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January 16, 1970 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1970-01-16

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Page Two

THE MICHIGAN DAILY FricInv Innuaryr 16 1970

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'Medium Cool':

Whither televised man?

The Daily
Spurts Staff

While Spiro Agnew was
throwing brickbats, at Chet and
David to the delight of the
silent bumpkins, concerned in-
dividuals were wading through
the crap and giving the Veep
conditional assent. Like it or
not, Agnew spoke some truths.
Unfortunately, he failed to
grasp the real relationship be-
tween the people and their
media. And that's what Haskell
Wexler sets out to explore in
Medium Cool now playing at
the Fifth Forum.
Manly people have bewailed

the rise of the technological so-
ciety and the increasing alien-
ation w h i c h accompanies it.
Automatons. Cogs in the wheel.
Less than human. We're all
familiar with the story of a
guy who shows up to work only
to find out that he's been re-
placed by a computer. Amidst
the atrophy of the human con-
dition, however, people like to
feel that they are and always
will be the masters of these
grinding, creaking creatures,
because . . . well, because ma-
'chines may be able to do our
work, maybe even our thinking,

amid th e mint jueps
The narrator says of his childhood, "Those days were like
an endless summer stored with pleasure in my memory." Now
you know you've heard that somewhere before. And sure enough,
there is a genre of film that is seldom, if ever, classified as such-
The Coming of Age film. These are films in which an innocent
young lad gets initiated into the sins of manhood, sort of a
cinematic Bar Mitzvah. William Faulkner's The Reivers, now
playing at the Michigan Theatre is the latest in this line, but
in many respects it is less successful than its predecessors..
It's not that The Reivers doesn't know how a Coming of
Age film is supposed to unfold. On the contrary, all the familiar
elements are here-the unimaginably naive youth, his experienced
guides, a den of inequity and, last, but not least, Realization. There
is also an air of nostalgia so thick that you may be asphixiated.
To top it off, Richard Moore's photography is so beautifully quaint
that it looks like a Wyeth painting. The trouble is not so much
that the film is bad (it really isn't), as it is unnecessary. We just
don't need any more Coming-of-Age-In-The-Early-Twentieth-Cen-
tury movies; what we need are a few more Last Summers.
I wouldn't even criticize The Reivers if it were content to be
"rollicking" (as one reviewer has described it). Indeed, the let 'er
fly, laugh 'em up' sequences ;are the best in the picture. But
when drama is mixed with the rollick the result is a very awkward
Capote's vignettes Xerox (now included in a feature film
entitled Trilogy), for example, were able to sustain both drama
and horseplay, because Frank Perry created an atmosphere of love
with its attendent sadness and humor; the audience became a
partner to the boy's relationship and shared in his adventures.
Somehow, I never got a feeling of real tenderness and affection
between the shiftless Boon (Steve McQueen) and the boy, Luciuc
(Mitch Vogel). Sure, they liked each other, but I was never
convinced that the bond between them was any more than that.
Despite the melodrama, the fun is fun. Boon tells Lucius,
"If you want to reach your manhood sometime, you have to
say goodbye to the things you know and say hello to the things you
don't." So when Lucius' parents have to go away for a few days,
he, Boon and a black companion Ned (Rupert Crosse) jump in
the 1905, yellow Winton Flyer, owned by Lucius' grandaddy, and
head for the big city-Memphis.
When they arrive, Lucius is introduced to the bawdy world
of the cathouse-you know, Life. Meanwhile, Ned has acquired
a racehorse of sorts, and then there is a run-in with the law
and then .. well, you get the idea. It is all very harmless. And,
anyway, I'm sure you've seen it all before.
An afterthought: Isn't the sheriff in The Reivers also the.
sheriff in another film of this genre, The Learning Tree? Maybe
he's making a career of it.
U requests labor mediator

