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March 20, 1979 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 1979-03-20

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The Michigan Daily-Tuesday, March 20, 1979-Page 7
arts & entertainment

for your rooms
Persian House
320 E. Liberty-769-8555

Festival comes to a

Compared to past festivals, it was an
amazingly placid year. For one thing,
there was no Pat Oleszhko show during
intermission, and the art display in the
Old Architecture showcase (perverted
beer cans, xeroxed copies of a memo.
'involving John F. Kennedy's
assassination) couldn't quite carry the
* badly-needed ballast of subversiveness.
But perhaps times are simply
changing. Certainly, there seems less
place for the far-out, the experimental,
and the films that dare to be tedious. If
young filmmakers have learned a great
deal about their art, it seems they've
grown somewhat conservative in their
proficiency. Most of the ten films
screened at the winners' night Sunday
had the benefit of expert craftsman-
ship, without being especially radical in
temperament. And the notable lack of
excitement among the Sunday audience
was a bit disquieting: By the time the
last film ended (1:20 a.m.), the Old
A&D Auditorium was barely one-third
OF COURSE, some regard sitting
through six hours of movies as a severe
test of one's endurance. But one of the
things I love about the festival is the
way it boosts your tolerance. After the
7:00 showing, I was ready for anything,
and by the time 11:00 rolled around, the
projectionist could have sneaked some
slides from his latest vacation into the
proceedings, and I'd have probably
stared at the screen in utter conten-
Unfortunately for Sunday's audience,
three of the winners averaged 80
minutes in length, so the total number
of films screened was a mere ten. Con-
sidering the potential diversity, the
evening had a surprising amount of
unity. Come Back Jonee, Reflec-
toVision,and Grand Opera all pierced
the heart of Americana, for purposes
of satire, redemption, or both. And
though seeing some proficient
animations was no surprise, two of the
winners (Aspargus, Rapid Eye
Movements) were not only technically
remarkable, but eerily, originally
The grand prize winner was the
evening's major disappointment. Made
by a small team of filmmakers in Den-
mark, Troubles in Paradise is a
documentary about an army of Santa
Clauses who, capitalizing on a wave of
revolutionary fervor and the time of
year (Christmas), attempt to foment
protest over high unemployment rates
and capitalism in general. There's a
central irony to the situation - as in a

scene where the Santas enter a depar-
tment store and begin handing out mer-
chandise to customers - that the film
captures well: Even if the Santas break
the law, legal authorities are bound to
appear a bit heartless and petty
dragging their culprits to jail. As one
Santa asks an officer, "Why are you
hurting Santa Claus? When you hurt
him, you are hurting yourselves."
BUT A SINGLE, pungent irony can
be spread only so far. The Marxist sen-
timents expressed are so thinly one-
sided that they rob the film of spon-
taneity; instead, it is cluttered with tid-
bits of hollow symbolic detail, such as
ubiquitous cutaways to store window
mannequins, whose lifeless expressions
are supposed to embody the
shallowness of bourgeois values. Well-
shot and edited, Troubles in Paradise
was still short on freshness and
The opposite can be claimed for
Punking Out, a half-hour documentary
shot in crude,raw black-and-white.
Focusing on New York's CBGB's, in-
famous birthplace of the Dead Boys,
Talking Heads, and other notable "new
wave" ensembles (those words seem to
have become meaningless unless you
put quotes around them), Punking Out
is certified proof that if you've got a hot
enough subject, negligible filmmaking
skills can still produce a sizzling
The makers went to CBGBs in spring
of 1977, asking things like "Are you a
punk?", "What is the Blank
Generation?", and other cretinous
queries. What they got were a bunch of
tough-talking kids who were set up to
sound stupid, and ended up sounding a
lot more on-the-ball than their
questioners. The musical performan-
ces, including footage of the Dead Boys,
the Ramones, and Richard Hell and the
Voidoids, are crudely recorded, but
when you're watching Dead Boy
Cheetah Chrome snarl like he wants to
bite the strings off his guitar, who needs
elaborate camera angles?
WHEN THE media began picking up
on the mushrooming punk scenes in
London and New York, safety pins,
fighting in clubs, and throwing up on old
ladies in the airport were the passwords
for punk's subversiveness and (sup-
posed).artlessness. Now that all the
kids are digging it, too, clips of Marky
Ramone explaining why he sniffs glue
look as affectionately anachronistic as
those of the Beatles defending their
"outrageous" haircuts. In Punking Out,
only the music hasn't already been tur-
ned into a joke.
A band like Devo, on the other hand,

