Invasion of Britain
BRITAIN may not be able to get into Europe. but Europe and more distant continents have thoroughly invaded the London cinema. The latest movies include a Hungarian, a Polish and a Yugoslav, while two new British and American pictures are about Vietnam.
A new development of very dubious prudence is when a director shows a first flash of promise and exhibitors instantly dig out his previous works which may be merest juvenilia, Poland's Jerzy Skolimowski has suffered from this treatment.
Smolimowski's two professional pictures, Barrier and Le Depart, have just made his name shine over here. The fishing up of his early studentwork, Walk-Over to show to the British Press is hardly likely to enhance his budding reputation.
In addition to the slight foolhardiness of showing an early experiment before there is a substantial body of mature work to set it off, Skolimowski in "Walk-Over" dares to star, as the boxer, in his own film —a double duty which has made more experienced directors come a cropper.
Hungary's Miklos Janeso emerges much better from the same trial. Last year a splendid impression was made by his remarkable picture, The Round-up. which told the story of an act of gross injustice and tyranny in the old Hungarian army with fascinating pictorial quality, elegance of style and controlled emotion. His My Way Home ("A," Academy Two) is recognisably of comparable standard and kindred quality, but shows the reverse side of the priceless coin.
Where The Round-up was held firm in the rigid restriction of the old-style military prison and martinet discipline. the setting for "My Way Home" is as wide open as the horizons of the great Hungarian plain. The rigid structures of military discipline are here as fluid as the aftermath of war, with the barely departed Germans replaced by Russian refugees streaming everywhere and, instead of the well-drilled patterns of whiteuniformed Hungarians, the almost wild cavortings of white horses and cattle.
Above all, instead of the picture of a restrictive little regime, here we have a minutely personal story, reflecting the greater world and war only remotely. The protagonists are two young boys, a Hungarian vaguely interned and his Russian guard.
The companionship, almost the identity, between the two lost boys, their high spirits among the horses, fear of pursuit by a persistent old-type airplane, roasting a cow killed by a landmine: their solitude and gravity when the Hungarian (in Russian uniform) single-handed approaches a great train of refugees, to seek a doctor for his friend, makes a whole human story delicately and tenderly told with total restraint.
This surely is a successful essay in concentrated, personto-person communication, almost independent of words and rules. I should have liked to sit and watch the whole film through again.
Yugoslavia's Happy Gipsies . . . ("X," Cameo-Poly), on the other hand, also move through splendid snowclad mountain scenery to trade in goose-feathers. The colour is very fine and nearly every prospect pleases, but the gipsies, though they may be happy, are pretty uncouth and barbarous and their carryingson not very easy to follow.
Of two pictures catering for present obsessions about Vietnam, Felix Greene's documentary, Inside North Vietnam ("A," Academy Two), seems to me the more predictable, honest and respectable. That is to say, Mr.
Greene, judging from past programmes on the BBC about China, and by his own avowal, is committed in advance.
He is totally against the American operation in Vietnam. His record is that of a man who can get into places like China and Vietnam, not usually over-hospitable to Western journalists. He didn't mind going to North Vietnam for C.B.S.; and the American Government, as he testifies, didn't mind letting in the pictures he brought back.
Evidently it is easy to make a film of any war from one side, showing the suffering little children, hospital patients and helpless women, and the marching, singing, clean-faced soldiers, be they American, German, Russian, Chinese or North or South Vietnamese.
It all looks about as glossy and wholesome as Mao's China Pictorial, and perhaps the most attractive part is the documentary travelogue at the beginning.
Peter Brooke's Tell Me Lies ("X," Gala Royal), on the other hand, is very sick, black revue—or sick, black musical comedy. He calls this a play about London, but as it is also based on the Aldwych Theatre Shakespeare Company, it is really more intended to be about the participants.
Insofar as "Tell Me Lies" represents an outburst of genuine indignation over Vietnam, I find it embarrassing, rather as though somebody had been rude to our host at his dinner table. No country, surely, has ever had to endure such abuse, such vilification from its supposed allies and beneficiaries for doing what it sees as a simple duty to back Western civilisation.
Insofar as it is meant to give a picture of Londoners sitting greedily, sleepily, comfortably at home and pouring abuse on the United States, this "protest" makes perfectly plain that not quite everybody joins in. It makes clear that of nobody is this as true as of London's self-styled intellectuals.
I was relieved to ' hear at least one of them who took part in a radio discussion on the film, publicly regret taking any part in it.