry. In the early America scenes, he runs away from th mother he cannot love (Jessie Tandy). the father he does f sympathetic study of weakness b that fine actor Arthur Kennedy and the sweetheart he oitgrow (Deene Baker).
His first adventure is a mot poignant forest meeting with wholly punch-drunk ex-champio (very remarkably brought to lif by Paul Newman) tended by loving Negro (Juan Hernandez).
Much less satisfactory is th second half of the picture, whe Nick joins the American ambi lance corps in Italy, based fluster ably on the chapter in Hemirn way's own experience whic formed the material for Farewe to Arms.