----H. R. F. KEATING,
TE LEVISION 'has always done pretty well by its sister art, cinema, if only because showing bits of film is a cheap way of filling in telly-time. But recently there seems to have been even more emphasis than usual on the world of film.
exclude from television's consideration of the cinema the spate of old movies we get, though it is a little unfair to do so. When these are arranged into "seasons" they can provide us with thicker mental pabulum than the mere occupying of half evenings with clapped-out comedies.
I have in mind the recent showing of Italian, and earlier French., films of quality on B.B.C.-2, though now I note this series seems to have degenerated into a pretty hodgepodge affair hopefully labelled World Cinema. But even less highbrow groupings deserve our praise.
Meeting an intelligent American last summer I was surprised to hear that at the 'height of our tele-doldrums he was spending his evenings viewing. Why? "You have that excellent Cagney series." And he was right at that.
Spare us iBentine
But programmes made up of selected clips from films can be even more worthwhile. Some of them, of course, are simply excuses to wear old clothes like the 'hippies and pretend they are top fashion, such as the Mad Movies compilation of old jokes linked by new, but little better, jokes from Bob Monkhouse.
And, to tell the truth, the B.B.Cs1 long-running series just ended, Golden Silents, was not much better. Yes, some old comedy films are amusing enough (and personally I can hardly get enough of that peculiar harum-scarum grace of Charlie Chaplin), but how much more interesting they are when they are shown as properly contrasted examples of the fertile mind of man. And this the programme did only sporadically. Oh, and please. Powers-that-be, if the series returns spare us Michael Bentine. It was not so much his repetitive mechanical gestures that infuriated me (he could always be roped up), but it was his fatal disbelief in the material he was introducing and the terrible ingratiating smirk that produced. The way skilled comedians work is interesting. Give us someone who is really passionately interested to tell us so. A degree better is Granada's Cinema, though often it seems merely an exercise in cramming as many good scenes as possible into 30 minutes less commercials. But when its presenter, Michael Parkinson, is allowed his head he often has interesting things to say, and a nice enough turn of phrase, too. And., above all, he has the key asset of enthusiasm. Given this, almost anything will come alive on the box. At much this level, or a little lower, I place the B.B.C. occasional series, Persona! Cinema, in which someone is interviewed and shows extracts from their favourite films. Last week we had Jack Lemmon who was relaxed and nice (rare quality on the box), but the programme is built to a self-crippling formula and every lime the talk got interesting Michael Aspel, the interviewer, had to drag it round to introduce the next clip.
Mounting one more rung on the ladder, we come to Line-Up and its Sunday nights. Another burningflame enthusiast here is Philip Jenkinsors and consequent high watchability. On Palm. Sunday, for instance, the programme gave us a nicely analytical look at "Christ in the Cinema." It had a real problem to chew on in the difficulty of presenting Christ in art at all (How contradictory are the inspirations of the great painters; how tatty the efforts of the novelists; how misguided was television's "Son of Man"; how respectable radio's The Man Born to be King"), and it dug out excellent material for its illustrations.
These ranged from a French effort of 1912, with angels as a fearful cross between Art Nouveau ballet and Chaplinlike waddles, to Pasolini's impressive "The Gospel According to St. Matthew." And there was good-tosthe-point talk of wide-angled lenses, dissolves and other technical aspects of the art.
And if the cinema was shown as failing to solve this problem (despite the on set prayers during the making of De Mille's "King of Kings" in 1927) then this is because if you portray the real Christ what you do is, to quote Newman as recently quoted by Graham Greene. "gather together something very great and high, something higher than any Literature ever was; and, when you have done so, you will find that it is not Literature at all."
Quality of caring
Yet more praise for the newish Thames series Moviemen!, well-constructed and hard-thought studies of directors. An excellent example recently on Bryan Forbes asked repeatedly just what the quality was he brought to the cinema (and came up with the broad answer "Caring"— TV makers, please copy). And no greedy snatching of film-clip goodies here, but carefully chosen extracts to illustrate exactly points made. When next a Forbes film comes up on the box some busy Sunday afternoon I am going to drop everything and watch.
Finally, as if to point up this next extra concern with the cinema on the part of television, Man Alive trained its noisy guns on the subject last week. A steady ranging barrage was put down covering the whole recent history of the industry with generous clips of the juiciest bits from the juiciest films (Julie Andrews singing "The heels fill my heart with the sound of mewsick" and a trousers tearing-down sex scene from. "Women in Love" which should certainly not have been shown out of context).
The barrage was, like most such predictable offensives, pretty unsuccessful, however. And so was the discussion afterwards, which was intelligent and lucid but dull. A lot of hobby-horses all charging in different directions is a mess: one hobby-horse being ridden hell for leather anywhere is good TV.
Could be good
Sunday, B.B.C.-1: "The Christian in Politics." Recording of the debate in the Church of St. Mary Le Bow between George Brown and Malcolm Muggeridge.
Tuesday, B.B.C.-1: "On Trial." The case against Marshal Petain reconstructed from the official transcript, or 'How far should you compromise?'
Wednesday, B.B.C.-1: "Viewpoint." A film marking the bicentenary of Wordsworth's birth by looking at the three days in which he thought out "Tintern Abbey."