seems to revel in being a joke. At least,
that's the case if you look at the films
they've made with Chuck Statler. Come
Back Jonee pictures the ensemble on-
stage in cowboy regalia and with
plastic cactus scenery, doing "Come
Back Jonee," their hard-hitting perver-
sion of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B.
Goode." The film's garish lighting and
fragmented editing add to its high-
spirited insanity (some might say
inanity), but the combination of Mark
Mothersmaugh's robotic wail, the
band's inhumanly stoic stare, and
several off-the-wall cutaways to actual
antique cowboys guffawing through a
bowling match made for a likeably
,crazy three-minutes. I must repeat:
The film was fun.
ANOTHER quick and r.ather
disquieting film was Mother Goose, a
simple animation of several popular
nursery rhymes. The catch? It presents
the tales literally, so that we observe a
giant actually grinding the bones of an
Englishman, and the farmer's wife (in
a scene more out of Father Hitchcock
than Mother Goose) raising her carving
knife to dismember the three blind
mice. (Yes, there's blood and
everything.) These ever-so-innocently
told fables are worse than Mr. Mike's
Least-Loved Bedtime Tales, because
the black humor isn't tacked on; it's
right there in the stories. My only
regret is that the filmmaker (David
Bishop) didn't include a few more tales,
like, for instance, "Jack and Jill"; I've
always wondered what a broken crown
looks like.-
Of the animations screened,
Asparagus, by Suzan Pitt, was the most
impressive, because it strayed farthest
from conventional animation aesthetics
without sacrificing structural unity.
The film is a crazy-quilt of vibrant,
colorful images, cohering around the
figure of a faceless woman. We journey
through a halfway-discernible
narrative that juxtaposes despair and
redemption, lifelessness and sexual
vitality. The actual drawings were
composed by a large team (the
animation took four years to com-
plete), but the result is a surrealist
tableaux of stunning richness and con-
tinuity, with bizarre images like that of
a woman fellating (don't scream) an
asparagus, that are spookily affecting.
'Also impressive was the animated
Rapid Eye Movements, a technically

quiet c.
slick production involving seemingly
random free-associations with Peter
Max-like visuals.
THE TWO runners-up for first prize
were so similar in many areas that I
wondered about the jury's criteria:
Given that both were exceedingly "ex-
perimental," and that most of the
festival films (including the majority of
winners) were not, could someone high
up have felt obligated to throw a bone to
the unconventional? Grand Opera, by
frequent festival participant James
Benning, was, like Benning's other
films, not the most riveting piece of
cinema I've ever seen, but strangely
alluring nonetheless.
But what of Floor Show, the other
runner-up? From the beginning, direc-
tor and co-star Richard Myers explains
that this is (among other things) a
movie about making a movie. He in-
cludes a clip from Man With a Movie
Camera, a turgid 1929 Russian ex-
perimental film by Dziga Vertov, based
on roughly the same theme. Only
Myers' "remake" is even more un-
bearably ponderous than the original.
THE DIALOGUE (and subtitles)
which sounds like it might have been
written by Buckminster Fuller, aboun-
ds in super-hypothetical explanations of
the mysteries of the universe. Perhaps
if Myers had simple de-personalized his
film (like Vertov did), and given us his
"fragments" scotch-taped together, the
result wouldn't have been so tiresome.
But Myers drags in all this ponderous
baggage about the Agony of Making
Cinema. In one section, he runs clips of
Metropolis, Citizen Kane, and
Potemkin (by implication, I suppose,
Myers is in a class with Lang, Welles,
and Eisenstein), including a shot of the
words "cinema" being blown apart
(translation: "My film is destroying
the 'old' concept of cinema"). Floor
Show starts to look like an enormous
self-homage disguised by obscure
cinematic syntax. The floor show isn't
the movie's; it's all Myers'.
James Benning's Grand Opera, the
final film of the night, is exactly the sort
of thing I love the festival for: weird,
and likeable for its weirdness. Like his
other films, Benning's latest work is a
structuralist essay composed largely of
long, unmoving takes picturing
America's heartland. Not much hap-
pens during a Benning film. But the guy
makes the least boring boring films I've

