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February 11, 1979 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-02-11

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W. H. Auden isolated the c
An artist wants to pres
common man realistically,
wants to present the uniq
Emperor Jones and I Pagli
double bill now finishi
Michigan Opera Theatre's
are two extraordinarily d
answers to the problem, but
barely forty years apart.
Before Friday night, the l
formance of Louis Gruenber
The Emperor Jones
Music and Libretto by
Louis Gruenberg
I Pagliacci
Music and Libretto by
R. Leoncavallo
Michigan Opera Theatre
Detroit Music Hall
Brutus Jones, baritone...........Andi
Henry Smithers, tenor........... Dani
Canio, tenor................Jon Fre
Nedda, soprano.............Mariann
Tonio baritone................ ..Cha
Silvio, baritone.................Davi
Beppe, tenor...................Jerr
Rhoda Levine, producer and direct
Neil Peter Jampolis, ses. costunes
lihting; Clifford Fears, choreogra
Emperor Jones in this countr
concert version under Eug
mandy in 1940. Its premie
been successful (The Met, 19
conductor, Tullio Serafin, la
it to the Italian stage; yet th
quickly fell into obscurity, as
composer, whoselast works;
violin concerto commission
recorded by Heifetz,
Hollywood film scores.
The jazz blood which runs
in Gruenberg's music brou
European attention at first, b
branded him passe. When a
man, Universal published hi
in maturity not even Am
houses expressed interest. T
peror Jones suffered rac
stacles as well, for produce
sidered its depiction of an ig
greedy black man too ex
(Typical of Jones' language:'
no chicken liver like you is!
libretto himself, with consen
help from O'Neill. The Em
Brutus Jones, a convicted m
who has escaped to an islan
West Indies. The natives fea
and believe his boast that
silver bullet can kill him.
opera begins, Smithers, a
Cockney trader (the only no
role), questions Jones ab
natives' growing unrest. Jo
calm but, hearing death dr
takes flight to Martiniqu
second scene finds him in the
searching for his money, cr
the drum beats, seeing app
which he shoots at until he t
own life with his own silver bi
Fifteen tall, brown sheetsc

at "a pair!,
almost like blinds, formed the
onflict: background; flexible poles defined
ent the Jones' chamber or, when deftly
yet he uprooted by the dancers, created the
ue. The jungle through which Jones ran. The
iacci, a dancers were indeed deft on all
ng the counts, whether hissing like snakes,
season, undulating as natives, playing
ifferent Southern gentry in white face for one
written of Jones' delirious' visions, or
gyrating Wildly in the tribal ritual-
ast per- like finale. Choreographer Clifford
'g's The Fears was the exuberant witch doc-
As to quality, I felt that the
theatrical elements outweighed the
musical; moods were set more suc-
cessfully than great passages were
developed. Musical charac-
terizations, however, was outstan-
ding, especially contrasting
Smithers' wiliness against the blunt
rew Smith Jones. The latter's madness was
el Boggess well-painted in one scene where
deric West flutes sustain a long, high note over
a Christos scrambling piano and strings.
rles Long
d Parsons
y Minster ANDREW SMITH, on record as
Crown in Houston's Porgy and Bess
or; recording, was a great Brutus
and Jones. He has a fine voice, and,
nearly as important, linebacker
-- proportions, although his diction
was a problem. Daniel Boggess did
y was a well as white-suited Smithers.' The
ene Or- male chorus was never seen, only
re had heard over the soundsystem, while
33); its the dancers mouthed or mimed their
ter took barely intelligible texts.
e opera Director Rhoda Levine deserves
did the much praise for the new Pagliacci
save a (in English) which accompanied
ed and Emperor Jones. Set in the 1930's-
were not the original 1850 - Canio's
strong troupe has no rickety wagon, rather
sthim an old army jeep spray-painted
ght him pink, while the commedia music is,
ut later by inference, played on a
young gramophone by a nervous
seran stagehand. Occasionally Levine errs
erica- of the side of business - the Bell
tal ob- Chorus is not dreamy, rather hective
rsl con- with a wedding - but the last act,
rs con- particularly the on-stage audience,
pnorant, was most convincing and clever.
)I ain't ALL THE SINGERS were good,
and excepting more experienced
Jon Frederic West, rather young.
td bth Charles Long has particularly good
t but no presence, put to 'good use in
eror is the Prologue. Marianna Christos, a
urderer recent second prize winner in the
d in the national Met auditions, has well-
only a placed high notes, as did West. His is
As the a Canio drammatico, generally not
leeringe to excess.
leering Jampolis' set used color mnr-
n-black velously; a strange, 'baroque' swim
out the of pink, stucco, bright carnical
es acts orange and green. Unfortunately, in
ums, he both operas the orchestra played
e. The below the level of the singers. So
jungle, crucial a production aspect must be
azed by improved.
iaritions Remaining performances, in the
akes his Music Hall in Detroit, are Feb. 11,
ulle 14, 16, and 17.
ofL s.lats.~

The Michigan Doily-Sunday, February 11, 1979-Page 5
'Eraserhead': '70s surrealism

