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March 17, 1970 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1970-03-17

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Page Two



Tuesday, March 17, 1970

7 -






' ro'




J'M GLAD it's over for another year. It was a great week, but enough is
enough. Film festivals are like Christmas - fun to unwrap if you get what
you were hoping for, but exhausting either way. Happily, I got what I was
hoping for, so once I catch up on my sleep and get my eyes readjusted to
the daylight I'll have no complaints.
What I was hoping for, of course, was a chance to see "the" film -
sotne film, any film, that would wash away the glaze of forty hours of screen-
ings and burn fresh images on the mind. Morley Markson's Tragic Diary of
Zero, the Fool was just such a film. I left the Saturday night screening of it
absolutely certain it would take top honors and the judges did not disappoint
It is difficult to verbalize the amazing portraiture of this film. Markson's
camera picks up an incredible luminosity from the faces of his performers and
translates that luminosity into the images of classic simplicity, yet, also of
intense expressiveness. One feels in watching the film that one is seeing ani-
mated marble - perhaps even alabaster. The confluence of light values - of
line, texture, and surface - is starkly sculptural, yet, by no means cold or
static. The interplay of the pure and beautiful images and the emotional
intensity of the performances generates an energy that for me, at least, is
precisely what film is all about. The role-playing of the characters within the
film, their attempts to relate to one another, to the audience, and to the film
itself as it is in process of coming into being, creates that sense of intensified
presence that is genius of the medium.
But it is a film to see, not to discuss. One can only hope it will be shown
again here in Ann Arbor.
ONE COULD go on more or less indefinitely praising the bits and pieces that
either pleased or excited as the festival went on, just as one could make
a long list of the particular failures that stretched out some of the evenings.
But in any summary such as this it is perhaps permissible to allow oneself the
luxury of some generalizations.
The greatest virtue of the festival this year is simply stated: I wasn't very
often bored. While that sounds like damnation In the guise of faint praise, any-
one who has survived an entire festival in the past will know exactly what kind
of virtue I am referring to, and will know that it is no small thing to say. To
say I was seldom bored is a reflection on the festival as a whole, however.
Of the individual films I would say that the cardinal sin of the experimental
film is its inability to know when to quit. Most three-minute ideas seem to be
wrapped in ten minutes of celluloid, and most ten-minute ideas are too often
swatched in a half-hour of film indicative of the filmmaker's affection for his
footage, and, his understandable yet critical inability to be more of a litter-bug
in the cutitng room. Too much of the litter makes it onto the screen and some-
times one grows impatient with the tape and the ribbons and the bows and the
tinsel. The little gift in the big box becomes an annoyance, not a cute joke,
about the third time around.
Even so, I was often enough rexarded for the long hours in the Architecture
Auditorium seats to cushion the blisters. And, occasionally, I was genuinely
thrilled. One of the definite advances in this past festival seems to have been
an increasingly sophisticated sound track.
Perhaps the thing that impresses me upon a too-soon backward look at the
festival is this: when it came down to a choice between the environmental teach-
in and the film festival, when it came down to a choice between MUSKET and
the Speech Department and the Play-of-the-Month and the film festival, it
wasn't any great strain to opt for the festival. The festival, in fact, Interests
me a good deal more than Z, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and Downhill
Racer combined - maybe because the latter films will be around a while and
the film festival is far more ephemeral.
It goes beyond that, however. There is something so incredibly exciting about
the prospect of more than a hundred films; all of them unknown, most of them
by filmmakers one has never heard of, a majority of them free to be as kookie
or vulgar or brilliant as their makers can make them, that it overrules the
almost certain knowledge that most of, them will be duds or faint fizzles.
Perhaps what I like most about the festival is the proof it offers me that I am
still at heart an optimist, no matter how doomed the world outside the screening
room proves to be.

