A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Monday, August 6, 2018

A Kid for Two Farthings (Carol Reed, 1955)

Jonathan Ashmore in A Kid for Two Farthings
Joanna: Celia Johnson
Sonia: Diana Dors
Avrom Kandinsky: David Kossoff
Sam Heppner: Joe Robinson
Joe: Jonathan Ashmore
"Lady" Ruby: Brenda de Banzie
Python Macklin: Primo Carnera
Blackie Isaacs: Lou Jacobi
Mrs. Abramowitz: Irene Handl
Madam Rita: Sydney Tafler

Director: Carol Reed
Screenplay: Wolf Mankowitz
Based on a novel by Wolf Mankowitz
Cinematography: Edward Scaife
Art direction: Wilfred Shingleton
Film editing: Bert Bates
Music: Benjamin Frankel

Carol Reed's first color film is a very talky, somewhat claustrophobic one, best remembered today as a portrait of the London Jewish community that inhabited Petticoat Lane (called "Fashion Street" in the film) in the East End. The story centers on young Joe, a lover of animals (often to the animals' misfortune, as he can't seem to keep some of them alive) who lives with his mother, Joanna, over Mr. Kandinsky's tailoring shop. Kandinsky indulges Joe with stories about animals, telling him that if he ever found a unicorn it would bring everyone good luck. So naturally Joe finds one, a feeble little goat with one deformed horn, that a merchant is happy to get rid of. Joe thinks it will bring luck to the pretty Sonia and her body-builder boyfriend Sam Heppner, who want to get married but don't have the money; to Mr. Kandinsky, who would like to have a better trousers press; and to himself and his mother, who are waiting for his father to return from South Africa, where he has gone to seek his fortune. Things eventually work out for Sonia and Sam and Mr. Kandinsky, but at the film's end Joe and his mother are still waiting for the return of his father. There's a fair amount of whimsy at work, but it's subsumed in much local color and the hard-scrabble realism of the neighborhood. Diana Dors shows considerable depth as an actress, rising above the exploitation that tried to turn her into the British Marilyn Monroe. But the great Celia Johnson is wasted in the thankless role of Joe's mother, with little to do but look worried. The wrestler Primo Carnera appears as Python Macklin, whom Sam must conquer in the ring to make the money he and Sonia want, even though he's reluctant to develop the unphotographic muscles needed by a wrestler.

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