but they'll never be able to
Feel; machines will never be
able to relate humanly to other
objects. Machines dont' have
emotions so don't worry, folks.
What's crept up on us while
our metallic help-mates were
taking over the physical chores
was an invasion of technology
into that sacred realm of emo-
tion. Before we knew it there
were the media staring us in the
face, ringing their bells and
making us drool like Pavlov's
dogs. Wecould still relate but
now it was on cue. As a result,
technology had made a major
conquest, and we were all a little
less the master.
Thus, the cameraman hero
of Medium Cool can talk
about television's assassination
"script" - an hour review of
the man's life, full coverage of
the funeral from twenty-five
camera positions, experts on
violence telling us how sick this
society is as if we didn't already
know. We sit there gulping the
media's cathartic, feeling guilty
for a week or two, maybe we
even join in a public outcry for
gun control and send our con-
gressmen letters. The law is
never passed; we forget all
about it anyway, and the next
week . . . back to The Flying
Nun. Brrrrring! Everybody
Perhaps it is inevitable in this
big land of ours that someone
or, more correctly, some process
would serve as the intermediary
between events and our own
moral sensibilities. The Viet-
nam dementia is a perfect ex-
ample. S i i ti n g each night
watching battle films on the
network news with helicopters
droning on the soundtrack, you
can't help but feel desensitized.
Didn't I see this same film last
night? Or was it a week ago?
Or was it a year? Even though
we seeevents the very day they
occur, they seem distant and
difficult to relate to. Starving
Biafrans, pleading Viet Cong,
murders, rapes, fires, accidents,
Jed Clampett ...
Medium Cool is a film about
this desensitizing process. Yet it
cannot be detached from and
feel superior to its subject, since
the film is part of the very
problem it presents - it is a
film about itself. Wexler bal-
ances the facsimile of life with
the real thing, often reminding
us thathe is spoon feeding the
viewer these images. A char-
acter points at Wexler's camera
(which, of course, is photo-
praphing what we see on the
screen) and says, "Look. They
got film."' Later, when a tear
gas canister explodes, someone
on the soundtrack yells, "Look
out, Haskell! It's real!"
The distance betwen the audi-
ence and the action on the
screen is most obivous when, in
the final shot, Wexler points
his camera at US. There's the
wreckage of the accident flam-
ing away on the screen, there's
the audience (us) enraptured
in their seats and ther's Has-
kell Wexler poking his camera
between the 'cinematic event
and us. It is kind of unsettling.
But after all, who's been relat-
ing us with the action all
along? Indeed, through what
process do we relate to all oc-
currences that we cannot see
and feel in person?
The contrivance of Medium

Cool must be seen in the context
of the film as film. For ex-
ample, auto accidents neatly
frame the picture. John is fired
under circumstances never ex-
plained to us. Harold's mother,
for no logical reason, goes look-
ing for him ir Grant Park
rather than somewhere else. I
realize that this contrivance up-
sets some people who are used
to the linear logic of most
movies, and I would have to
agree that the film works least
successfully on the plain old
narrative level. And yet the
contrivance is a necessary in-
gredient in Wexler's pudding,
It emphasizes the fact that this
is a movie. The giants on the
screen, the story they tell are
fiction. But then how real are
those Vietnam battles your re-
spond to on Huntley-Brinkley?
On the narrative level as well
as in structure Medium Cool
deals with desensitivity and the
media. The protagonist, John
Castellis (Robert Forster), is a
product of the media culture.
The picture opens with Castellis
and his soundman Gus (Peter
Bonerz) shooting footage of an
automobile accident. They get
all the gore in vivid technicolor.
for the automatons who will be
watching the ten o'clock news.
With the job completed, they
call an ambulance. This is just
the first in a series of events
designed to show John as a Max
Muller Aryan. He watches a
television special on the Ken-
nedys and Martin Luther King
and misty-eyed e k c l a i m s,
"Jesus! I love to shoot film."
Then Wexler introduces Har-
old Horton, brilliantly played by
Harold Blankenship. It is fit-
ting that we learn the basic da-
ta about him through a survey
interviewer. He's thirteen years
old, lives in Uptown Chicago, his
father is in Viet Nam, and the
family has just come up from
West Virginia. He's the kind of
kid John must have filmed in a
documentary on Appalachia. It
is really of no consequence how
they got together; what is im-
portant is that John is forced to
relate to Harold and his mother
as people and not as documen-

