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March 17, 1979 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-03-17

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Film buffs feel punk
as festival continues
BY R. J. SMITH
The inema Guild wisely moved A Film by William Farley from the end of
the show to the very beginning at their 11:00 p.m. Tuesday screening. Farley's
film had been scheduled to follow Carson/Kossakowski/Shore's Punking Out.
That would have meant following the finest film of the show, and also would
have entailed an energy drop more severe than any Iranian oil embargo.
Farley isn't a bad film. It's weird, of course, and goes in different direc-
tions, which is okay, but on a bill of movies with uniformly modest qualities,
Punking Out still surpassed the others for its recognizable emotional thrust,
and also because it was pointedly and continually exciting.
All of which is to say most of the movies shown at 11:00 p.m. - even the
good stuff - lacked anything especially cinematic, a strong impact, or even
just a clear idea around which the filmmakers could build.
BUT THE GOOD STUFF was, well, good. Chuck Statler's Come Back
Jonee, probably the best of his somewhat overrated Devo films, was crazy and
fun, and got out of the way before the jokes could run out and the energy wither
(unlike The Truth About Deevolution). Statler's movies with the Akron, Ohio,
rock group Devo deliver the group's new-age neuroticism and also some funny,
if only occasionally dangerous, social satire. In Come Back Jonee, shots'of the
group performing in cowboy suits on a stage decked out with plastic cacti and a
cattle fence are interspersed with cuts of aging real cowboys whooping and
hollering their way through a bowling match. The song the group is playing, a
modern version of the story of Johnny B. Goode in which Johnny is a cheat and
ends up getting hit by a truck, underscores the anachronism of the bowling
cowboys. (And we know what Devo would do to anachronisms, like Johnny.)
The movie ends in chaos when the singer for Devo leaps into the audience, a
group of which we're never quite sure are.punks or business school-types, in
what looks like a whacked-out vision of some scene from a weird Shin-
dig/Swingin' Time clone.
Subway People, an enjoyable two-minute animated work by Eloise Philpot-
Black, has a continuity which could have allowed its animation form to be in-
teresting far beyond two minutes. On a black background, simple white sket-
chings compose various people and scenes of a subway, with each scene
shaking itself and quickly forming out the next.
A SUBTLY FRUSTRATING movie, Holly Dale and Janis Cole's Minimum
Charge: No Cover came off as a short documentary aiming for a sort of
Wiseman-like objective treatment of its subjects: A transsexual, a prostitute, a
homosexual, and a transvestial version of the Supremes. Sound like a lot for 11
minutes? The camera's cool eye didn't help, either. The directors show. us
quick, garish cuts of some typical porn strip, and their subjects do things like
sigh wistfully and say "I used to go to church, until I was 15," and "I don't
believe what I am doing is wicked." In between such corny moments, the film
and the subjects could sound out some understanding and concern in the
viewers, but not much given the more resounding din of confusion.
R. Greenwald's untitled film lasted one and a half minutes. The images of a
building's facade - shown over and over, distorted with changes in exposure
and blobs of inky color - were unprovoking in just about every way.
A film which employed the repetition of images much more successfully
was Close Up, by Warren Bass.
THE E WERE MANY HISSES while the nine minutes of Close Up dragged
on, signifying a triumph for Bass, I think. With alternating images of a flash
from a CloseUp toothpaste commercial and a person's eye, tongue, lips and
teeth, Close Up plays either fascinatingly or annoyingly with subtle changes in
initially boring images, depending on your tolerance for repetition.
It's hard to say just what is the point of A Film by William Farley, the
longest movie on the eleven o'clock bill and also the most confusing. Half of the
forty-two minute film is an impressionistic view of Ireland, with the director
catching different scenes around the country and interviewing the natives, but,
aggravatingly, he tosses in some vague political issues while never developing
anything. Not that it really matters anyway, for after the halfway point we get a
boring, inexplicable scene of a man chanting in some foreign language, and
then, at film's end, a tedious reminiscence by a looney Irish actor.
Farley is well made and put together quite intelligently, but even the oc-
casionally provocative images came amidst a whirl of confusion, and whole
scenes had the same failing.
DIRECTORS Carson/Kossakowski/Shore seem to have approached
Punking Out with very definite and very silly goals in mind: To find out "what
isapunk' to get the word on the "blank generation," to use New York's CBGB
club as a symbolic nexus for not just punk music in America, but everywhere.
But because they were so willing to work with whatever they found at CBGB's,
and maybe because they were so inexperienced in cinema (for this is definitely
a crudely made film), they came away with a fresh and exciting movie in which
the subjects, New York punk and fans, take over and give a strong shape to the
film.
When looking at punk music, how could anything authentic be well-crafted?
"Real rock and roll, anybody can play. Look at Iggy and the Stooges, the Sex
Pistols, anybody: They can't play their instruments," snarled Cheetah Chrome
of the Dead Boys to an interviewer as he prepared to perform at CBGBs. "We
didn't rehearse at all for this show - we didn't play for a month." Clearly this
isn't something for which the final word can ever be spoken, and still ring true.
Punk was (was. It's dead now, really Yanother rock and roll blind crash into the
moment, an extended middle finger raised to convention. There is no
corresponding incendiary freshness possible in cinema; thus, a slap-dash
document like Punking Out is the only effective way to go.
Punking Out captures many of the inherent contradictions and hypocrisies
of punk. When asked if they would take a contract with a record company, a
member of the Dead Boys squeals "Hell no!" and then quickly adds,
"wellll . . . maybe . . ." (the film was made in 1977; the Dead Boys have
released two albums since then).

