- Wednesday, 22 February 2012
OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS (StudioCanal). Carol Reed’s powerful adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s novel, of colonial greed, lust and moral degradation was much underrated when it was released in 1952. A blackguard (Trevor Howard), a liar, a thief and a cheat, infatuated with a native, loses complete control of his life. There is a superb theatrical confrontation between Howard and Ralph Richardson (as his mentor whom he betrays). Robert Morley has rarely been better and there is a neat cameo by Wilfrid Hyde-White as a silky, oily cleric.
THE WELL DIGGER’S DAUGHTER (Pathe). Daniel Auteuil (who made his name with Jean de Florette) returns to Marcel Pagnol for his directorial debut with this French pastoral story of an innocent girl (the lovely Astrid Berges-Frisbey) who is seduced by an airman, who goes off to fight in World War 2 and does not know he has made her pregnant. It is a touching, gentle film, beautifully photographed, full of old-fashioned charm, and well acted, with fine performances by Auteuil and Kad Merad.
THE SPY IN BLACK (Spirit). Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s first film together is set during World War I. Conrad Veidt is cast an honourable German U-Boat commander, who is in the Orkneys planning to sink 15 British destroyers with the help of two agents (Valerie Hobson and Sebastian Shaw). Things don’t go according to plan. The film was released just before World War 2 when it had a greater impact than it does now.
THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII (Odeon). A popular gladiator is corrupted by money. This 1935 film, badly scripted, badly acted, has nothing to do with Bulwer Lytton and manages (despite historical impossibilities) to drag Jesus and Pontius Pilate into the story. Filmgoers had to wait until 1936 for a really good cinema earthquake in the film, San Francisco.
THE AWAKENING (Optimum). Psychological ghost story set in a school in 1921 when the nation was still grieving for all those who had died in World War 1. The characters are still shell-shocked and in extremis. Rebecca Hall is the sceptical heroine debunking spiritualism. It’s never as good as you hope it is going to be and the denouement is disappointing.
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