tary subjects or as game (the'.
way he treated his girlfriend).
So John gets humanized (It's
almost 1i k e getting religion.),
and simultaneously he gains a
new awareness of life. He finds
reality - isn't captured in his
camera of Gus' mike. After at-
tempting to teach Harold the
fine points of boxing he sighs,
"Really, the object is to knock
the other guy's brains out. And
then you win." He has learned,
as he himself s a y s, to "cut
through the crap.'
One of the things I especially
like about Medium Cool is its
approach to t h e question of
reality and illusion. It views this
issue in a practical perspective
rather than on a grand philo-
sophical scale. Ask anyone you
know about a film he didn't un-
derstand and he'll tell you, "It's
all about reality and illusion,
see." The all-time cop-out. Re-
freshingly, this movie really is
about reality and illusion as the
problem crops up in our daily
lives through the tube. I'm to-
tally incredulous at the dignity
with which the media handles a
boob like Nixon; that's some-
thing that's unreal.
At the risk of sounding like a
New York Times' election edi-
torial, I strongly recommend
Medium Cool. Needless to say,
this is ah important film that
dares to experiment. It n'ay
very well be the most stimulat-
ing cinematic experience you
will have in a long while. Not
only does it examine man and
the media but It also raises a
question I've often pondered -
Did the Mondo Cane camera-
man turn the tortoises around
toward the sea? Answers John,
"How do I know. Those were
Italian cameramen."

The Daily Official Bulletin is an
official publication of the Univer-
sity of Michigan. Notices should be
sent in TYPEWRITTEN fo0r m to
Room 3528 L. S. A B d g., before
2 p.m., ofthe day preceding pub-
lication and by 2 p.m. Friday for
Saturday and Sunday. Items ap-
pear once only. Student organiza-
tion notices a r e not accepted for
publication. ,F o r more informa-
tion, phone 764-9270.
I~a Da alendar
Midwestern Conference on School
Vocal and Instrumental Music - 'Re-
gistration: Rackham Lobby, 8:00 a.m.
Astronomy Colloquium: Dr. F. D. Mil-
ler, "Eclipses, Fossils, and the Spin-
down of the Earth, 296 PA, 4:00 p.m.
Department of Slavic Languages and
Literatures: Russian Film Series -
Pedigogical Poem (1955): Multipurpose
Room, Undergraduate Library, 7:00 and
9:00 p.m.
University Symphony Band: William
D. Revelli,conductor, Hill Auditorium,
8:00 p.m.
General Notices
History 545: Apreviously unscheduled
meeting of History 545, Twentieth-
Century China, will be held at 2:00 at
1200 Chemistry Building.
fellowships or grantsr-
All students having scholarships, fel-
lowships or grants that cover tunition
or residence fees, who have not yet ap-

plied them, please report to the schol-
arship office room 2226,student activi-
ites building, before January 31, 1970.
Theseawards should be applied to pour
account before the January 31st pay-
ment date to eliminate delinquent
charges. oYu must present your ID
card and registration certificate (pink
and white copies) to insure proper
credit to your account. Al Michigan
higher education scholarships are ap-
plied directly to your tuition accounts.
Placement Service
3200 S.A.B.
Peace Corps qualifying test given to-
morrow, 1 p.m., downtown branch of
post office.
Inquire about the following p r o-
grams at career planning division, 3200
ESAB, or call 764-6338.
Mc Master University, Hamilton On-
tario, Department of Political SCI, of-
fers MA program including 7 mo. sem-
inars and oppor. for teaching exper., 5
mo. independent study and prep. of
.thesis or other coursework.
Harvard University: Div. of ,Engrg.
Santapplied physics offers programs in
computer sci. Computer applic., ap-
plied discrete math, math, mnath. lin-
guistics, and information and control.
Appication information must be sub-
mitted before Jan. 20, applic. for
awards before ;May 15.
Oregon State University offers MS
in Management Sci. Grad. asst. avail.
Sci. approach syst. analy. quan. meth-
(Continued on Page 10) ,





