10 MARCH 1950, Page 13


"Battleground." (Empire.)-._-__" Bitter Rice." (Rialto.)- THAT we should be reminded of the war, vociferously and constantly, in the hope that it will deter us from having another, is presumably a good thing, but as far as entertainment goes—and by entertain- ment I mean something that will stir the emotions—I feel that war films have had their day. During the bombardment of England we became, to a certain extent, devoid of feeling, and I find that cinematic bombs are having a similar effect upon me now. I am, in fact, suffering from combat fatigue, and I view the bravery of soldiers, the endurance of civilians and the devastation of cities with lamentable sang-froid.

Of its kind, however, Battleground is a fine film, a good, tough, unsentimental record of the 101st American Airborne Division which held Bastogne against enormous odds in 1944. Messrs. Van Johnson, John Hodiak, Ricardo Montalban and George Murphy seem honest-to-God soldiers, and the conditions they live and fight in, from the fox-holes dug in the snow to the lemonade powder in their K rations, bear the stamp of authenticity. Particular stress is laid on the average soldier's ignorance of how the war is going, or indeed of where he himself is going. He is cut off from all news and all comfort. His not to reason why ; his but to crouch in the snow for weeks on end and try desperately hard not to die. Bombed, ambushed, sniped at and frozen, these men give a fine account of themselves, and I would have shed tears of joy when they were relieved had I not been sunk in war-time apathy. To induce such a retreat into the atmosphere of the past is, perhaps, this picture's greatest achievement.

* * * *

Bitter Rice is an Italian film dealing, with considerable gusto, with the some hundreds of women and girls who flock to Italy's rice-fields once a year as do the hop-pickers of England to Kent. Directed by Signor de Santis the picture gives a very vivid idea of this waterlogged life, and an almost too lurid account of some of the characters living it ; for, not content with being one of the most Junoesque and voluptuous girls ever to stroll across the screen in form-fitting jersey, shorts and black stockings, Signorina Silvan Mangano behaves with unprecedented earthiness. Nohow, in fact. She steals a necklace and then another girl's lover, and when she discovers both to be trash kills the latter and commits suicide. Such violence seems quite unnecessary, but if one can peep behind La Mangano—and there will be many gentlemen who will have no desire to do so—there is a lot of fascinating activity going on in the background. The observation brought to the crowd scenes is sharp as a needle, and there is a refreshing speed and robustness about the whole production.

* * * *

Au dela des Grilles is the successful result of collaboration between French and Italian artists and craftsmen. M. Jean Gabin

plays one of his famlifiar roles, a fugitive from justice, and as a murderer with toothache lands from a cargo boat in Genoa There he meets Signorina Isa Miranda and her thirteen-year-old daughter, played by Vera Talchi, who hide him and care for him until the inevitable capture. The direction by M. Rene Clement, who keeps his eye on the life of Genoa more than he does on his stars, is splendid. The very smell of Italy permeates the screen, and that mixture of beauty and squalor, the sun and the sewer as it were, which is so indigenous to the country, makes this film a memorable one. Both M. Clement and Signorina Miranda received awards for their contributions to this picture at the Cannes Festival last year,