THE 25th LONDON Film Festival could be said to have gone out in a blaze of glory crowned with the "outside" performance of King Vidor's 1928 The Crowd. 1 never expected, nor I think did David Gill or Kevin Brownlow who researched and re-present Vidor's film about two ordinary people (James Murray and Eleanor Boardman, Vidor's wife) to emulate the triumph of last year's Napoleon. In fact The Crowd perfectly, carried on last year' Napoleonic triumph for the silent movie, the more so, perhaps for its ordinary domestic background, and confirms Gill's and Brownlow's hopes for a renaissance of silent cinema. The story is simple, but many of the scenes of the approaching milling crowds must have been technically revolutionary in 1928.
The packed 1981 audience was evidently perfectly happy. They laughed helplessly at the slapstick moments, were patently moved by the sad scenes of a small boy's death and generally seemed relieved to be involved with such a simple, wholesome, natural story. The absence of dialogue enriches rather than impoverishes the story. and the range of tenderness, sensitivity, affection, confidence and concern expressed by James Murray — a nonprofessional picked by Vidor from the very crowd, seems a miracle, while Eleanor Boardman has as David Gill said that special relationship with the camera that is the mark of all great screen actresses.
Above all. at the Empire and next day at the Odeon Leicester Square and at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, The Crowd had the benefit of the live Wren Orchestra with Carl Davis conducting his beautifully fresh and appropriate score, evoking at times the nostalgic "mood music" of the early cinema, at others period dance rhythms and seemly appropriate music. If the young audience did not rise to cheer as they did at Napoleon, they sat and cheered and clapped their hands off — clearly for the orchestra as well as the movie. The only regret was that King Vidor was too ill to see the triumph of his fifty-yearold silent movie shown as he intended it to he. In the last week of the Festival, too, the Critics' Circle again made its own awards, shared this year by Britain and Poland. The British critics judged the year's best English-language film to be Chariots of Fire; the best screenplay Colin Welland's for Chariots of Fire.
The best foreign film they judged Man of Iron and the best director Andrzej Wajda, Polish director of Man of Iron. Their two special awards went to Freddie Francis, veteran British cameraman for The Elephant Man; and the most Promising New Director to Scots Bill Forsyth for Gregory's Girl. It is satisfactory for once to agree with awards as heartily as I do with those.
On its last Saturday, the Festival presented Mommie Dearest from the sensational biography of the late Joan Crawford by her adopted daughter. The film, starring Faye Dunaway has already reached the West End and I hope to review it in my next film article.
Unforeseen mishaps and mis
understandings prevented me from seeing on its arrival in the West End, the film I particularly hoped to be reviewing here. This is True Confessions ("AA" Classic, Haymarket. Studio, Odeon Kensington. Screen on the Hill), starring Robert De Niro and Robert Duvall as two brothers a detective and a priest which after the rather awful Absolution recently is said to be very good and one of the few films with a generally religious or specifically Catholic theme which make sense. It has already been headlined in one English paper as "The Best American film of 1981."
Waiting therefore till next week to see it for myself, I asked a young Catholic student who had been going to come with me for her impression. She gave me a graphic account of the film's excitement finding the dialogue often witty and showing both the good and less good sides of the Church, such as showing the priests's having to do the bishops' "dirty work" (in this case fundraising from doubtful sources). Most of all she admired the
splendid acting of both stars for "showing the lifelong close bond between the brothers even under the pressure of a murder case in which they had become involved.'
A picturesque and mildly attractive novelty is The End of August ("AA", Curzon), Set in New Orleans (the film was made on location in Alabama and Mobile. Wyoming) at the turn of the last century, the film directed by Bob Graham is based on a nineteenth century early feminist novel called The Awakening by Kate Chopin who was born in 1890. Her heroine (Sally Sharp is a Women's Lib pioneer, aspiring not to the vote but to equality of the sexes and a role for women beyond motherhood and housekeeping.
The women around her vary in the degree of their hankering for independence. The story is not strong, but the atmosphere as of a corner of the French colonial Deep South has distinct charm. The first scenes made me think we were in Normandy watching elegant ladies parading by the seashore, the long pier and neat sails on the horizon. But no, this is French colonial America giving the not unfamiliar picture of an attempt to break out of the doll's house and exotic charm which seems to aspire to the elegance of the James Ivory productions.
Two and a half hours of mediaeval Japan, even interpreted by Richard Chamberlain as a shipwrecked English navigator of a Dutch privateer, make Shogun ("A". Empire, Leicester Square) Jerry' London's film of James Cavell's novel very heavy going.
Occasional hints spark off curiosity for more explanation. The priest (in Japanese dress, making the sign of the Cross but launching a diatribe against the Jesuits) suggests these may be a breakaway group from the early Japanese converts. But the Japanese heroine (Yoko Shimoda) also appears to be a Christian. The nonsense of her romance with the English privateer is so absurd and so longwinded that it is an offence to see the great Japanese actor, Toshiro Mil'une in such tedious nonsense playing the warlord Toranaga