Rushing in where the experts fear to tread
HE cinema has its own cliques of what pass for highbrows, of serious experimentalists prepared to risk not only money. but their professional status on quixotic plume-brandishing.
Such a figure is Orson Welles. Ever since Citizen Kane Orson Welles has maintained an air of panache that makes him a oneman genius in pictures. A tendency to larger-than-life size concepts. a willingness to rush in where experts fear to tread has made him peculiarly a son of the cinema.
It would be difficult to think of another popular figure who would have tackled the topmost problemauthor task of transferring Kafka to the screen.
I had never read The Trial, but Orson Welles's film ("X." CameoPoly), which dares to use that title has very much the feeling I have always associated with the famous novel of the unconscious.
Whether it is a close or direct attempt to translate Kafka's Freudian symbolism to the cinema I cannot judge. But the film has the turgid power. the nightmare quality of a non-stop trial for a man's guilt-complex. The man on trial is Anthony Perkins, just when it had begun to seem high time for him to grow up as an actor. The presence of such world-famous actresses as Jeanne Moreau. Suzanne Flow Romy Schneider, Madeleine Robinson and Elsa Martinelli in comparatively tiny parts is a measure of the mingled affection and confidence Welles still inspires rather like a Third Programme C. B. de Mille.
As usual, whatever the sense of What he wants to say, his manner of using cameras to say it is masterly, especially in the nightmare Sequences. as that when Mr. Perkins comes lowering and lumbering down a huge tunnel. garishly lit to glitter.
Harold Pinter's screenplay may well be responsible for what 1 thought the wittiest shafts in The Servant ("X," Warner), the devastating snatches of Mayfair tabletalk in what I have heard described as "loud aristocratic voices", or the slightly less smug but equally inane "overheards" in the pub.
The basic story, though, by Robin Maugham seems to have caught some of the first genius of a fashion (lately we had Les Abysses) for examining the servant problem in the light of today.
In Les Abysses two half-crazed sete ingemeids took revenge on the ninsils. In The Servant, Dirk
But the excesses, not to say orgies, in this surprising British film involve master and man and all their mistresses in a more intricate pattern of perversity.
Where comedy is intended the film has passages of high polish. But other passages presumably intended to horrify bs their evil power may incite laughter of a less comfortable kind.
Every few years, although at long intervals, Hollywood still contrives to send the world a sophisticated comedy with witty dialogue of the kind that used to be a Hollywood speciality. Watching Wives and Lovers ("X," Plaza), the goings-on sent my thoughts back at least as far as Breakfast at Tiffany's at the same cinema.
Here. too, the sextet of characters with whom we are concerned are of New York's smart art world. the world of actors. playwrights and their agents or changing wives. Here. too, as in -The Servant", the
six characters are invoked in intricate patterns of changing partners in what one of them describes crudely but aptly as a game of "musical beds".
The six are a playwright (Van Johnson) as self-concerned as most writers, his pretty wife (Janet Leigh) and almost equally pretty literary agent Lucinda (Martha flyer). their client and leading man. film star Gar (Jeremy Slate) and the neighbour. Hollywood divorcee (Shelley Winters) and the character she describes as her "lady's companion" (Ray Walston) to his rage and mortification.
Until fairly near the end matters are held skilfully in play. The main exponent of the best snack is Shelley Winters and she keeps up a good stream of the traditionally caustic cracks about Hollywood and divorce ("Hollywood ex-wives are like old elephants: they just shuffle off").
Janet Leigh succeeds to a considerable extent in endowing with both intelligence and sympathy a pretty young wife who really behaves rather nastily. while Van Johnson puts more than usual energy into his performance as the playwright.
Jeremy Slate manages to make the Movie idol amusing as well as absurd and Ray Walston does nicely in a Tom Ewellish part. Bogardc in a good part plays a gentleman's gentleman who, by power of evil and corruption, changes places with the golden boy (James Fox) who has engaged him as manservant. The trimmings of the picture are sumptuous, the performances from Dirk Bogarde's to the most distinguished walk-on's as splendid as could be seen anywhere.