There is a small, quirky faction of
movie critics who believe-to my mind,
rather narrowmindedly--that film is an
intrinsically non-literary art form. Why
bother trying to constrict the medium
with complex narratives and dialogue,
they say, when all that stuff is better
suited to the logic of literature? Why
not conform to the inherently more ab-
stract tools of film language, and throw
conventional "reality" in the dumper?
Well, I've yet to be converted, but
that theory might well prove the most
applicable one we have to Eraserhead,
a memorably outlandish 1977 movie
that had its Ann Arbor premiere Friday
in MLB 3. Just one glance' at this
semester's schedule from the Ann Ar-
bor Film Co-op is enough to convey the
movie's extraordinary novelty: the
schedule pictures the film's title
character, Henry (John Nance), a
normal-enough looking individual but
for the frizzy mane that towers six in-
ches above his head like a square Afro,
an enormous parody-you guessed it-
of the soft end of a pencil.
THE IMAGE is sufficiently strung-
out to be labelled "bizarre" by any
standard. But unlike countless
tediously weird student films,
Eraserhead stakes a claim to the
highly-coveted but seldom-achieved
status of surpasing mere eccentricity.
The film has been touted as a horror
movie, because it adheres to the stric-
tures of the horror genre better thaito
those of anything else. But the
classification is misleading, since
Eraserhead's real conceptual an-
tecedents are the surrealist films of
Bunuel and Cocteau, and the paintings
of Dali and Ernst.
Piling up distorted images of reality
into a cracked labyrinth of dream-logic,
writer-director David Lynch has
created a work abounding in oddly
resonant textures halfway between film
noir and the collected works of Kenneth
Anger. There are elements of conven-
tional horror, science fiction, and
sleazy cabaret decadence in this
gruesomely funny nightlare. But the
haunting peculiarity of the sounds and
images transcends anything remotely
describable by contemporary film
AS WITH movies like Bergman's
Persona; Eraserhead's "storyline" is
thin and inconsistent, making any at-
tempt to tie it together into a coherent
package a frustrating dead end.
Following a stunning prologue in which
Henry is seemingly born (created?)
and launched to Earth by some facially-
deformed mad-scientist-father, there is
a brief section that relaxes into an un-
conventional but comfortably linear
series of anecdotal setpieces.
Henry (who resembles a chubby and
addled Bob Newhart with an eraser
toupe) wanders through deserted
streets with the anxious paronoia of
Peter Lorre in M, eventually arriving
at his girlfriend's house. He meets her
loony family, including an old woman I
presumed was the grandmother who
sits complacently in the kitchen as if
stuffed. They then sit down to a creepy
dinner of chickens one-third the size of
Cornish game hens that ooze a thick,

bloody substance between little legs
that move back and forth. The remain-
der of the film revolves around a basic'
familial situation: Henry marries the
girl and they have a child-an inhuman,
piglet-like creature that lies in the
bedroom emitting a frighteningly
otherwordly infantile whine.
ALL VERY strange, but at least it
makes literal sense, right? Wrong.
Director Lynch (who also edited and
designed the remarkable special effec-
ts) isn't interested in telling a story,
even a determinedly queer one. In-
stead, Eraserhead seems.to be a series
of crazily evocative images cohering
around a theme of the apocalyptic sub-
version of humanity. The soundtrack, a
relentless roar of masterful effects,
seems to herald the world's end
throughout. Any signs of life scratch
their way past images that reverberate
with perversion and deadness: the
gruesome monster-child;' a man-
nequin-like Rockette (looking aptly like
a female version of Devo's Boojie Boy)
standing upon a tacky prosenium and
singing "In Heaven, everything is
fine. . ."; and Henry's decapitated
eraserhead, being ground into lifeless,
rubbery erasers.
The character of Henry is itself a
remarkable conception: he is frazzled
and frightened, a classic nebbish,
really, whose persistent aspirations
toward banal normality are spookily of-
fset by his flaming coiffure. Early on,
there are hints of Henry's sexual in-
security and repression when his
girlfiirend's mother reduces him to a
bundle of nervous mannerisms
inquiring whethr he had intercourse
with her daughter. But trying to pin
Eraserhead down as some sort of
paronoid parable only disregards what
is often most brilliant about it; there is
more palpable "meaning" in the film's
sardonic juxtasposition of creeply nor-
mality and absurdist dream-visions.
AND.THE special effects are nothing
short of amazing. Horrifying images

(and they truly are gruesome), like
those of the child-monster, are enough
to make one glad Roman Polanski
refrained from giving us all a peek at
Rosemary's Baby. The child in
Eraserhead looks completely inhuman,
but astoundingly, repulsively real.
When German director Werner Her-
zog was on this campus a year ago, he
spoke of the need for "new images'j' in
our collective unconscious, to flush
away the sterile images of modernity
which stifle our creative and life im-
pulses. Lynch, I belive, is after
something similar with Eraserhead.
Even the most far-out examples of
horror in conventional modern cinema
(Night of the Living Dead, Carrie, The
Texas Chainsaw Massacre) rarely
reach heights of such madness that
they seem to have gone beyond all
limits. We know, almost implicity, that
even the worst of them will go only "so
far." And, as demonstrated several
weeks ago in the premiere of George

