The Danish director Henning Carlsen has Max Roach to thank for the revival of Dilemma, his debut feature from 1962. Screening as part of Jazz Score, the Museum of Modern Art’s survey of movies with original jazz compositions, this black-and-white drama gets a blast of vitality from a soundtrack hopped up on Roach’s bebop and the infectious swing of Gideon Nxumalo, a South African composer adept in the style of indigenous jazz known as marabi.
That sonic pep helps compensate for the narrative doldrums arising from an earnest if schematic attempt to address conditions in Johannesburg under apartheid. (The film was based on Nadine Gordimer’s novel “A World of Strangers”; and written by Mr. Carlsen and Ms. Gordimer.) Newly arrived in South Africa, the liberal-minded Briton Toby Hood (Ivan Jackson) finds his social position compromised after striking up a friendship with a black man (Zakes Mokae).
“Dilemma” was produced without authorization and shot clandestinely in a down-and-dirty, neo-realist mode, and what interest adheres in the material nowadays is largely of an archival quality. Mr. Carlsen finds eloquent testimony to life under apartheid in the documentary elements of his picture, in the sights and sounds of the Johannesburg streets, in the faces and gestures and social rituals of both Africans and Afrikaners.
1.52GB | 1 h 23 min | 768×576 | mkv