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November 11, 1979 - Image 15

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The Michigan Daily, 1979-11-11
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Page 6-Sunday, November 11, 1979-The Michigan Daily

The Michigan Daily-Sunday, Nove

Kosinski mellows with age

Linwood Dunn's movie ma

By Jerzy Kosinski, St.
Martin's Press, 271 pp., $10.95
"When we disbelieve what others
could do, we end up disbelieving
what we could do ourselves. That's
how we're punished for our failure
to imagine."
-Jerzy Kosinski,
"Passion Play"
F OR BETTER or worse, Jerzy
Kosinski could never be ac-
cused of a failed imagination.
Since his first novel, The Painted Bird,
disrupted the literary world in 1965,
Kosinski has practically redefined the
imaginative process, twisting it into a
baroque, unceasing chronicle of a very
personalized human holocaust.
The agonizingly autobiographical
Painted Bird described the odyessy of a
small boy, separated from his parents
in Nazi-occupied Poland, who descends
into an hallucinatory pageant of
medieval horrors while wandering en-
dlessly through the dark villages of his
land's back country. The book reads
like the Brothers Grimm run amok,
their catalogue of brutalities suddenly
heightened a thousandfold even while
clinging to the fantasy structure of a
fable. Burnings, gougings, rapings, ad
dismemberings pile up so quickly that the
simple turning of a page becomes a test
of the reader's will; by the novel's end,
the boy, at last reunited with his family,
has emerged a burnt-out shell, unable
to speak, suspicious and cynical toward
a world that has gone mad and dragged
him into the cauldron along with it.
Though reclaimed in body, he will
remain forever a spiritual orphan.
The Painted Bird provides the
historical deep focus for virtually all of
Kosinski's subsequent books, most of
them intricate, episodic works nar-
cissistically twined around a
protagonist who coverts and protects
his station as alien and outsider, a
wounded knight-errant who early in life
was scorched by man's heart of
darkness and has kept organized
humanity at arm's length ever since.
Kosinski's protagonists prize their
freedom and mobility above all else;
yet their notion of independence is in-
strinsically interwoven with the need to
dominate as the only alternative to sub-
jugating oneself.
Thus Kosinski's shadow-
heroes-whether rich diletante, secret
agent, or of undertermined oc-
cupation-obsessively manipulate
those whose paths they cross, assuming
the role of saint or satan with an almost
arrogant impunity. His protagonists'
actions can range from humorous prac-
tical joking all the way up to murder,
their deeds laid out with the labyrin-
thine complexity of a kind of hideous
chess game, all acts adhering to a
mysterious but possibly consistant
morality at which the realer can only
Kosinski's outlaw chameleons must
maintain their singularity, their
mobility, above all their need to utterly
control their own situation of the
moment. If the price of such control is
distorting oneself into a kind of creative.
monster, so be it. Yet the wistful ad-
Christopher Potter reviews film
for the Daily arts page,

By Christopher Potter

precariousness of his mouth, he
pressed the lower front teeth with
his thumb; no longer firm, theyshif-
ted slightly, almost imperceptibly.
One day, without warning, when he
collided at polo with another rider
or was unseated by him, they might
simply fall out. He kept a log of the
steady remolding of his face, par-
ticulrly when fatigue set in, the folks
in the eyelids thickening, the over-
pliant chin sagging with flesh.
Still, Kosinski's hero hasn't gone
totally to pasture. The old themes of
power and liberation through sub-
jugation remain forceful, if less
authoritative than before. Fabian's in-
trinsic relationships to horses is played
to the utmost, yet even here the em-
phasis remains on dominance rather
than on any mythical unification of man
and beast: "The union of rider and
mount was, at base, a dual of human
brain and animal psychology."
AMENTABLY, such socially dra-
'*sconian philosophy continues to ap-
ply to Kosinski's view of women.
Though mellowed, he remains as
blatantly sexist as any writer alive, a
prejudice made all the more distressing
through Kosinski's habitually dazzling
manipulation of the printed word.
Though Passion Play refreshingly
depicts Fabian as victim almost as of-
ten as victimizer, the female sex
remains for him a montage of either
predatory vipers, coiling to devour him
at the slightest whim, or pathetic
losers, freaks whose most tormented
desires can be easily satisfied by a few
rolls in the sack.
"How well do you know Diana?"
Fabian asked cautiously.
"As well as a man ever, knows a
woman." Gordon-Smith smiled-
expansively, with his easy air of
male camaraderie. .
"Has she told you much about
her life?"
"There isn't much to tell," Gor-
don-Smith said. "Remember, she's
only twenty-four.1