JAN. 18th


WED., THURS., FRIDAY, January 14, 15, 16
7 and 9 P.M. Adm. $1.00

State labor mediation has been
requested by the University in an
effort to reach a contract settle-
ment with the Washtenaw Coun-
ty Building Trades and C o n-
struction Council.
Mediator Richard Terepin of the
State Employment Relations
Commission will meet at 4 p.m.
today with University and union
negotiators; to seek agreement on
a replacement for an initial 18-
month contract that expired Dec.

Negotiations between the Uni-
versity and the building trades
started early in December and pro-
duced agreement last w e e k on
non-economic language for a new;
contract. The University's econo-
mic offer was rejected in a gen-
eral membership meeting of the
union on Tuesday afternoon.
The - application for a state me-
diator, made earlier that day, "was
not a joint request," notes Jack H.
Hamilton, director of University
The only other University un-
ion contract that expired at the
end of 1969, with Local 547 of
the International Union of Operat-
ing Engineers, has been replaced
with a 27-month agreement rati-
fied by that union last Thursday.

Electra-Recording Artist
Superb guitar,
banjo, tamboura
Superb sense of humor
Great performer
Funny as hell!
14Z1 Ril STRET








*The .concert which was to
have been given by Willis Pat-
terson, bass, and: EugeneBos-
sart, piea, at 4:30 p.m. Sun-_
day, Jan. 25, in Rackham Lec-
ture Hall, has been postponed
until Sunday, March 1, at 8 p.m.
in Rackham Lecture Hall.
* * *
Twenty-two U n i v e r s i t y of
Michigan music students will
perform a cycle of three recitals
devoted to the six sonatas of
Bach and five sonatas of Mozart
for violin and piano.
This project is directed by
Profs. Eugene Bossart, Karen
Keys, and Angel Reyes, who se-
lected and coached all the per-
- formers. Joining their talents,
these- students make it possible
to hear 11 masterpieces of the
violin and piano sonata reper-
toire rarely presented in a cycle
The recitals .will be at the
School of Music Recital Hall on
Tues., Jan. 20, and Thurs., Jan.
22, at 8 p.m., with the final re-
cital on Sat., 'Jan. 24, at 4:30
p.m. Admission is free.
* * *
The University of Michigan
Stanley Quartet will give an
all-Beethoven concert in honor
of the bicentennial of the com-
poser's birth at 8 p.m. Wed.,
Jan. 21, in Rackham Lecture
On the program will be Quar-
tet in C Major, Op. 59, No. 3,
and Quartet in A Minor, Op.
A second concert will be given
on Feb. 25.

It provides a two-stage pay raise
of 7 per cent and 6.5 per cet,
and increased benefits..

802 Monroe

James Bond
is back! ,


William Faulkner's Pulitzer SHOWS AT DIAL
Prize Wining Novel is now 1, 3; 5',5-629Q
a splendid film! 7, 9 P.M.
"McQueen acts as he hasn't before, -an artfulwily bumpkin. Crosse is full of twinkle, Mitch
Vogel is never overbearing, Will Geer made me wish he'd been my grandfather and I hope
to see more of Miss Farrell. They're all mighty good, and so is 'The Reivers' "-Gene Shalit,
Look Magazine

8 P.M.
1429 HILL ST.





: 4nited Artists
1:00, 3:40, 6:20, 9:00 P.M.




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