By Freda Bruce Lockhart
JULIEN DUVIVIER is one
of the cinema's rightly respected figures. A French director who has made such international successes as Carnet de Bal, he has worked abroad in, I think, both Hollywood and London. More than once he has used an omnibus or episodic formula, with, an all-star cast as he used the dance-card in his famous prewar nostalgic romance.
In The Devil and Ten COM.. mandments ("A", Cameo Poly), he returns to the same formula and a similar all-star cast though a quarter of a century younger. Fernandel, who plays God in the new film, in a rather muted variation on his famous Don Camillo, was even in both.
Duvivicr is an artist of huge skill and charm. He must also be beloved of his actors for he gets such comfortable, fine perforrnances from such great professionals as Francoise Arnoul, Micheline Presle, Jean-Claude Brialy, Danielle Darrieux, Alain Delon, Charles Aznavour, Georges Wilson and the never-enough seen Madeleine Robinson. Seek as I might, I could not count more than eight commandments (the sixth coming in twice).
Some are charming and the poorest are mildly arousing moral fables. But the linking device of a serpent coda turning each one to the devil's purpose, fogs what should be the clearcut lines and makes the artificial formula look no more than that. Duvivier is an ageing director. This is said to be his sixtieth film and the master hand seems a little slacker.
The neatest and most emotionally powerful was "Honour thy Father and thy Mother" in case where their identity was uncertain.
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IF the new Disney family film is Summer Magic ("U", Studio One), Duvivier's magic, though still existent is distinctly autumnal. Curiously the Disney touch in providing family fare is slightly akin.
The present Disney formula is the kind of nineteenth century transatlantic girls' story ("Anne of Green Gables", "Little Women" are the classics in the kind) which used to grace nursery shelves. It would be churlish not to be grateful today for any mild and cheerful entertainment for the young. But Summer Magic is not only less robust than Disneyland for boys and less amusing than the revivals of Jules Verne science fiction.
It provides a part for Hayley Mills as the lively daughter of an impoverished family who go to stay in the country. Dorothy Maguire can play Mum with a genuine sweetness 1 don't find cloying, but can take in quite large doses, and Burl Ives playing a postmaster is his usual round, benevolent self. Had his songs been a little more original they might have provided the tang that seems missing. But it is a pleasant little picture.
p.VERY so often even such a " total movie addict as myself gets great enjoyment from a film which fulfils none of the demands I have learned to make of a movie. In the case of The Ugly American ("U", Odeon, Haymarket) this is because of my practice of not reading the kind of best-seller which film companies habitually buy. The immediate result is to make me want to read the original book; not perhaps urgently but it I found it lying around, I would welcome the opportunity. For the film implies that this must have been the kind of political-diplomatic reading I most enjoy.
Although Marlon Brando is the hero, the title is not intended abusively. Mr. Brando has never, except perhaps as Napoleon, looked better-groomed. As the American Ambassador to a semimythical South-East Asian country, he is a man who nicely fills a well-cut dark suit and boasts a thin dark line of a moustache above his brief-case. The title I gather refers to the ugly image of America which prevails among the ungrateful recipients of American aid.
Mr. Brenda arrives to run his embassy with the autocratic air of authority we might expect, a new broom in young firm hands. Before long the story becomes clearly concerned with more than a conventional character-study. The question is one of fellowtravelling and the average American difficulty in understanding that every good Asian is not necessarily a good, anti-Communist American.
The reason for the choice of the Ambassador, or on the other hand, the reason why he nearly loses the nomination, is his friendship with a local left-wing nationalist leader (played by Eiji Okada).
The American ambassador arrives full of trust and goodwill; greetings are exchanged, wives agree to baby-sit. (Why the Ambassador's wife couldn't have been given even one line of reasonably intelligent kgenntodwilnersdialogue I could h Before long it is an ingenuous American who learns painfully enough that a whole graded scale of the other fellow's patriotism may run between the Red and White groups of Hammer and Sickle and Stars and Stripes as lined up by the American system.
There is too much argumentation for a good moving picture, too much perfunctory action very distantly reminiscent of River Kwai for a serious statement on current affairs. But Mr. Brando's performance in a more-nearly normal part than usual is extremely interesting. Eiji Okada as his inscrutable friend is often moving and I found the contents of the story fascinating. It holds lessons too which the British might well have learned to other nations' advantage; matters of life and death.