A triumph from Poland
A NEW alphabet of censor's certificates is needed. Four out of my six films under review carry "X" certificates. Whatever "X" stands for, no two of them could be classified under one heading.
Just one outstanding film, the Polish Man of Marble ("U". Academy One) by Andrzej Wajda, has a "U" certificate and even that is debatable. For although Man of Marble would not hurt an innocent fly, it is doubtful whether it would immediately be universally comprehensible.
For this is a very subtle, complex and profound political picture about Poland under the difficult last years of Stalin. Like Wajda's other film about the actor Cybulski, it is a film within a film or a film-maker's film.
A young student is planning to make a film for her degree. Looking through the film school props, she comes across the bust of a worker called Birkut and sets about researching the story of his period. It was that of the so-called Stakhanovite workers when arduous norms had to be fulfilled and "People's Heroes" like Birkut often exceeded them. He worked on the construction of the great steel plant outside Cracow, intended to dwarf the ancient cathedral city.
Birkut was zealous, patriotic, a model worker, until a friend falls unjustly victim to a wave of arrests and Birkut feels driven to protest.
Wajda's film is superb in its narrative ingenuity, its visual splendour, its dramatic passion and breadth and depth of perspective. I called it a political film and one of the thrills and mysteries is how it was allowed to be made at all.
Even when made it had a long wait for permission to be shown abroad and various versions of the ending were tried out. But it is a rare triumph of politics with art.
A single "A" for Adult only slightly flatters the Arthur !filler comedy The In-Laws ("A" Warner). Peter Falk 'and Alin Arkin are the two prospective fathers-in-law, respectively eccentric CIA agent and conventional dentist.
Trying for the sake of their offspring to overcome mutual suspicion, the dentist is led from more or less harmless lunacy to flying to Central America to disrupt international currency. A comic idea turns into motorised, not to say airborne, slapstick but the really funny humour is bumpy.
Recently I wrote of the conundrum posed to critics by
films with negative themes hut positive treatment. Of my present lour "X" films, the two best take place in brothels. one in a borstal and one is about the age of consent — the last stars Joan Collins as The Bitch ("X", Rialto), successor to her other ignoble movie, The Stud.
In honesty I cannot but recommend Saint Jack ("X", Classic) though with a warning that the "Saint" is no more official than that of the old Roger Moore series on television.
When Peter Bogdanovich first directed The Last Picture Show he was almost unanimously hailed as a great new director. Each picture since then seems to have let him down a rung — until Saint Jack which perhaps because it has Roger Corman again as producer, puts Bogdanovich right back on top of the tree.
It is such a marvellously animated (not in the technical sense), tragi-comic, touching picture of Singapore after the dusk of Empire has fallen, giving Ben Ciazzarra the part of his film career as Jack Flowers, the popular, sympathetic AmericanItalian who lives by procuring girls and treating everybody fairly.
It gives another rich opportunity to Denholm Elliott for one of his English gentlemen in decline, as Jack's friend the accountant from Hong Kong. All this and a crowd of attractive
Eastern girls with well-loved songs by Satchmo and Shirley Bassey.
I also have to admit that I much enjoyed Pretty Baby ("X", Ritz) Louis Malle's film on the unpropitious subject of the upbringing of a little girl (Brooke Shields) born in a New Orleans brothel, Malle makes it look beautiful and appealing, like a romantic ballet, in the same way as other French works of art which wave a wand over some of the uglier aspects of life and make • them look pretty. Keith Carradine is at his best as the photographerbridegroom. Scum ("X", Prince Charles) is the movie from the play about borstal which the BBC banned. It is easy to see why. In the days when a "tendency to deprave and corrupt" was one of the criteria for censorship it never convinced me. But this film does seem to me inclined to do just that.
Whilst not telling us much about what the awful youths did to be sent there, it shows them at their most vicious, although the film is wholly on their side. The warders are shown are corruptible and corrupted. Naturally, many scenes are hideously effective and affecting.
One relief is the performance of Mikc Ford as one delinquent who has learned to live with the regime and negotiate the tight-rope of the rules.
Freda Bruce Lockhart