is one of WUOM's modest record-
ing booths, finishing up a taped
interview, and telling the same
amne story he told the audience at a
Cinema Guild lecture the night before about
how he put Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant,
and a testy leopard all in the same room via
the wonders of a machine called the optical
printer. He runs through the little packaged
anecdote methodically. Even the jokes come
in the exact same spots, and when you hear
one of his planned punchlines, you just know
he could easily deliver this spiel in his sleep.
Still, you don't really mind, because Lin-
wood Dunn is endearingly innocent for a man
who's been around the movie business for
more than a half-century. Telling and re-
telling his stories about "the old days," he's
like your favorite grandfather. He may have
polished his stories so they come out with the
smooth but slightly monotonous hum of a
canned political speech, but.you can tell it's
only because he wants you to enjoy what he's
saying. Working on the special effects for
movies like Citizen Kane and Airport gave
him an opportunity to rub elbows with legen-
dary actors and directors. But Dunn isn't one
to flaunt his famous connections:He comes on
more as a super-fan, who lucked into a
lifelong tour of major studio backlots.
A few minutes after the radio interview, I
start setting up my own tape recorder, and
Dunn immediately requests a copy of the tape
and the article. "I keep two scrapbooks for
my family," he explains with a grin. A chubby
but unimposing man, Dunn stares straight
ahead when he talks, and rarely raises his
voice. His answers begin slowly, but you can
hear his mind whirring until one of his anec-
dotes slips into place, like a cassette tape. He
travels to universities and film workshops
around the country to give his packaged,
three-hour lecture-demonstration on special,
effects. But Dunn never even pretends to
think of himself as a celebrity. He considers it
Owen Gleiberman is co-editor of the
Sunday Magazine.

By Owen Gleiberman
honor enough that he has had a chance to
meet so many of them.'
For instance, recalling his stint as special
effects consultant for Citizen Kane, Dunn
speaks of Orson Welles with a quiet reveren-
ce. "He was a very creative man," says
Dunn, "and he gave me the opportunity to do
many effects that normally you would not
have to do because they were, on the surface,
impractical." Impractical, yes, but not im-
possible. The sort of tricks Welles was af-
ter-like sending a camera "through" a win-
dow-simply demanded more time and
money than the studio producers were ac-
customed to giving their directors. But
Welles, at least on Kane, got all the resources
he needed. And those who worked on the
movie couldn't have had a better chance to
try out ideas they had been mulling over for
years. "It was definitely exciting to work with
him," Dunn recalls. "I was a young fellow, in
my late twenties, and I was thirsting for
knowledge all the time. The opportunity to try
some of these things with the money available
was relatively rare."
Dunn even worked on test shootings for
Heart of Darkness, the movie Welles
originally came to Hollywood to make. "My
end of it was to find a way that, when he ended
a scene, it could flow into the next scene. He
did not want to have any cuts in a sequence.
So I would have to see how a scene ended, so I
could tie it on to the next cut on the optical
printer. That was my first experience with
him, and I was very impressed with the way
he staged the action and made his set-ups."
Dunn remembers that Wells planned to make
the movie in the "first person." Welles would
play Marlowe, the observer-protagonist who
journeys into the heart of colonial Africa, only'
the camera would be his eyes, and you'd
never actually see him. "I remember a scene
where he sits down," recalls Dunn, "and the.
shadow on the wall sat down, but you just
heard a voice."