PUNK MUSIC, many have said, has attracted a lot of followers who are
nothing more than chic pretenders, college kids and so forth wrapped in leather
on the weekends. I think this is too harsh; compelled by a music that asks one to
change their life, many fans looked to a personna close and familiar to rock and
roll, that of the unintelligent, leathered street kid. Punking Out pokes at these
differences between the street kids and the others. As the camera follows an un-
seen interviewer around, fans react differently when asked, "are you a punk?"
Some seem intimidated by the camera, and mug nervously, while others
monologue about what the "blank generation" is. The interviewees who are the
least articulate, the drunkest, the oldest, these are the most comfortable. They
may intimidate the camera, and yet they're not aware or interested in it.
Punking Out looks to find all the Big Themes of punk music, and comes up
full-handed each time. You want gross? There's Lydia Lunch (at the time a fan.
later to become a singer for Teenage Jesus and the Jerks) throwing a parcel of
used tampons on stage during a Dead Boys show. The group, she said, promised
to eat them in the second set of the evening. And then, during "I Need Lunch,"
the Dead Boys singer Stiv Bators reaches into his crotch, pulls out the foil-
wrapped items, and the camera cuts away to an interview.
There is plenty of fine music in Punking Out: the Dead Boys doing a version
of the Sex Pistols "Anarchy in the U.K.," Richard Hell performing "Blank
Generation." And there are scenes with the inimitable Ramones.
IT MAY BE that this film would hold no interest for people not concerned
with what once was called "punk" rock, but it can be enjoyed by anyone as a
fascinating, workaday scanning of an important part of American pop culture,
which is to say, American culture, period.
Punking Out remains a modest work. But there is also modesty in all the
other films shown Thursday night. Come Back Jonee, for instance, remains
candy-coated, and glib in its three-minute span; Close Up, while being more
sheerly riveting than Punking Out (except perhaps for when the Ramones do
"Blitzkrieg Bop"), cover any new territory, nor stake out familiar territory in a
terribly interesting fashion. Whatever pleasurable came out of the show at
11:00 p.m., it was somewhat offset by a lack of any piercing work, anything with
a fresh direction or real strength.

THE ACTORS 'ENSEMBLE

The Michigan Daily-Saturday, March 17, 1979-Page 5
a revelation

Wolff's Abdication'

By JOSHUA PECK
The Actors' Ensemble had to go to
quite a great deal of trouble to get the
rights to The Abdication. According to
producer Arthur Hooberman, the New
York agent responsible refused
adamantly through three letters to
grant the Ensemble permission to per-
form the recently revised work.
Playwright Ruth Wolff happened onto
one of the letters one day in the agent's
The Abdication
Ruth Wolff
endesohn .Theater
March 1-18
Christina.................Kathryn Brower
Azzolino..... ..............Jerome Kanter
Tina .........................Maggie Affelder
Chris .........................Kay Honigman
Charles. ............ .........Harry Dunn
Ebba ........................ Helen Oravetz
Magnus....................Kirk Erickson
B. David Green, /irector: Arthur
Hooberman, Producer: William Craven,
Set Deogner; Scott McKowen, (nsnrue
I) s' eer: Steven Kirk, Ligtig Direcor.
office, and consented to the company's
plans for production. We can be glad
she did.
On a very low budget, the Actors' En-
sembler'. has built a handsome,
meritorious drama, despite the fact
that only one of the actors, Kathryn
Brower, is exceptionally gifted. Ruth
Wolff's script, curiously, is the source
of success. "Curious," because her
semi-historical tale is not all that ar-
tfully crafted; it uses psychological
gimmicks without any truly skillful
probing of Christina's makeup. It also
contains some completely execrable
dialogue: when Cardinal Azzolino asks
the ex-queen why she keeps company
with her fellow traveler, a mute dwarf,
she replies, "to remind me of my inner
self." Later on, Christina ungram-
matically queries, "What is it about you
and I?"Hardly fitting language for a
monarch.
But Wolff's technical weakness points
up all the more her conceptual
strength. She has found an intrinsically
intriguing historical situation, and em-
broidered it with enough fanciful
background material to make it an
almost unswervingly entertaining
vehicle for its cast's talents.
CHRISTINA was an actual 17th Cen-
tury Swedish queen who, for reasons
the play gradually unfolds, has left her
throne to take up the Catholic faith. She
arrives at the Vatican after a gay
(*harrumpph*) romp through Europe.
Expecting to be greeted with open arms
by the Pope, she instead encounters a
rather stubborn cardinal, Azzolino, who
obviously has grave doubts about her
suitability for the One True Church.
Their battle for the upper hand in their
conflict becomes mutual respect, and
eventually, love.
Kathryn (Christina) Brower has
something of Peter Pan in her early in
the production. Her self-satisfied man-
ner complete with swagger and strut,
take her just a bit out of the bounds of
credibility, into Mary Martin land. She
soon finds her way, though, to a
predominantly gratifying portrayal.
Her Christina is superficially content

