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FILMS IN SYDNEY
"Black Narcissus" .
Powell and Pressburger have made yet another .striking and powerful film in "Black Nar-
Here they use Technicolor of the ; most haunting imaginative subtlety to bring to the screen Rumer God
den's story of the physical and ? spiritual trials of a group of Anglo- ( Catholic nuns. who are sent from ' Calcutta to establish a school and ! dispensary in an ancient wind- ] grieved palace high up in the Hima- i layas.
The colour is used right through . this unusual and absorbing film with I such refinement of artistic judg- i ment that it is a. vital factor in the ' action of the drama, the source and i the pulse of its strange spiritual I fever and not merely the drama's < external shell. The blue empy- , rean of the Himalayas and the ves- i tal whiteness of Kinchinjunga's snows | are "experienced" with such pecu- i liar intensity by the colour camera : that they communicate a deeply i disturbing feeling of elevation and ' rare atmosphere, and remoteness and eternal loneliness-a feeling which transmutes the pictorial facts of the drama's geography into the
throbbing spirit of its poetry. '
For the whole of the human <
action, the steady spiritual decline | of five nuns, in different ways ( springs from this environment. ' One nun, beautifully acted by De-
borah Kerr, sets out to establish j the new school with an arrogance, and self-contained assurance that
are steadily broken down under the I chastening difficulties that confront 1 her and the memories of a lost | love that haunt and "torment her. < Another nun, drawn with uncanny
intensity by Kathleen Byron, is a | neurotic whose infatuation for the | only white man ,in the area, a leer- | ing cynic, tips her over into mad- | ness and into a frenzied and sensual ( betrayal of her vows. David | Farrar is the sunburnt cynic who , combines good looks with a chai- ( lenging insolence of word and de-
meanour. Jean Simmons has a | small and inconsequential part as | a sinuous Indian siren, and Sabu . is the Indian prince who cannot re-
sist her. '
All through the story there is " this fierce conflict between the sen- ( iuousness of the Indian spring and , elevated spiritual striving. And if . the film draws any conclusion it is that in such an environment saintli
ness is only possible in complete ( seclusion, in the mule and age-old aloofness of the holy men of
The film has caused much argu- ' ment abroad. Religious and "de- ' cency" groups have outspokenly pro-
tested against what they regard as ' the film's improper-observations on the conflict between willing spirit and
weak flesh in these five nuns, and ' against the peculiar detachment of the story-telling, whereby it might be construed that the film seeks to
demonstrate the futility of religious ; devotion in general.
But to this reviewer, the detach-
ment with which the story is related ? is its great strength. There is none
of that pandering to the populas j appetite for the shocking that is so often thinly concealed in those
tearful lavender romances of clois- 1 tered sisters and gallant laymen that we see from time to time. More- over, there seems no logical reason why such a human and observant study of, one small group of nuns under peculiar stresses must be re- garded as an attack on the clergy at large. (Esquire Theatre.)
"Bush Christmas" 1
Ralph Smart's "Bush Christ- (
mas" is a little charmer. In
method, mood, and idiom, it is 1 more thoroughly and more de-
lightfully Australian than any < other full-length Australian fiction
film that we have yet seen here. (
There is not a forced note in it; the, whole thing is as totally in- digenous to Australia as the .hardy, rangy trees and harsh, rugged hills that give the winning little story its grand settings. The tale moves along lightjy and easily with the greatest of naturalness; there is not the slightest attempt to force high
dramatic blood-pressure upon it in ' accordance with the Hollywood 1 script-making formulas that have so 1 often lured and destroyed our local ' producers.
Originally made for a special group of child audiences in England. "Bush Christmas" tells a simple, straightforward story of a family of bush children who outwit and trap some horse thieves who have stolen their father's best mare. The nar- rative, helped along by lohn MacCallum's low-keyed commen
tary, is given with a quick eye for! its natural comedy. Even the vil- lains are rather mild and comical fellows; a good many of the world's minor villains are like that, after all. The five children are fine, and ride their horses with the ease and aplomb of all bush children. Nicky Yardley, with a mop of snowy'hair and a laconic little tongue, is the youngest of the company, and he virtually steals the show. Helen Grieve, Morris Unicomb, Michael Yardley, and young aboriginal Neza Saunders, with his shining smile, proceed through the story with gen- uine zest for its adventure.
The villains are Chips Rafferty, John Fernside, and Stan Tolhurst; the screen has never shown such an inoffensive trio of baddies. Thelma Grigg and Pat Penny, as the chil- dren's parents (Neza excepted), are both acceptable. John Kay's musi- cal score is pertinent and observant, gently touching in little spots of comedy a,nd tension in the right places. George Heath's camera has recorded the Blue Mountain land-1 scapes with a fine feeling for com- position and character. (Embassy Theatre.)
Universal-International's "The Exile" tries to throw a little light or. the life of Charles II in the few months that preceded his re- storation to the British throne in 1660. But it succeeds chiefly in showing that the whole of Hol- land is a. sort of camouflaged gymnasium wherein Douglas Fair- banks, junr., might pirouette, pivot, and prance to his heart's
One gathers that Cromwell's Roundheads, looking very down in the mouth, and always very scared by the upswing of popular favour for the exiled monarch, were keen to cut Charles's throat for him, and forestall the Restoration. Holland was full of Roundheads hunting for
Charles, waiting to reap his des- tiny, was dallying with a blonde tulip-farmer; he even helped ¿ter to plant her tulips. 'But, being a proud king, he could not marry her -a niceness of royal behaviour which did not prevent Charles from exhibiting some interest in that other flower-girl, Nell Gwyn, later on in his reign.
Mr. Fairbanks never runs away from danger, even when it seems desirable. This has the double ad- vantage of proving how gallant he is and of keeping all the derring-do economically confined to a couple of sets, an inn and a windmill. Paule ¿roset, a doll-faced new- comer, begins her romance by ask- ing Mr. Fairbanks: "Are you look- ing for something?" And she makes it sound like: "Are you the king of something"-which, after all, is a nice point. Maria Mon- tez flits in and out of the film as
a French comtesse. (Lyceum I Theatre.)_