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October 28, 1979 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-10-28

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Haskell assesses
Holl ywood's women
Film critic Molly Haskell spoke Thursday night in Rackham's
fourth-floor amphitheater as part of a women's film series spon-
sord by Cinema "I. A regular contributor to The Village Voice
and Ms., Haskell did not present any startling new ideas about
woman's role in the cinema (the subject of her speech), and her
conversation frequently rambled into the realm of her own
feminist views rather than the subject at hand. However, she at
least proved herself to be a staunch champion of the women's
movement, despite its recent loss of popularity.,
The program Cinema II distributed at the lecture emphasizes
that Haskell "describes herself as a film critic first and a
feminist second." True, she is as competent as any other com-
mercial critic, but her aesthetic and political comments are so
intertwined (she makes no effort to keep them separate) that
she presents her audience with a lady-or-the-tiger situation: in
each new paragraph, or each new sentence, will she be a film
analyst, or an apologist for the women's movement reading her
own sociological theories into the film she is addressing?
Haskell's blending of politics and aesthetics may have kept her
out of the big league, since she is a little too far out to write
regularly for, say, Time or The New Yorker, but at the same
time she has an aura of integrity that the Jay Cockses and Rex
Reeds of this world do not posess. Rather than adopting the pose'
of a prima donna, pettishly dismissing films that displease her
or gushing over those that one's friends directed, she takes a
careful, humanistic approach to her subjects which is a
refreshing change from the arbitrary peevishness of some of her
HASKELL IS perhaps best known for her book From
Reverence to Rape (1975), an historical study of the treatment
of women in films. Formerly resident movie critic for New York
magazine, her work has appeared in Esquire, Saturday Review,
Mademoiselle, Vogue, and Glamour.
Haskell presented her views in a pleasant, if slightly nervous
conventional style. She based her comments on an historical
overview of the portrayal of women in films, mostly citing her
examples from Hollywood productions. For instance, she ad-
mired the strong, self -possessed heroines of the thirties and for-
ties. She also hypothesized that screenwriters of that era, ham-
pered by the Hayes office ban on sexuality in movies, tried to
keep their romantic plots interesting by postponing the
inevitable (but never seen) union of male and female by casting
obstacles between them, such as making the female lead an in-
dependent career woman who must be tamed before she ap-
preciates home and family as her true calling. Haskell cited a
classic example of this paradox in The Moon's Our Home, a 1936
film in which Margaret Sullivan tries to defy boyfriend Henry
Fonda by continuing her career as an actress against his wishes.
Fonda responds by bodily dragging Sullivan off the plane to
Hollywood, and carries her off in a straightjacket, while she
beams up at him in happy submission.
HASKELL DOES not seem pleased by the progress of
woman's image since then, from the "mammary goddesses" of
the fifties to the "buddy-buddy films" of the late sixties, where
the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid style of male adventure
films became so popular "in fact" she commented, "it looked as
if Robert Redford and Paul Newman were going to become the
William Powell and Myrna Loy of the 70's." As for more con-,
temporary films, she applauds Norma Rae for its unique por-
trayal of a man-woman relationship that does not end up with
both of them in bed together (although, she admits, there is a
certain let-down when they don't). She also mentioned that
Girlfriend, which is virtually the first made-for-and-by women's
film to make it commercially, made a radical, anti-Hollywood
step in featuring Melanie Mayron, a not-so-beautiful but
decidedly interesting actress in the lead role.
The critic claimed to be somewhat alarmed by the rising
conservatism among college women, who despite rising divorce
rates, seem overly romantic about settling down with Mr. Right.
She attributes this supposed naivete to the shelter of campus
life, where women don't experience the harshest inequities of the
real, male-dominated world. As for the future of women, both in
films and in society, Haskell feels optimistic that their lot will
improve, although she is the first to admit that there is no pat
way to gauge what is or isn't a "correct" portrayal ofwomen in
the media. In the realm of cinema, she anticipates the release of
Head Over Heels, a new film based on an Ann Beattie short
story, and Joan Tewkesbury's new film. She acknowledges,
though, the difficulty of working one's way up in the male-
dominated filmmaking world. Television, though, she said, is a
great training ground for women writers and directors,
especially since, unlike commercial films, it is routinely aimed
at a female audience. TV, she said, is at the brink of meshing in-
to the cinematic medium. She looks forward to a time where
there will be "fewer blockbuster, zap, dopey, infantile flicks"
and more tough-minded, realistic, films about men and women.

