FESTIVAL juries every
where last year, and particularly the Catholic jury of the OCIC. at Venice were startled to find themselves in honour hound to make an award for The Gospel According to St. Alatthew to Paolo Pasolino.
For Pasolino is generally reputed to be a communist and he is certainly known as the director of such black "nen-realistic". socially consCious documentary style pictures as Accaome. Mamma Roma and other angry young things. Now Pasolino's Gospel Accordink, to Sr. Matthew has been chosen by the London Film Festival to he shot% n on Sunday,November 8th, at I I a.m. at the Odeon. Haymarket. Whatever Pasolino's oar) political beliefs or philosophy, he has made a fascinating film. The New Testament story could hardly be more simply even starkly told, At first it is a shock to find such fundamental episodes missing as the Annunciati -la the finding of the Child Jesus in the temple, and (unless I missed the Italien) the good thief. the raising of Lazarus and the a edding at Capernium. But this is fair enough, As, I understand, Pasolino answered questions in Venice "we don't find these in Matthew' Hut by his variations of pace and distance. Pasolino has achieved an extraordinary sense or style. In this version it is definitely the Word which counts. the Word and the personality perhaps. Columns of text are spoken 10 only very scanty actions: illustrations. really. 1 his is an El Greco Christ or even more it is the Christ of that wonderful Italian master, Puoninsegna Duccio, whose small, dark compact-headed Christ is so unsentimental. stern and authoritative, especially in scenes Ns ith Satan, in the temptation in the wilderness. In fact, this personeility has been specially created by one of the rare legitifnate uses of "subbitig". For the actor who mimes the part is a young Spaniard eh° looks so like the Duccio, grave and dark and still, GAcept when the tenderness of smile makes itself felt rather than seen, for a child. But the voice, teaching and preaching with sue), authority is that of a great Italian doctor. The device is convincing and so successful. In any historical. picture, casting is of dominant importance. doubly so here where the characters are conveyed by presence rather this 11 performance, illustration rather than action. Peter. for example does not match my notions and there will he other individual reservations. Andrew, on the other hand, comes to life, as does the whole grouping of the disciples and their fishermen's lives. The sufferings of Our Lady on CalVary arc impressive and the changes of pace. emphasis and distance will suddenly illuminate a passage. After the Angel of the Resurrection has given his (it is a very feminine angel) message. the rush to run and pass on the good news gives startlingly the sense of "fear and great joy''. It is interesting that the London Film Festival shows the film in the original Italian, ithout sub-titles, "because it follows exactly the familiar text". It may be optimistic to assume that the text is at all familiar to the Great Public. But if il still is so, films must be allowed to have played their part. And whatever Pasolino's motive in making his St. Matthew Gospel it 'is beyond question the finest film version yet attempted and could hardly do other Bien help to spread the gosael wherever it is shown. A fairly solid musical accompaniment. of Bach. Prokotiev and others is also surprisingly and reassuringly traditi mull groundwork. And if Pasolino's intention was in part to tell Catholics "practice what you preach" that can only do LIS good, too.
At the present time, a straightforward "resistance" film like The Traits (Odeon, I.eicester Square), n seems almost old-fashioned. It has two good justifications. The story includes more complexities of motive and character than could probably have been introduced in the days of war and resistance. It is a great deal better made than most resistance films were in their day. A German Colonel (Paul Scofield) in Paris. where the Allies are daily expected, is determined to get a trainload of French paintings (from Renoir and Cezanne to Picesso) away to Germany before the Allies can either bomb or get them, or different reasons, the other German military, and the French sabotage group (headed by Burt Lancaster) arc inclined to count the o cat in loss of life. and at first count the airfreight has a frivolous interest. Jeanne Moreau, as a French housewife. who finds herself sheltering Lancaster, speaks for the terrible risk for French civilians, liable to be taken hostage, as a reprisal. For the saboteurs to get a train through Sk i th nut damaging it is adding insult to injury. There ate so many elements of risk to create multiple suspense. I was compelled to leave early. This emphatically is a difficult one to leave. My only great regret was that the rare pleasure of seeing Paul Scofield on the screen a as diminished by his conventionally unsympathetic part.
Nothing lightens my Critical spirits so much as the prospect of three French films among my week's awl. At the moment of writing have not yet seen the one of which had the highest hopes, La Vie a L'Envers (Academy). Both the others are elegant trifles by directors of foremost distinction. Francois Truffaut's La Peen Donee (Cameo Poly "X"), I found exquisitely made out but as vaguely repugnant as its title. By vaguely repugnant I don't just mean that the character istic trianglcof wife (Nay Beneditti). errant husband (Jean Desailly) and significant mistress (Francoise Dorleac) is morally repugnant as it is essentially tedious. But the lack of interest of all three characters (including the one virtuous, 'but melodramatic wife) however beautifully played makes the indisputable logic of the drama empty.
Jean-Luc Godard's Band Apart (La Continentale, "A") is vastly noire enjoyable if in some ways the story is more grotesque. The story of an "au pair ' girl (Karina) who gets in tow with two young men to plan a robbery is presumably meant to satirise contemporary gangster-type Western civilisation, from press sensationalism to moral ruthlessness, Taken like this the flippant fooling, with some disastrous results is witty in a wanton way. Nothing of Godard's and Karma's seems likely to be wholly lacking in quality. This at least turns a cold eye. on the obsession a ith crooks, stockingmasks and all, and on the shock of the innocent at recognising the fire they have been playing with.