The "Tragic Diary of Zero,
the Fool," by Morley Markson,
was the big money winner of
$390 in the Eighth Ann Arbor
Film Festival which drew to a
close Sunday night with a six
hour showing of winners and
The festival, organized by
Cinema Guild and the Dramatic
Arts Center, showed approxi-
mately 130 films over a five-day
period last week. Before this,
the organizers had eliminated
150 other films from those en-
A total of 12 hours from the
festival will be chosen to go on
tour to about eight other college
campuses. At each there will be
monetary awards made of at
least $350. A total of $1500 is
given out at the festival when
it initiates in Ann Arbor.
Other prize winners, besides
Markson, include: Howard Les-
ter's "Airplane Glue I Love You"
($175), "Tappy Toes" by Red
Grooms ($100), "Moon 1969" by
Scott Bartlett ($130), and "River
Bodies" by Ann Severson ($125).
Also: "Necrology" by Stand-
ish Lawder ($65), "Spider God"
by William E. Baker ($60),
"Incident in a Glass Blower's
Shop" by Byron Bauer ($50),
"Porch Glider" by James Her-
bert ($50) and "Camden Texas"
/by James Bryan ($50).,
Other prize winners were:
David Devensky's "Old Time
Comedy Night" ($50), Lane
Bloebaum's "Side Show" ($50),
"Tyrannus Nix" by Lawrence
Ferlinghetti ($50), "Chase Tri-
logy" by Ronald Chase ($50),
"The Sixties" by Charles Bra-
erman and "Campus Christi" by
J. K. Jennings ($25).
A trip to Europe was also won
by Bloebaum and the local prize
of $25 went to Jay Cassidy for
"Jupiter Egg."
The panel of six judges for
the contest included Gorden
Hitchens, editor of "Film Com-
ment" magazine and instructor
at the School of Visual Arts,
New York City and Skip Wendt,
director of motion pictures at
Jim Handy, Inc., Detroit.
Local judges were Robert
Sheffield editor of "Big Fat"
magazine; Lewis Simpson, an
Ann Arbor 'funk' artist; Ellen
Frank, past president of Cinema
Guild, and Pat Oleszko (the
hippie-strippie), a senior in art
school. Pat featured her strip
acts during the festival.

Film festivals are sifted through and examined like the entrails or the
back of tortoise shells. There is some portent for the future, so the argument
goes, if only we could read it. The copy produced in this fashion usually has
the consistency of stale Quaker Oats.
Certain characteristics are immediately obvious, such as the gradual intro-
duction of color in film. And there is always a good and simple reason. In this
case, that color became increasingly less expensive. Or, to pick a more pertinent
case, the use of video tape and manipulative techniques derived from television.
There were several films this year, and last, and the reason is again simple -
greater access to machinery usually from educational television.
If there are other trends they will be of the abstract metaphysical type.
Those who find such trends proclaim them explicatory of the state of mind of
American film. But a simple examination of the difficulty of the task should be
sufficient to divorce us from such concerns. Here we are examining 300 films,
from a variety of authors, in disparate parts of the country, often totally out of
touch with one another.
Let us be ;satisfied with what was immediately apparent in the festival.
The films were, as a whole, better than previous years. A high level of technical
competency was in evidence, but so too was a richness of ideas. The established
film makers such as Scott Barlett, Ed Emshwiller, and Kenneth Anger have
lost much of their emotional head; and younger men such as Morley Markson
and Howard Lester are producing the finer product.
Scott Bartlett's film Moon '69 is a visual montage, utilizing video tape
techniques. Emishwiller's film Image, Flesh and Voice, is an orchestrated dance.
Anger's Innovation of My Demon Brother a glossary of a personal, esoteric
mythology. In each case, the film these men submitted this year is almost a
double for one they have done before.
What is increasingly clear from the list of winners is that more film this
year than last depended upon some aspect of narrative technique rather than
being mainly abstractions. Markson's Tragic Diary of Zero, the Fool, Lester's
Airplane Glue, I Love You, Groom's Tappy Toes, and Bloebaum's Sideshow,
all used narrative.
Sideshow did this in being a documentary as did another award-winner
Camden, Texas. Hardly new, but nevertheless well executed. But the bigger
winners, Tappy Toes, Zero, and Airplane Glue, used narrative in different ways,
to different ends.
One of the problems is defining what we mean by narrative. And that
is precisely the question under examination. The narrative film has been
historically the property of Hollywood and for years American film makers
and film writers ran in horror from the native product. It was the French
(Godard, Truffaut) who rediscovered, in narrative, the ability to express other
insights and who embraced the genre film. They recognized that there had come
a time when the audience had experienced enough to develop a mental
framework that could be called into the making/viewing of a film.
This, then, is the way in which we see Tappy Toes. We know the Hollywood
musical enough so that the film need be no longer concerned with exploring its
own premises. It can be a play, not upon words, but upon visual images.
This is what is at work in Tragic Diary of Zero, the Fool. It is, in a sense,
a post-movie movie. It calls upon an audience not merely to view, but to
participate in the making of film, by bringing to it a knowledge of what has
gone before. It is similar to Manupelli's Chicago films which are narrative
and also require a. knowledge of the genre film. These films are movies, and
more importantly, are aiming to become pieces of theater.
What is also interesting is that Markson's film, that of Manupelli and
certainly a majority of the winners of the festival are essentially humorous.
Many words have been spent upon the theme of whether tragedy is dead. Of
course, the argument has no point. What is significant is that a great deal of
the major films are comic in character and that this represents a value choice
on the part of the artists making the films.
It is undoubted that there is now a great disruption in the political
fabric. There is like-wise a disruption in the cultural fabric. The end of tragedy
in acquinessence, in acceptance is less valuable now than repose and humor-
the end of comedy. We need, like the characters in Zero, Chicago and Airplane
Glue, to muddle through, to find simpler, more direct and more encompassing
ways of treating ourselves. If we can laugh, we can possibly make it.