A cozy, melanch

Charlie is a man with a rich, deep
past, a wallower in the unmanageable
menagerie 'of painful and pleasant
memories of his youth, his adoptive
parents, his first employment, and his
first ill-fated attempts at losing his in-
nocence. He returns to his native
Dublin County upon the death of his
dear old dad ("Da" in the Irish
dialect), finding his way to the cozy lit-
tle cottage where he grew up. He is
greeted there first by a still-living
friend from his boyhood, but soon after
by the ghosts of his parents, friends,
and even by a pre-incarnation of him-
He spends the next few hours
(weeks? months?) living through his
memories, the glorious along with the
glum, the sweet with the s'olemn. He
vicariously relives some of his ex-
periences, though this time through he
is blessed with an advantage; he can
pick and choose among the characters
of his memories, and converse with,
advise, and heckle them at his
discretion. When he watches his earlier
self making a clumsy move on the
reputedly "easy" object of his
adolescent desires, he sarcastically
commends Young Charlie, "You in-
sidious devil, you."
THE RETURN to his youth has
another merit that reality does not af-
ford: In review, he can romanticize and
rearrange things as he likes. A droll
scene early in the play displays Charlie
and his Da doing their sorry best to
pour themselves some tea without
scorching themselves. Their struggle
with the troublesome kettle comes to an
abrupt end when Mother arrives and
snatches the pot up without so much as
a wince. Her imaginary maternal
magic ha~s become a part of Charlie's
For the most part, Charlie presents
his spectres in a stern, unsentimental
light. He remembers a frustrating
argument with his mother over in-
cluding a literary reference in a cour-
tesy letter he's written to friends of
hers, the spat ending with Young
Charlie storming out in a fury over her
intransigent anti-intellectuality. He
remembers his dour, sphinx-like em-
ployer Mr. Drumm, who can scarcely
utter a supportive syllable, yet who
unleashes a diatribe of negation to the
then-impressionable lad: "You have to
learn to say no. No to women, no to jobs,
no tomoney .. . you'll learn to say no to
Much of the time, Charlie Now sits
quietly, ruminating the little dramas on
parade before him. But sometimes, we
catch him in an "if only I could have"
pose, wishing he'd had the sense and
sensitivity as a callow youth to express
his feelings fully and from the heart. He
watches his -younger self leaving the
nest, eagerly making a dash for
marriage and independence, but
unaware of the fact that he will never
see his parents together again. We can
see his seasoned eyes hopelessly im-
ploring the youth to run back for a
moment to offer his folksa glimmer of
appropriate affection, at least, before

fleeing their charge forever.
Leonard's intriguing network of ghosts
and irretrievable moments is a
theatrical experience of poignancy and
charm sufficient to warm one down to
one's very toes. It achieves a rarely ac-
complished feat, in completing its
heart-achingly vivid painting of ethnic
joy and pain while applying the
brushstrokes with all but complete im-
Though there is no program note to
this effect, Leonard's play is tran-
sparently autobiographical. The vivid
mixture of folly and nobility that his
characters make their home is simply
too vibrant, too resonant with the sound
of human nature not to be heavily in-
fluenced by the man's own factual and
fantastical recollections.
Yet the playwright couldn't have
done it alone. Powerful emotional
leverage is wielded by the backdrop -
a simple Irish sky - that illuminates
the entire production. Designer John
Falabella has found the very color of
melancholy in his fading russet sunset.

Ken Billington's li
turns simple and e
scenes wherein th
tete-a-tete contac
ghostly figures, o
carry on from a dis
title character's c
perhaps in his act
wanted his Da to be
ce to warrant his so
the old man's uny
and self-satisfied m
actor Jack Aransor
objective. Charlie'
line, "If you ran in
car, he'd thank you
example of the exp
the patriarch's ch
other, and perha
quality, sheer lov

The Michigan Daily-Sunday, October 28, 1979-Page 5
ghting design is by bination of script and performer has
legant, as needed by left the production a little too sparse.
e older Charlie is in We see the r," +tIg, of Da's appeal, as
ct with one of the when Charlie discovers that his
r watching several periodic financial gifts to his father
tance. have gone unspent, but rarely a gesture
law at all, it is in the or word that is in and of itself the stuff
onceptualization, or of the ubiquitous kindness that logically
;ualization. Leonard ought to show itself.
enough of a nuisan- Ian Stuart is superb as the Charlie of
the present, delivering his arch
j fN/ remarks with all the acerbic sting they
need. Even those few lines that are
without ostensible malicious intent
come off sounding shriller than an
arrow's whistle.
With all the jumping about in time, a
n's frequent jibes at convincing command of "stage-aging'
yieldingly detached is certainly called for, and amply
nanner. Leonard and provided here by Aranson and
n do succeed in that especially by Kevin O'Leary in the role
's wryly delivered of. the young Charlie's emnployer.
to him with a motor- O'Leary's powerfully tranquil
for the lift" is a fair technique is to suggest his advanced
osition of this side of age in small ways, with a slightly
aracter. But in the slower walk, a stiffer turn of the head, a
aps more crucial tad of remorse for his inflexible ways of
ability, some com- earlier years.
The other performers, save one, all
admirably meet the demands of their
roles. George Feeney is a meek and
sheepish buddy to Young Charlie, who.
himself is played with suitably buoyant
energy and naivete by Curtis Ar-
mstrong. Virginia Mattis exhibits den-
seness and warmth in about the right
proportions, and Cynthia Carle is
adequately disappointing as the tart of
Charlie's dreams. Only Mavis Ray ever,
shows signs of artificiality, an e,xx
ceedingly minor problem for this best.
of the Best of Broadway.

George Feeney and Curtis Armstrong uncork an Irish melody in a scene
from "Da," the Tony award-winner presented at the Power Center last
r. 1

the Count



The University of Michigan
Alumni Association
in cooperation with
The School of Music
In Joint Concert With The
W isconsin c&ngers
NOV. 2, 1979 8:00 p.m.
Tickets available at the
PTP Ticket Office, Michigan League
Hours: Weekdays 10-1 & 2-5pin
(313) 764-0450
Also at all Hudson's Outlets
Tickets: $4.50 $3.50




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31 October

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1 November
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