Grand Opera mixes a fragmentedFlexiblePrograms & Hours
story (a single anecdote, really, about There is a di/Terenc
standing beside a building that sud-
denly explodes), slices of soap opera
dialogue, American kitsch (huge pic-MP N
tures of Elsie the Cow and family em-EA
blazoned on some water tanks), and
Benning's patented 10-minute takes, in Test Preparation peci lsts s
which you find yourself discovering For Information Please Cal
more about a piece of farmland or a
deserted city avenue at 7:00 in the mor-"For Locat
ning than you ever dreamt you'd see. OLRE80 31 a
With its calm, slight pulses of insight, ersi e
Grand Opera virtually ran away with
the evening. y

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Songs, not gongs
(Continued from Page 6)

The story of a neglected wife and her obvious husband. "Charulata is a
Tagore-influenced film, and most of my recent films have dealt with the
double nature of Indian life. The colonial forces have supposedly gone, but
their mannerisms and habits still remain and exert considerable power and
influence."-S. Ray, with subtitles.
Wed: Antonioni's BLOW UP
Fri: Disney's DUMBO

that the large tables, modestly priced
refreshments, free admission, and en-
thusiastic, often talented performers
-add up to a pleasant, 'low-key way to
celebrate the impending weekend.
The lead-off act was Steffanie Por-
tnoy, an LS&A freshman from South-
field, who played guitar and sang about
a half an hour's worth of folk-love
Isongs. Her own compositions were
generally very pleasant and in-
distinguishable, for the most part, from
the Joni Mitchell-type songs of this
genre which one hears on the easy-
listening stations. Her ear for an in-
teresting melody serves her better than
her talent for writing lyrics, but Stef-
fanie obviously puts a lot into a perfor-
mance and such acts are always in-
THE NEW Jerusalem Artichokes -
Roger Treat and Carl Willamson -
followed with a. twenty-minute set of
old-timey music capably performed on
the fiddle and banjo. They were precise
and chose a good selection of dance
tunes, the only disappointment being
that Willamson sang but one song, only
teasing us with a fine vocal feel for
traditional tunes.
Throughout the two and a half hour
evening, the pace was very relaxed,

and the audience receptive and un-
critical. It is very incongruous for
auditions to be a part of low-key
amateur nights, and this puts an em-
phasis on talent which is contrary to
the spirit of people entertaining each
other. It's rare that tone deaf churls
who can't sing a dial tone brave the
stage, and when they do, well, someone
has to represent the gnarl-throated of
the world.
The last half of Soundstage was
highlighted - nay, dominated - by the
folk duo of Katie Finn and Karen
Taborn. Though they showed an over-
weening preference for James Taylor
and Carole King, Taborn's voice and
Finn's polished six-string guitar work,
together with smooth harmonies when
appropriate, filled out a pleasant
though rather protracted set.
A man named Roger who tickled the
reeds on harmonica took the stage and
whined out a few solos before Finn and
Taborn joined him for some blues num-
Future Soundstages will perhaps
feature acts such as the University Jazz
Band and the Sharon Hollow String
Band, with a possibility for "theme"
nights featuring blues, soft folk, old
,time, or classical.


7:00 & 9:05


A n Original Musical Play
The Anita Bryant Follies
Wednesday through Saturday
March 21 to 24-8 p.m.

Tickets $2 at the door-All Welcome

State St.



.... ,. _.. ,.

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