DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST
Curzon: Certificate A Director: Robert Bresson
T HAVE to admit that in spite of the enthusiasm that greeted the I-screen adaptation of Georges Bernanos's modern classic over two years ago I went to see it with a certain amount of foreboding. Friends who had seen it at various film festivals told me it was long. ponderous a n cl slo w.
In the tirst quarter of an hour or so I felt this to be only too true. But as the film progresses the slow, measured pace (het Director Bresson has imposed upon himself—and us—hegins to justify itself as the only a ay in which the story could be told.
For this is the story of a saint—of a roan with very little time to live who yet must accomplish certain missions. Weighed down with bodily sickness, and rejected as a mislit by the people he is trying to serve, he nevertheless does what he Nei out to do.
When his task is accomplished he goes to die in the sordid, dirty attic of his former seminary friend, now an unfrocked priest.
Readers of this column will perhaps recall the conditions under which this film was made. Robert Bresson, one of the younger French directors, always an admirer of Georges Bernanos. when he was given permission to film "Le Journal d'un Cure de Campagne." arranged to meet the :italic* to discuss the film treatment.
Bernanos died the day before they were to meet and Wesson then had to go forward without his guidance. The results we can now judge.
To begin olds, the diary form has been retained. And, since n is obviously impossible to have a whole narrative captioned in English. an English voice has been substituted. It is a weak. thin'voice, chosen no doubt to suggest a man ailing and not far from death. The Diary itself is frequently shown in close-up—written in a cheap notebook with its muchused piece of blotting paper moved from page to page.
I know that the Diary has exasperated and puzzled many critics, especially the practical-minded ones, who wondered why this strange child of God did not get on with the work of the parish instead of recording his thoughts and his feelings in this inkstained book.
'the part of the priest is played with an incandescent intensity by Claude Laytlu—a young Swiss-French stage actor who here makes his film debut. He is. 1 am told. a Protestant, and it says much for his own personal research and intelligence that he is able to convey unforgettably the inner quality of the saint-in-the-making.
A GREAT PICTURE
I would recommend all who can to read Bernanos's book before seeing the film. In this way they will observe the small group of characters taking on life and substance—the griefat rophied Countess (Madame A rkell), whose final meeting with the priest provides the big climax of the film; the warped. embittered Chantal (Nicole Admiral); the giggling, spiteful little Seraphita (Martine Lemaire), and the splendid C111 de Torcy (Andre (iybert). who in his turn provides a brief but moving moment in which he humbly asks the young and now utterly defeated priest to give him his blessing.
In his long slow-moving picture, photographed against a stark winter background, in which he has made no compromise to external. appeal, I think that Robert Bresson has composed a great picture for anyone who cares to delve beneath the surface and who, with the Cure de Torcy, can
understand that God sometimes uses the weakest of His creatures to accomplish His heaviest tasks.
I CONFESS Warners: Certificate A Director: Alfred Hitchcock
ANOTHER priest—this time a Canadian in Quebec—is accused of murder. He knows the real murderer but is hound by the seal of sCofnfession and cannot defend him elThis is not one of Hitchcock's best. Montgomery Clift, who goes through the picture wearing one expression. looks attractive but is hardly asked to do any acting.
The ending is melodramatically contrived but not before the priest's romantic past with a former girl friend (Anne Baxter) has been thrashed out in court. As this is a Canadian court, proceedings are on the whole decorous, with Brian Ahearne as a restrained prosecuting counsel and very few heroics.
MAN IN THE DARK (3D) (Davis I heatre, Croydon: Certificate A) Director: Lew Landers ("sOLUMBIA took the critics out ‘-"to Croydon for this their first 31) production—a feature titne which deep focus.
been geared to exploit "The Man in the Dark" is Edmond O'Brien, whom we see as a detained gangster about to have a brain operation that it is hoped will cure his criminal tendencies. It does— and at the same time it robs him of his memory. This is very nice for him, but his former friends are not too happy as he has hidden his loot and now neither he nor they know where it is. So they kidnap him from the mental institution, And what happens to him in their hands provides the main action. One of the baffling things about 31) in its present state is that sometimes it looks quite flat and at other times you are being shot from a revolver right between the eyes. (This is, of course. still in the spectacleson-nose stage.)
One nice. gruesome touch during the brain operation: as the forceps pass from the hands of the nurse to the surgeon. they leap out of the screen as though they are being handed to you. Baffling touch is that, contrary to expectations. dramatic moments don't seem to be heightened because they are shot in deep focus. But we must accept these first examples as more or less experimental. and the studios, I imagine, are more con cerned with the technicalities than with the story. Points or interest in this new medium. Spectacles, handed to the audience as they go in. are disinfected after use. The older glaraour girls will have to look out. 3D makes them look their age. 3D sees through the join in a man's toupee.
jeut these are only the beginnings of the film world's problems once deep focus really gets going.
WALT DISNEY'S PETER PAN (Leicester Square: Certificate U) IN making this long feature cartoon of the J. M. Barrie fairy classic, Walt Disney has, I think, salvaged the work for a whole new generation of children.
First of all he has completely dewhirnsied it. He has rescued the desexed Peter from the clutches of a long line of actresses and made him a real citli a robust American accent. Peter says "Sure" and all that: he is tile voice of Bobby Driscoll. He has a wicked little snub nose and it is even hinted that he is quite a devil with the girls in his gay. irresponsible way. Tinker Bell goes green with jealousy and the mermaids blush at his approach.
The Darling mother and father. too, are far more like honest-togoodness mothers and fathers than those anzmic creatures who have been losing childish support on the stage for some time. As for Peter wanting to know if the children believe in him—well, the whole attitude is, if they don't it's their loss.
If Peter is an American. Wendy. all the Darlings. Smee. Captain Cook and the narrator (Torn Conway) are as English as they come. The Lost Boys arc tough as the come, too. The cinema had lots of children of all ages. They loved it all.