Page 10, 3rd December 1976

3rd December 1976
Page 10
Page 10, 3rd December 1976 — Mischievous debunking by the master Welles

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Locations: Shanghai


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Mischievous debunking by the master Welles

TWO of the principal attractions from the London Film Festival, which finishes on Sunday, are already or public show, Orson Welles's F for Fake ("A", Essential, 122 Wardour Street, and Electric, Portobello Road) would grace any festival.

This witty, high-spirited, brilliantly dexterous conjuringtrick at the expense of artforgery is also a celebration of those fringes of art. In many ways it is a fulfilment of the promise of Welles's early triumphs achieved, as he recalls, by faking a Broadway career and the notorious "invasion" from Mars.

The basis of the film consists of material shot by the producer, FrancoisReichenbach, about the famous art faker Elmyr de Hory, who plays himself. Also represented is de Hory's biographer Clifford Irv i ng, who was also the biographer of Howard Hughes the film magnate and mystery millionaire.

All these personalities and others, with Welles as master of ceremonies, discuss their memories of notorious artfrauds and the relationship between fakers of art and ar-Lists. Movements of mood and scene are mercurial and never leave us in doubt of Welles's master-hand as he moves from mischievous debunking to the deeper awe stirred by Chartres, the great "anonymous art", This short work is a most refreshing and stimulating movie.

The Confessions of Winifred Wagner ("A", The Other Cinema, Tottenham Street) graduated from the London Film Festival in time to open The Other Cinema. It is an extraordinary work counter to all ordinary standards of film entertainment.

TWO hours (the original version ran for five hours) of sedentary interview of a 78year-old Englishwoman by the camera and the German director, Hans-Jurgen Syberberg, hold is spellbound.

Winifred Wagner is of course principally of interest to English audiences as a friend of Hitler's and the daughter-in-law of Richard Wagner.

The spell her film story exerts is partly due to the force of her own ruggedly quirky personality and partly no doubt to the skill of the cameraman and editor and of director Syberberg in preparing questions for her — a written questionnaire so that the effect is of her telling her life story.

The gossip about the Nazi hierarchy is inevitably, however perversely, fascinating: her own indomitable attitude is even more so. She never felt anything but German. She became a member of the Nazi Party when Hitler wanted her to, but waS not in the first thousand.

She denies all political interest, sees Hitler as a kind uncle to her children andgenerous patron of Bayreuth Festival, where she succeeded her husband Siegfried Wagner as director. As for Hitler's "darker side", she says she knew it existed but "not for me because it's beyond my understanding,"

The fascination of this extraordinary film is that of a good biography — the revelation of a personality as well as of sidelights on the famous and the infamous— "I would never be asked to meet Streicher".

Also at The Other Cinema— careful consultation of the programme is recommended to make sure you see the film you want — are showing episodes of How Yukong Moved the Mountains ("U"). This is a 12-hour documentary series in five programmes on Maoist China by ions Ivens, the veteran director of Communist documentaries.

The two instalments I saw were disappointing as movies. The Pharmacy, by the naiveté of much of its commentary, recalled playing at children's chemistry sets, though the Shanghai chemist dispensed drugs and demonstrated birth control' gadgets to his customers. More interesting is the reference to acupuncture, although pictorial action is scanty compared with the swamp of commentary. The same is true of the much longer programme The Generator Factory, where hordes of workers walk, run and stand while older members complain of their sufferings under the Reactionaries and proclaim their liberation since the Cultural Revolution..

From a screenplay by comedy writer-director Norman Panama and Albert Lewin, one of Paramount's most enlightened former heads, I expected a wittier satire of modern marriage attitudes than 1 will, I Will . . . For Now ("X", Leicester Square).

Les and Katie Bingham (Elliott Gould and Diane Keaton) after trying divorce, decide instead of remarrying to enter into a fashionable "contract". There are some funny passages at the expense of the marriage counsellor and the sexual therapy clinic he recommends. But the wit is spread far too thin over the antics of American bedroom farce.

In the same programme, don't miss Geoffrey Jones's elegant short history of our railways, Locomotion which I greatly admired in Cork.

On Sunday evening, closing day of the London Film Festival, will be shown Some of the Palestinians. This is a truly tragic documentary of the plight of the Palestinian refugees.

Directed by Mamoud Hassan, former head of the British Film Institute's production board, it shows the refugees condemned by the misfortunes of war and politics to live by their hundreds of thousand in camps from which they see no hope of change despite the efforts at relief shown in the film as made by the United Nations.

Freda Bruce Lockhart

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