Romero's excellent but somewhat
unisnpired Dawn of the Dead, gore isn't
necessarily the answer. Let's face
it-it's no longer all that shocking to
witness gobs and gobs of blood splat-
tered across the screen, and the notion
of monsters as symbols of man's innate
evil is virtually a literary anachronism.
But the most startling images in
Eraserhead-the pig-child's head atop
Henry's 1950s jacket'n'tie, two lovers
embracing and melting into their
bed-are from another world, and,
simultaneously horrific and beyond the
sensationalism of modern horrifies.
Like Bunuel and Dali in Un Chien An-
dalou, David Lynch has given us new
images of madness and surrealistic
chaos to break through'the modernist
muck. For anyone who complains of
stagnation in recent American films
(and I'm as guilty as anyone),
Eraserhead is a welcome rarity-a
movie that succeeds not in spite of but
because of its uncompromising oddity.

Music for Valentine's Day
Songs From Broadway Musicals
star of Pippin and West Side Story
at the U. of M.
Wednesday, February 14th-8 p.m.
CANTERBURY LOFT-332 S. State Street
$1.50 admission at the door

experience a
open house
SUN. FEB 111979
at 2pm Kuenzel Rm.
Michigan Union



ORIENTAL RUGS are an investment and a work of fine
give many years of pleasure and add a warm feeling to

art and beauty,
your home and
Open 6 days
a week
Mon and Fri 10-7
Tues-Sat 10-5:30

320 E. LIBERTY-769-8555





UL 314tZ, I

Ivory tickler falters-finshesstron

Paul Badura-Skoda's piano concert
at Rackham Friday started out slowly
but ended up in a spectacular way.
Badura-Skoda started his program
Paul Badura-Skoda, pianist
Rackham Auditoriumn
Partita No. 2 in C minor ................... Bach
Sonat No. 32 in C minor,
Op. 11................ ....... Beethoven
Atzenbrugger Tanze, 1821.........Schubert
Fantasia in C major, Op. 12
Presented by the'University
M'ucal Society
with Bach's Partita No. 2 in C minor.
He simply did not play it well. His
energy level was too low to handle the
complex contrapuntal exchanges of the
piece and his left hand seemed constan-
tly in danger of falling behind the right
in terms of sheer speed as well as
timing. Although his playing grew more
animated towards the end of the Par-

tita, there was little sense of Badura-
Skoda's having apprehended the piece
as a whole. The overall performance
was uninspired at best.
Everything that was wrong with the
Bach performance was right with the
performance of Beethoven's Sonata No.
32. It was clear from start to finish that
Badura-Skoda really understood and
loved this music. While he looked fairly
energy-less while playing Bach, he
looked quite vital while playing
Beethoven. He especially did well with
the Sonata's first fast section. The slow
section was still very good but a bit of a
letdown from the especially brilliant
first section fireworks.
After intermission, Badura-Skoda
devoted himself to the works of Franz
Schubert. Unfortunately, he started the
second half with the Atzenbrugger Tan-
ze, a thoroughly undistinguished piece.
It was boring melodically and dully
performed. Once again though,
Badura-Skoda proved to be a slow star-
ter who warmedl up in a big way. His

performance of the Wanderer Fantasy
was nothing short of brilliant. The
energy level was at the evening's peak
and Badura-Skoda not only perfectly
discerned the piece's overall structure
and communicted it, but he also drew
every bit of feeling out the piece. Unlike
the Beethoven slow movement perfor-
mance, Badura-Skoda's slow
movement of the' Wanderer Fantasy
was no let down. The crystal clear
sweetnesss of Schubert's melody was
very evident in Badura-Skoda's inter-
pretation. Badura-Skoda's special love
for Schubert as well as the pianist's
personal warmth, shone forth in his
three encores. Badura-Skoda thus
proved himself master of the grand and
subtle gesture in his pianistic style.

PrestonW Slosson
History affords many instances in which two national
leaders have so intermingled their careers, either as oppo-
nents or as allies, that they are most, readily considered
together. Such leaders where the younger William Pitt and
Charles James Fox, certainly the two most influential
party leaders and (with Edmund Burke as a possible
third) the greatest British orators of their generation.
To make more vivid the conflicts in which these
orators were involved, the appendix of this book
offers selections from contemporary reports of
debates in the House of Commons, the great
arena of political controversy in eighteenth
century Britain.

303 South State


Preston Slosson will be at Borders Book Shop Monday February 12, from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m.

0 of M Office Major Events Presents
The Best of Sewond City
an improvisational comedy group from Chicago that has turned
out the country's top comedians! GILDA RADNER, DAN
February 20,1979
Power Center 8 p.m.

Public Lecture
Scholar- in-Residence v r
arc t ,i.
Dept. of Political Science,
Tel-Aviv University
"UESDAY F Revisited"
TIIF lplAV FFlR 19__Av' n

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