All Speakers of English as a Second Language* Are
Invited to Take Part in an Experimental Test of Eng-
lish Language Proficiency to be Given in AUDI-
19th OF MARCH. You Will Receive $5.00 for Ap-
proximately 1-1 1 to 2 Hours of Your Time. If In-
terested You Must Call and Register at the Follow-
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_ - - -

Downhill Racer':
An uphill fight

Iris Bell: Beyond the tinsel

Americans tend to place moral
value on their athletes; in Eur-
ope, sports are a way of life.
The concept of a champion and
everything such a title suggests
would seem to be excellent ma-
terial for the movies. However,
producers refuse to concern
themselves with any descriptive
presentations of "the thrill of
victory and the agony of defeat"
and instead center their efforts
around the essence of success,
forsaking the meaning of what
the struggle entails and leaving
the. moral distinctions to the
viewer's imagination. Such is
the case with Downhill Racer,'
the story of a young skier on
the move, whose determination
pays off (in the American way)
as .he wins an Olympic medal.
David Chappellet (R o b e r t
Redford) is the poor athlete
from Idaho Springs, whose im-
petus to succeed stems from a
warped sense of esthetics. His
agility in the back seat of a
Chevy is equal to that he dis-
plays on the slopes, and his big-
gest thrill is seeing his mug in
Sports Illustrated.
He is a snow bunny's Joe
Namath deluged with the idea
of being a "champion" even
though his humble f a t h e r
claims, "The world is full of
champions" - the most, intel-
ligent line of the entire film.
So what does it mean to be
an athletic hero? Why does a
young man strive to win; train
for a state of perfection? Is it
because he can enjoy the bed-
room maneuvers of a legal pros-
titute (Camilla Sparv) intent on
getting her employer's skils as-
sociated -with an Olympic win-
ner? Or it is the congratulating
mob that surrounds you after
you've come down the hill with
the best time? These are the
reasons offered by Downhill
Racer, but we hope there are
others, if only for the sake of
verifying our worship of these
The story is shallow, cliche-
ridden, with a dialogue that only
a third string reserve could ap-
nreciate. Written by James Sal-

make his effort perfunctory.
Only the exciting ski shots pro-
vide any source of interest.
Redford, who supposedly had
a hand in initiating the idea for
the film, seems to have displaced
his usual shrewdness in accept-
ing only meaningful roles, and
he comes off as one more wor-
ried about his physical attrac-
tiveness than his acting talent.
The final hope of redemption
is left to Gene Hackman, who
acts as the coach of the Olympic
squad. He is a Phi Beta Kappa
graduate of the Knute Rockne
school of coaching, lecturing his
'boys on team spirit, sportman-
ship, and the humility granted
most American athletes. How-
ever, his efforts fail, and his
feeble sermons on the virtues
of competition are more humor-
ous than compassionate.
From Downhill Racer it ap-
pears that the difference be-
tween success and failure de-
pends to a large extent on luck.
The non-champion falls and
break his leg, the champion gets
up to ski again. It's a tough pill
to swallow-this cocky; muscle-
bound illiterate making good be-
cause his extra training involved
running additional laps around
a track. We wonder if David
learns anything when the Ger-
man skier falls thereby insuring
David of the medal, its doubt-
ful, and we realize he is content
with just being the champion
disregarding what the title
Downhill, unlike its name,
starts at the bottom and de-
scends from there. Until movie-
makers decide to present the
real story of athletic competi-
tion and define the true char-
acteristics of a champion, we
are forced to continue to wor-
ship these idols and only pray
that some day they will take
their skiis out of their mouths
and tell the story themselves.
If you enjoy skiing and are
interested in some very thrilling
(almost Cineramic) shots of a
racer coming down a mountain
Downhill can be satisfying. But
if lethargic dialogue wears you
out and you, have a passion for

