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March 14, 1968 - Image 2

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The Michigan Daily, 1968-03-14

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Page Two

THE MICHIGAN DAILY Thursday, March14 68

Alook at...
'Closely Watched Trains'
by Daniel Okrent
Vaclav Neckar, the boy-hero of Closely Watched Trains, (open-
ing tonight at the Vth Forum), is not to be referred to later in
this article as "Neckar." Rather, in his portrayal of the initiate
adult. station officer, Vaclav Is Vaclav. From the moment when
we first see his mother dressing him for his first day at work,
his gawky, jumbled composure makes an indelible mark. And,
throughout the film, he remains gawky and jumbled, the essence
of untainted youth, the perfect protagonist for this piece of Czech
cinema verite directed by Jiri Menzel that, as structured, focuses
on its actors.
Vaclav, who sets out on a wartime road to adulthood with
'apt martial music heralding the way, goes through some quite
incredible experiences. But perhaps the incredibility is to be found
in the fact that it is all very credible. As we all know, sexual
initiation is a difficult step to take, particularly for the shy
and bewildered. To take that step like Vaclav takes it may not
be the style we are all familiar with, but it makes things much
funnier. And for Vaclav to take it without cinematic fanfare has
an interesting effect.
What Menzel has done, quite simply, is present the straightest
narrative imaginable, keeping cinematically-induced dramas and
effects to an absolute minimum. He tells a happy-sad story of the
naive boy thrown into the middle of a knowing world (Vaclav's
immediate superior has more success with women than any
Hollywood character), and how that boy stumbles through the
absurd, then the ludicrous, finally the sublime, before finally
achieving his manhood. That the director saw fit to keep tech-
nical intrusions to the minimum is the film's selling point; wheth-
er it is a strong selling point, though, is hard to determine.
The point here is that the average, fairly-literate American
film-goer isn't used to this kind of treatment. Unadulterated nar-
rative hasn't been the style since before D. W. Griffith and Birth
of a Nation. When we see a film, we experience lapses into pic-
torialized thought or dream (Ingmar Bergman), heavy reliance
on flahsback (Orson Welles), or thematically-fitting use of film-
atic techniqiue (Mike Nichols).
When frills are reduced like they are in Closely Watched
Trains, the film rolls off the reel in clear, chronological, factual
order. The viewer sees things as they happen, and knows all
along what is happening; when the end finally comes, there is
no amazementort oshock, just a shrug of the shoulders and a
"yesslr, how about that!"
So little Vaclav, from the moment he clutches during his first
sexual attempt with an all-too-eager girlfriend, through his even-
tual death in a placidly heroic demolition of a Nazi munitions
train, is never a surprise. Instead, he is a real character, achiev-
ing sexual manhood immediately before his almost spontaneous
destruction of the train. When he comes of age, he does so com-
pletely; he handles himself like a man when in bed, as well as
in the Czechoslovakian resistance. This is practically the only
thing that Menzel "tells" Vs, and even in that there is no moral-
izing, no comment.
Is it good? As is, Closely Watched Trains incites no emotions,
entices no quizzing response from the spectator. Nor does it serve
as a showcase for the new grooviness in film technology. The
camera angles are usual, almost shopworn. The editing is dry
and uninspiring. The photography is good, but nothing spectacu-
lar. All of the technical direction is generally bland.
I'd say that I prefer the ever-commoner approach, in which
the capabilities of the camera and the splicer are employed to
'their fullest. If directors choose film as their medium, they should
use it. If not, then the medium of the theatre .- badly in need

i

records

Blood,
By LITTLE SUZY FUNN
Rock'n' Roll Expert
There has been a great deal
of speculation surrounding the
first Blood, Sweat and Tears al-
bum, most of it stemming from
the fact that B, S and T is one
of the groups that is incorpor-
ating horns into its arrange-
ments.
It's very hip to add horns to
your band, a la Butterfield,
Bloomfield, and even forgot-
ten Lonnie Back. But if the
horns don'tcontribute any
unique effect, if they're noth-
ing more than glorified rhythm
instruments, then all of this
talk about the revival of big
bands and the new direction of
jazz as it fuses with rock is in
vain.
Child Is Father To The Man,
this first B, S and T offering,
is a product of leader Al
Kooper's dissatisfaction with
his old group, The Blues Proj-
ect. Kooper left the Project
last year, planning to go to'
England and "see what was go-
ing on and get into the music
scene."
But Kooper never made it.
After putting together an im-
promptu group for his "fare-
well blast" at the Cafe Au Go
Go, he decided that it sounded
"so good" that he stayed in the
States. He added the horn
section "he'd always wanted
for the Project" and started
putting together this album.
The Influence of the Project
on B, S and T is easy to spot.
Or maybe it's the influence of
Kooper on both groups. Kooper,
who wrote such tunes as "Wake
Me Shake Me" and "Flute
Thing" for the Project, wrote
seven of the 12 B, S and T cuts
and arranged 11 of them. "I
Love You More Than You'll
Ever Know", the strongest song
on the album, and."Somethin'
Goin' On" are mostly in the
Project's bag.
"Meagan's G y p s y Eyes"
sounds suspiciously like the
Project might have done it,
too, but that's because Steve
Katz, B, S and T's other hold-
over from the Project, wrote it
and sings it. Katz, who did
"Steve's Song" on Projections,
doesn't seem to have much
depth. His guitar is good and
the arrangements are fine, but
you get the feeling that he
doesn't really have much to do
with that sort of stuff. His
writing is actually pretty nice,

