The Films

From time to time Hollywood gives us a film which is worthy of our attention. In this category we may place On The Waterfront, The Barefoot Contessa, and more recently Marty. All these films present not only a high standard of technical skill and acting ability, but also, and this is what makes them particularly interesting, an unusually accurate reflection upon some parts of contemporary life.

This is perhaps most obvious in Elia Kazan’s On The Waterfront. It is the story of the docker who is gradually awakened to the reality of the life around him; of his increasing antagonism, his rebellious stirrings, and his final successful combat with the crooked union bosses. This is a film to see not only because of the skill which has gone into its making, but also because it rings true.

The Barefoot Contessa is as subtle as On The Waterfront is obvious. Here is a biting satirical essay upon wealth and power. There are lines in the film which one feels had they appeared in a film of five years ago, would have resulted in the writer making a sprightly appearance before the Un-American Activities Committee.

Of the three, however, Marty is undoubtedly the pick. Here is a film which is pure joy. No great Hollywood epic this, but the simple tale of the search of a very ordinary American, a butcher by profession, for a spouse. The whole thing reads as true to life as the usual product is false. No deluxe kitchens, no stupendous cars and fashionable clothes, no slinky blonde who makes the rest of her sex pale into masculine insignificance, this is reality; and because it is real it pulls at the heart strings and tugs at the emotions with devastating effect. There can be few people who could possibly sit through this film without recognising their own experience as they flash before them on the screen.

This is a film about real people living in a real world. Here are depicted social problems of this day and age, problems of loneliness, of old age, of inadequate housing, of artificial social values; they are all paraded before us. The film has no answer to these problems, even though hero and heroine are reunited at the end of the final reel, but at least it has the courage to pose them. We can but hope that this trend in realism, which has already been felt—particularly in the Italian and Mexican film, will be continued, and that the cinema public will not only become aware of life’s problems but also realise their solution.

Michael D. Gill

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