The Sheraton Hotel Ballroom
seems an unlikely place for any
sincerity, musical or otherwise.
The 5-lb. Reynolds aluminum
chandeliers dangling over my
head seemed to forecast a sim-
ilar musical tinsel, and at best
I hoped to be mildly entertain-
Not so. The Iris Bell Adven-
ture, three people who fall in no
particular category - music be-
yond the mailslot for rock, jazz,
blues, or even entertainment,
guaranteed an involvement. A
sincerity, both in message and
delivery, made us more t h a n
spectators. We were to share a
common experience.
This music, a well-crafted per-
formance of familiar rock songs,
already is charged with ener-
gy. The interpretations are new,
and technically flawless - this
is one sort of energy, but this is
only craft. Combined with this
is an energy which comes f r o m
a personal integrity - a de-
sire to spread the excitement
from the stage, an involvement
with people.
Iris Bell, pianist and leader
of the group, seems to direct
most of this sentiment. She de-
finitely is into her own music,
but music isn't the term. Let's
say she is involved with a phil-
osophy of life. Love is all you
need. Of course, we've heard
this thousands of times, and al-
ways as part of that chandelier.
By the time Iris is finished you
know she believes it, and after
a while even the skeptics have
to smile.
Iris wants us to reach out, but
reaches out first to touch us
with her sounds. Most of the
songs her group performs a r e
already energy packed: mater-
ial from Crosby-Stills, Jefferson
Airplane and the Beatles. This
energy, which often is the craft
of these groups, is enlarged-
actually enhanced, although
there are only three people on
stage. Iris has weeded out every-
thing superfluous, boiling t h e
songs down to structure, and
molding that structure so we
really believe there are twenty
people on stage, and a host of
audio engineers as well.
The technical abilities of Iris,
Butch Miles, the drummer, and
Derek Pierson on bass' are not
n hn _ aaa~rnrlAa - ma - n

subtlety in rhythm seldom heard
in current rock performances,
has substituted his technique
for five days in the echo cham-
ber of a recording studio. This
does not mean, though, that the
group has no conception of elec-
tronic techniques - Derek Pier-
son, not only plays acoustical
bass proficiently, but adjusts the
voice and instrumental balance
of his amplifying equipment in
a way that suggests remarkable
knowledge of sound and sound
effects. It does suggest, however,
that these devices are only
- used when needed - sparingly,
at best, and to enhance, n o t
elaborate, the performance.
Iris means what she sings -
when she speaks of "Triad",sthe
Jefferson Airplane three-way
love song, she believes it, and is
willing to extend this type of
honesty past personal, or even
physical, relationships. "Magical
Mystery Tour", the first song of
this performance, is the path
she would have us follow-t h e
tour doesn't stop, though, in the
lobby of the Sheraton. It begins
with technical perfection - the
blend of voices, and the piano
which, like Iris, is never ove
bearing. It travels through jazz;
blues, and even the hard rock of
the Stones, and makes its way
to the orient as Pierson imi-
tates a sitar on bass. It enters
the minds and bodies of the lis-
teners - generates an excite-
ment through the energy of
technical proficiency, and goes
past this teclhnique as Iris, at
the conclusion of this perform-
ance, makes her position clear.
"Why don't we do it in the
road", sings Iris, but this is a

parody - both on what she
considers a narrow definition of
love and on the whole concept
of entertainment. "Why don't
we do it in the Sheraton", s h e
sings - and this time "it" is
something different.
."It" is life, and extending our
lives and concerns past the ar-
tificial ego-boundry of our own
heads. Iris wishes to touch, to
reach out, and if not with the
body, at least with an o p e n
mind. This might seem trite, or
a performance gimmick - but
Iris is sincere. She means her
philosophy; one part of a much
larger music.
Program Info: NO 2-6264
7:00-9:10 P.M.

3020 Washtenow, Ph. 434-1782
Between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor
Nominated for Seven
* Best Picture " Best Song

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Must be single. Minimum age 20.
Height 5'3" to 5'9".
Weight 105-140 pounds.
Good Health. Good Vision.
Knowledge foreign language.
Positions are based in:
Interviews on campus will be conducted
March 24, 1970




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contact your Placement Director.
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- ...6







March 17,18, Tues., Wed.
American Film Studies













MARCH 18-24.8 p.m.






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