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The Times (09/Feb/1931) - The Film Society: Russian and British pictures

(c) The Times (09/Feb/1931)



It is astonishing how propaganda, however discreetly it is distilled into a work of art, can rob it of its human values and force even those incidents which seem to concern themselves only with the development of action and character into the false design of ulterior motive. The Song of the Market Place, a Russian film directed by P. P. Petrov-Bitov, was shown by the Film Society at the Tivoli yesterday, and, although a note in the programme states that it is "a straightforward specimen of a modern Russian narrative film in which actors are employed as actors, and the normal processes of commercial film production are utilized," it is a misleading, rather than an illuminating, note. It is certainly true that, for the most part, the dramatic narrative of The Song of the Market Place moves resolutely forward, not quite straightforward, perhaps, for Petrov-Bitov is too good a director not to make an imaginative use of the camera, but the persecution of the Jew, the conflict between the wife and husband, and even the attempted murder of the giant boatman Articm, beautifully played by Nicolas Simonov, are all pulled gently but quite firmly out of the atmosphere of human drama into that of a text-book lecture.

Two other items in the programme are especially interesting, the first reel of the silent film The Lodger (1926) and the auction scene in the talking version of Mr. Galsworthy's film The Skin Game (1931). Both films are directed by Mr. Alfred Hitchcock, and it is instructive to compare the different techniques that go to the making of sound and silent pictures. Had one not known the respective dates, one might have placed The Skin Game antecedent to The Lodger, so much more elastic is the work of the camera in the latter and so much harder is the brain made to work to squeeze the full significance out of the scenes. Imagination in both producer and audience seems at the moment to be in danger of being atrophied by the introduction of the sound-recording apparatus.