18 OCTOBER 1963, Page 18

The Arts

London Film Festival

By IAN CAMERON The value of the festival lies much less in showing each programme to the 500 or so lucky ticket-holders than in its effect on the critics. For once, it is their reviews that will help determine which of the films shown will be bought by distributors here. This year the festival could be more useful than usual, as the programmes are above average and the press showings at last decently organised.

The nature of the festival is an open en- couragement to trend-spotters. This time their task is not at all difficult, for 1963 is the year of Cinema-Verite, which. is nor a style, but a method of film-making. It. was made possible • by the recent development of portable equipment for making sound films in 16 mm. With the CV equipment, a film-maker can effectively go any- where and film anything. Since March, when it was celebrated in a congress held at Lyons, the film festivals have all had their CV movies. London has two of the best. They illustrate the two opposing tendencies within the movement.

The Chair, made by the Robert Drew/Richard Leacock organisation, is a reportage of the fight to save Paul Crump, a convicted murderer, from the electric chair. The case was significant legally as there was no precedent for commutation on grounds of • rehabilitation after the passing of sentence. The cameras follow the people involved —the attorneys, the prison warden and Crump himself—not just in the courtroom, but in offices, apartments, cars, lifts and cells. The re- sult is a remarkably immediate account of the case, with the camera doing nothing but record- ing, and doing it very well, On the whole, there is no feeling that the behaviour of the partici- pants is modified by camera-consciousness. They have more important things to do than worry about the camera. In Chris Marker's Le Joli Mai, there is no pretence that the camera is without effect. In- stead, it is used as a catalyst. The basic form for Marker is the interview. Le Joli Mai is Marker's attempt to build up a picture of life under the Fifth Republic through a series of interviews illustrated with documentary shots. We are shown .

one man's view of one month (May, 1962) in the life of one city (Paris). The month compre- hended both the Salan trial and the arrival of the Madison as the latest dance craze, and Marker's range of interests is such that it takes in both of these events, as well as things whose daily repetition are part of the city's life: after seven years on the waiting list, a woman moves with her family into a council flat; a student from Dahomey feels unwelcome in France; some old men argue about Algeria on the steps of the Bourse. The film is personal, butterfly-minded, intellectual, sometimes infuriating, but it is the first where Cinema-Verite is used as a means to something complex rather than as an end in itself. For that reason alone it is a key film.

If the cinema's new 1963 line is represented by only two films, one must remember that trend- setters are inherently in the minority. Most of the festival films can be referred to older groups, for example tothe warm humanist area of the cinema, to which the BFI, organisers of the festival, have always been excessively addicted. In this group we find the heavy Balkan movies, whether fairy tales (The Golden Fern) or social dramas (Love in the Suburbs). Others wander rather aimlessly, losing plot among documenta- tion of Sicilian salt pans (1 Fidanzati), or drown everything in picturesqueness, like Ouranos, a Greek war film where every shot seems to be posed against a sunset. Equally picturesque is Barravento, an everyday story of country folks down in Brazil, where voodoo and white capital- ism subjugate sex and Negro emancipation to the tune of folk music so splendid that you wish they'd stop trying to have a plot. But even in humanist category there are films which manage to do more than just be warm-hearted or pic- turesque.. There is 1 Basilischi, the first film of a talented woman director, Lina Wertmtiller, who –succeeds in showing the personal and social ten- sions beneath the passivity of small-town life. At a higher level there is the latest film of Yasujiro Ozu. An Autumn Afternoon brilliantly handles a pattern of interlocking relationships, each of which illuminates the others by comparison and affects them in its consequences.

Elsewhere among the year's selection, three films are werthy of note because they did not

appear at any major festival. Rogopag, an epi-

sode film, was banned in Italy a few months ago for the systematic blasphemy of the section directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini. About a religious cheapie being directed by Orson Welles, the film makes the underfed bit-player, who takes the part of the Repentant Thief, into a Christ figure.

The parallel.could well be the key to Pasolini's work. The other, episodes are by Rossellini, Godard and Gregoretti, with only the first on top form. The Godard is a puzzling tale about the conversion of Parisians to pill-taking automata by a nuclear explosion in the stratosphere above their city. In the original version, now dubbed into Italian And provided with an explanatory preface, it bare a quotation from Heisenberg's Indeterminacy Principle. More accessible, how- ever, is Godard's latest feature, Les Carabiniers, which represents yet another violent change in style, this time in a return to the origins of the cinema, to harshly primitive photography and even at one point to remakes of the Lumiere films of a train entering a station and a baby being bathed. The style is suited to this story of two primitive men who are lured off to war by 'tales of the riches and kicks available. They have great fun killing, looting, pillaging and being generally destructive. They return home with a suitcase full of neatly bundled picture postcards, which they show to their wives in by far the longest sequence of the film. Les Carabiniers finally demonstrates that Godard's apparent perverseness hides a discipline and in- tellectual strength, unlike Truffaut, whose diver- sions remain diversions unintegrated into the structure of his films.

The other new film is from that forerunner of the New Wave, Jean-Pierre Melville. Magnet of Doom is his first film in 'scope and colour. It has Melville's usual fatalism of the doomed relationship which comes within an en of work- ing out. Here it is finely acted by Jean-Paul Belmondo and Charles Vanel, and integrated with a car journey across America from New York to New Orleans, which is treated with the visual perceptiveness about places that charac- terises Melville's work.

Elsewhere in the festival. Strongly recom- mended: Francesco, Rosi's Hands on the City and Louis Malle's Le Feu Follet. Recommended: Wojciech Has's How to be Loved. Unseen but promising: Orson Welles's The Trial, Brunello Rondi's II.Demonio and En Compagnie-de Max Linder. And for the courageous and the snobs, there's always Alain Resnais's Muriel.