Sweat,
but his voice is a quivering
monstrosity. His song is one of
the album's worst.
Kooper's songs show a lot
more influence than just the
Project's.rThe chart for "I Love
You More than You'll Ever
Know" calls up images of The
Famous Flames and the vocal
is a cross between James Brown
and Janis Joplin. On "So Much
Love," Kooper does a Mick Jag-
ger imitation and "Something
Goin' On" starts like a Buddy
Rich number.
The horns make a couple of
the weaker cuts entirely pass-
able but they do even more for
a strong number like "I Love
You More Than You'll Ever
Know." The depth of the song
is greatly increased by surpris-
ing trumpet spots and especial-
ly by the soft alto sax solo. It
should be noted that the horns
and the sax do not turn B, S '
and T into a jazz group.

Tears,
It's a temptation for all us
label-happy listeners to throw
out the easy-flowing tag "jazz-
rock" when we hear this album
But, as everybody has said
three times, "Labels are mean-
ingless! " (If you haven't said
that three times yet, get on the
stick). Kooper, of course, says
that "I don't know what jazz.
rock is. That's what they called
'The Flute Thing' but all it was
was a rock band playing a very
light jazz number. If Herbie
Mann had played it, everybody
would probably have fallen
asleep."
Don't get us wrong, now, the
album is really excellent, but
there are a couple of cuts thai
are, to say the least, raunchy
"Meagan's Gypsy Eyes" is one
of them. "House in the Coun-
try" is supposed to bring a
chuckle to the lips of the lis-
tener, according to Kooper, oi

Cheers
s maybe its about drugs (get it?)
V but it sort of falls down trying.
Thump.
These tunes are more than
made up for by the rest of the
album. If you likerMick Jagger,
S the Bee Gees, Procol Harum,
Buddy Rich, Stan Getz, Paul
s Butterfield, The Blues Proj-
ect, the Buckingham's Time
and Changes album, Schonberg,
s James Brown and the Famous
Flames, the Stax-Volt combine,
the Byrds, the Beatles, he
Electric Flag or John Philip
Sousa there's something in the
album for you. Buy it. It's
good. (P.S.: The cover is the
best since Sgt. Pepper.)

Coral
"CORAL GABLE
Present

Gables

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IT LEAVES ONE CHILLED I"
-Bosley Crowther, New York Times

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UBCRIBE TO TNlE M!GAN DAILY

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Thurs.-7-9:15; Fri. & Sat.-3-5-7-9:15-1 1:20
Sun.-3-5-7-9:15, Mon. (See Announcement)

The World's Most Influential Director
Jean-Luc Godard & his latest film "La Chinoise"
Monday evening only-Advance
tickets at Cinema Guild,
"Closely Watched Trains" will resume Tuesday,

YOUTH MATINEE--ALL SEATS-75a
Sat.-1 1:00-1:00, Sun.-l :00
JERRY LEWIS
"THE FAMILY JEWELS"
Theatre will be cleared before 3:00 show



of revitalization - is the surest e
path. The. immediacy of live
presentation presents a better
forum for individuals to play
out roles.
This is not meant as a cen-
sure of Menzel, nor of the film
itself; both did good jobs of
what they set out to accomplish,
and Closely Watched Trains is
enjoyable. But it is not, as Life's
Richard Schickel says, "The
best film of the year." Nor is it
even one of the best ten. It is
something that might rate as
a very well done videotape.

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Starting Today

4-m

Dial 8-6416

Perhaps the most beautiful movie in history."- Brendan Gill,
The New Yorker. Exquisite is the only word that surges in my
mind as an appropriate description of this exceptional film. Its
color is absolutely gorgeous. The use of music and; equally elo-
quent, of silences and sounds is beyond verbal description. The
performers are perfect-that is the only word."-'Bosley Crowther,
New York Times."May well be the most beautiful movie ever
made."- Newsweek. "Speaks lyrically to the 20th century and
beyond."-Time Magazine.
,*
VH
Fi""""ra
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