with her new lot on life, but her un-
derlying unrest and misery over her
frustrations, sexual and royal, accom-
pany every outward smile.
THE CLOSING moments of both acts
present formidable tests of Brower's
considerable abilities. In the first,
where she has stepped into one of her
own enacted flashbacks for a while, she
must suddenly wheel and address the

Cardinal Azzolino about her growing af-
fection for him. It could easily have
been melodramatic and silly. Here, it
worked.
Act Two's conclusion and climax fin-
ds Christina robbed of Azzolino's love
by virtue of his accession to the papacy.
Stripped of her first real chance at a
mature relationship, she calmly intones
that if she ever gets to heaven, "I have
one question I want to ask God." A
pause, and then an earsplitting and
prolonged, "Whyyy?" Again, the stuff
of soap opera, Out here effectively and
affectingly delivered. '

burgeoning love for her beautiful friend
Ebba, exquisitely played by Helen
Oravetz, to rejecting the nuptial advan-
ces of her idiot cousin Charles,
idiotically played by Harry Dunn.
Tina, the queen's better half, is given,
appropriately pristine treatment by
Maggie Affelder, but Kay Honigman's
Chris is just a bit too boyish and coarse;
when Charles makes his approach, he
looks to be attempting pederasty.
A CRUCIAL flashback scene,
wherein Christina attempts to spy on
Ebba and her spouse Magnus whilst
they are engaged in their marital
duties, would have been perfect, save

for one drawback. The lighting design
is fine, the setpiece which ascends to
become the couple's bed is cleverly
conceived, and Brower is at ;her
vulnerable and pitiful best. But the bulk
of the lines are Kirk Erickson's, and he
sputters his way through them. Ijis
voice is vociferous, his movements
violent, but where there is smoke, there
is not always fire. There is no meat to
his fury, only gravy.
The Abdication is not the powerful
stunner its perpetrators seem to have
hoped it would have been, but that does
not keep it from being fascinating.
throughout. Where its personnel fails it,
its script steps in.

I-

_

aAAA

Howard Hawk's 1944
TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT
BOGART, as the detached American expatriate Harry Morgan, is persuaded
to join the fight against fascism in Vichy-controlled Martinique. Paired with
LAUREN BACALL in her screen debut, their scenes together achieve a rare
liberation from the conventional confines of acting. Superb supporting per-
formances by DAN SYMOUR as the grossly evil Captain Benard, and by
WALTRER BRENNAN as Bogarts rummy sidekick, Eddie. Based on Heming-
way's novel. "if you want me, just whistle." (100 min.).
PLUS SHORT-BACALL TO ARMS-This 1946 Warner Brothers car-
toon features a lascivious and maniacally passionate wolf who goes to the
cinema to watch TO HAVE TO HAVE TO HAVE . . . and who goes totally
beserk at the sight of Lauren Bacall.

p;
-.i 3

Sun: Winners of the 17th Ann Arbor 16mm Film Festival!

Tonite at
7:00 & 9:00

Angell Hall, Au

d. "A'
$1.50

-1 -

- Al r

Kathryn Brower plays a magnificent
Queen Christina in.the Actor's Ensem-
ble production of "The Abdication."
Jerome Kanter is in a bit over his
head in playing Azzolino. Director B.
David Green ought to have seen to it
that we saw a much of the cardinal's
yearning, at least, before Green ac-
tually vocalizes it midway through the
second act. Still, Kanter's central ob-
jective, that to draw out and assess the
ex-queen's worthiness for conversion,
is handily projected.
FLASHBACKS to the monarch's
childhood and early reign riddle thq
show, augmented by the division of the
queen into two separate figures: one is
"Chris," her masculine and evidently
dominant side, the other, "Tina,"
prissy and cloying, traditionally
feminine as one could imagine.
A string of influential occurrences is
displayed, from young Christina's
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_

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Learn about the professional Masters pro-
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sibilities; and graduate programs available
at other universities.
Speakers:
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University.
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Ca ll1764-0420
Be our guest at lunch on
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21
at the MICHIGAN UNION
MfSA19 79-80
The Michigan Student Assembly
(MSA) Annual Elections will be
held April 2, 3, 4, 1979. All seats
up for election.
Candidate filing forms are avail-
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Michigan Union.
Filing deadline-March 22,
1979, 4:30 P.M.

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8:00
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30 minutes prior
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