beenheld as an anony
the-scenes operation.I
boom of knock-out far
ars has given new (and m
prominence to the effects ther
the people who create them. ]
ball, who worked with Stanle
2001 and went on to design the
spaceships in Close Encounte
into the limelight to direct his o
enjoyable sci-fi adventure Silen
But if special effects are
"star" of a movie these days, tk
the-scenes craftsmanship is thi
wood Dunn really knows or un+
no wonder that working on Ka
unique experience. The pici
trolled from beginning to
man-Orson Welles--who cou
less about how much of the stu
was spending. When Dunn cam
in the early twenties, on the c
studio system reigned s
producers had their frug
For Dunn and his co-worke
the movies was strangely ui
job, in every sense of the word
each day and tackled the pro
like a computer programme:
flow-charts. Of course, a good
movies were churned out of the
line system of motion picture i
the final product was never as
the process; the movie was a co
everyone had his or her job to d
fects person might come up'v
ideas, but no one thought of the
"artistry" or "creativity," the
most worker-like directors will
Back then, special effects in
bit every year, just like cars
"The industry was a little sn
seven major studios were in e
and we all knew each other
declares Dunn. "Today, it's sp
It's not the closeness we had, e

Jerzy Kosinski 's dark excursions

into abnormality, while often in]
ing and repellent, may prove to
been the sole reason for his appeal.


mission that even the most nimble,
resourceful blackguard remains mortal
flesh and blood dominates Kosinski's
latest effort, Passion Play.
As the author moved into middle age,
so does his new fictional alter ego,
Fabian. A polo player by profession (as
is Kosinski on an amateur level),
Fabian engages in the standard classic
Kosinskian wanderings with a
markedly increased awareness of his
own mortality and time's slow, pitiless
withering of the mind and body which
at one's heart one alwdys assumed
would last forever.
Fabian thus embodies a mid-life tur-
ning point from all the perversely
resourceful Kosinski protagonists who
preceeded him. Contrasting the
tujnultuous earlier works, Passion Play
comes across as a contemplative
reflection, a mournful acceptance of
the sweeping years which threaten to
engulf both character and creator. To
be sure, the standard Kosinski doses of
power plays, kinky sex, and life's
bizarre coincidences remain om-
nipresent; yet the expected parade of
unvarnished horrors and atrocities is
notably muted,rreplaced by a half-
satisfied, half-aching realization that
the majority of one's battles and adven-
tures have alrady come and gone.

Predictably, Fabian is a study in con-
trasts: A foreigner wandering in a land
he can never truly call his own, a man
of humble birth and means hobnobbing
with the rich and powerful through his
expertise in a sport only the rich can af-
ford to play. Yet even within his chosen
profession he remains an outcast:
Spurned by other polo players as a ran-
corous individualist in a team sport
("He had become a menace to the
collective soul of the game"), his once-
successful books now lying unsold on
store shelves, Fabian crisscrosses
American in his palatial VanHome-his
two polo ponies in tow-hustling up one-
on-one games with wealthy adver-
saries, the first ravages of age already
diminishing his once-formidable talent.
Early on, Kosinski describes in-
graphically harrowing detail the
changes in Fabian's face:
In the mirror, he caught a glimpse
of lusterless teeth, now yellow or
shot with blue-black mottling, a few
tarnished silver fillings against a
flare of gold. His gums were pale;
like old chewing gum, they had lost
elasticity, hardened, receding to
bare more and morf of each tooth's
eroding root. Struck with' the

Fabian doesn't even attempt to dis-
guise his comparison of woman to hor-
se. His love for a woman is "a love, no
different in, kind, at root, from that in
the appreciative eye of a horseman for
a stallion, a mare or a gelding." He
speaks of a specific female conquest:
"Like a colt, she was to be schooled, he
at the lead, she following at liberty,
without rights, harness, reins."
Indeed, he enters one love affair as
that of master to animal, binding a
voluptuous bedmate in various
equestrian apparatus in the course of a
lengthy, wordless sado-masochistic
relationship. He loves them callously
rejects another woman, a hapless, over-
weight born-victim who then proceeds
to hang herself.
Yet toward the novel's end we find
Fabian giving himself, wholly and
without subterfuge, to a glowingly wise
young woman virtually identical to
Mariel Hemingway's Tracy in Manhat-
tan. It is probably the first unselfish
love in which any Kosinski character
has ever been allowed to indulge, as
though onsetting age had triggered a
panicked lament over the wasted years,
a new vulnerability to aloneness.
See BOOKS, Page



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