15 NOVEMBER 1935, Page 14

The Cinema

"Last Love." At the Curzon,—,‘ Moscow Nights." At the Leicester Square.—" Oil for the Lamps of China." At the Regal Last Love has a pleasant unpretentious air of truth about it, which is very rare in films about singers or composers. One knows what treatment they generally receive on the screen, how nobly and dolefully the Schuberts and Chopins sacrifice themselves for former room-mates; Even the story of Last Love, of the middle-aged " finished " composer who returns to his home in Vienna after ten years in America, who falls in love with a Japanese student, writes his last opera for her to play in and watches at rehearsal her growing love for the young conductor, might have been made for Herr Tauber. But once accept the romantic plot and the rest is genuine : a creative career from a professional angle. Herr Albert Ilasser,. mann as the elderly composer gives one of the best per- formances I have seen this year This is not a man roman- tically " inspired," but a man with a profession, a man who works ; watch the pleasure and cunning in his face as he recognises a good trick, a technical dexterity. His acting in the wintry scene of the small country inn, where his new tenderness comes to a head and he drinks with the village musicians, conducting over the beer mugs, and the girl breaks into a spontaneous tipsy song and he feels the fun of life return because he has ideas again after ten years of sterility, is very moving. Miss Michiko Meinl, who plays the Japanese student, has a charming voice. To a European, :the Oriental face doesn't, thank God, register emotions in the way we are used to, and the faint flicker acros§ the broad rice- white surface of love, pain, tenderness helps the film to maintain, even at its less plausible moments, a pleasant muted quality.

Moscow Nights, Mr. Anthony Asquith's new film, is com- pletely bogus. Momentarily forgetting The Dark . Angel,. X wondered, as I came out front the assembly of peeresses and minor royalty and the high shriek of friend recognising friend into the blue glare of searchlights, whether this was the worst, as well as the most ballyhooed, film of the year. Mr. Asquith was once a promising director, though he was always more tricky than imaginative. Now his bag of tricks seems empty. This absurd romantic spy-drama of War-time Russia opens with Volga boatmen and carries on with every worn-out pro- perty of a Hollywood Russia, even to the gypsy orchestras. The direction is puerile, no one can drop a tray or a glass without Mr. Asquith cutting to a shell-burst. But he has been well served by his players, by M. Harry Baur as an awkward pathetic war profiteer, by Miss Athene Seyler as an old genteel spy who haunts the hospitals, and Mr. Laurence Olivier as an embittered front line officer who loves a young society nurse engaged to the profiteer. The acting of Miss Penelope Dudley Ward, who plays the girl's part, belongs to another class alto- • gether, to country house charades. It is an error of taste to star this player above such brilliant professionals as Miss Seyler and Mr. Hay Petrie, who makes a more vivid impression in the few feet of film allowed him and with his two words of dialogue than Miss Ward in all her reels. . The subject of Oil for the Lamps of China is excellent : the ballyhoo of sham idealism with which the young recruits cf an American oil company are inoculated before they are dispatched to China, the appeals to their loyalty, the assurances that " the company always takes care of its men ".; and then ttho truth, the sacrifices they are expected to make without return, the appointments filled by intrigue in New York, the inventions stolen by their superiors, and finally, when they grow old, the studied attempts to rob them of their pensions.. by forcing them to resign. It is a pity that so interesting a theme should have been passed first through the mind of a good, sincere and sentimental woman and then through the mind of .a perhaps less sincere but certainly not less sentimental Hollywood scenario writer.

DIALOGUE OF THE WEEK. - Together. That's a nice word." " Yos, and it rhymes witkgor Ever too."

(0i/ for the Lanips in China.)