100%

Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options

Download this Issue

Share

Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

This collection, digitized in collaboration with the Michigan Daily and the Board for Student Publications, contains materials that are protected by copyright law. Access to these materials is provided for non-profit educational and research purposes. If you use an item from this collection, it is your responsibility to consider the work's copyright status and obtain any required permission.

March 29, 1979 - Image 7

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-03-29

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

The Michigan Dail
arts & entertainment
Audience fleeced by 'Train Robbery'

y-Thursday, March 29, 1979--Page 7
Join the
arts Staff

By CHRISTOPHER POTTER
Hereby nominated for this year's
What-Did-Everyone-See-in-This-Tur-
key-That-I-Didn't Award is The Great
Train Robbery, an opulently-styled but
bloodless, disturbingly amoral caper
film that has mystifyingly set a great
many critics and audiences agog with
adulation.
Robbery is the latest product of MD-
turned author (the Andromeda Strain) -
turned filmmaker Michael Crichton,
who jumps from his standard science
fiction niche into the more limited mode
of the droll larceny genre. The setting is
1850's London, the prize booty a cache
of gold bullion shipped from the city by
train every week to pay troops fighting
in the Crimean War. United to filch the
loot is the customary band of debonair
professional crooks headed by Sean
Connery, Donald Sutherland, Lesley-
Anne Down and a handful of lesser
lights, all cavorting with the words "I
am with it" practically flashing like
neon above their heads.
THE PICTURE is supposedly based
on an actual criminal case ("the first
train robbery in history," the movie's
production notes boast), which may
only serve to prove that fact isn't
necessarily stranger or more in-
teresting than fiction. In order to seize
the gold carried in a locked safe aboard
the train, our thieves must first secure
the four separate keys needed to open
the safe - keys kept by four .separate

persons in separate locations.
Th us, before they even commence
the actual robbery, our protagonists
must engage in some excruciatingly
convoluted key-pilfering shenanigans
simply to guarantee the main event to
follow. It's a strange, patience-con-
suming technique to employ, and
Crichton displays neither the detective-
writer's ingenuity nor the filmmaker's
sense of timing to bring it off with any
finesse.
Still, Train Robbery's laborious pace
distracts less than does its surprising
mean-spiritedness. Any caper film im-
plicitly walks a risky moral tightrope:
Since its heroes are all committed
criminal types given to fleecing the
well-meaning samaritan at least as of-
ten as the pompous ass, how is an
author to cultivate audience sympathy?
The traditional solution is to portray
caper characters as lovable rogues,
charming, amiable and fallible (as in
the current Brinks' Job), sporting a
touch of Robin Hood and above all an
unswerving disinclination to seriously
injure a fly, save in extreme self-
defense.
CRICHTON seems content to opt for
such winsome identification until about
two thirds of the way through, when
with little warning, Connery quite;
brutally, willfully and unlovably.
strangles a pint-sized member of his
heist team who has turned police in-
former. The effect is shocking and

drastically disorienting to the standard'
caper-genre viewer: Do we keep on
rooting for our droll protagonists, or
should we now start to hope these un-
concealedly cold-blooded thugs will be
put away?
Crichton never addresses the sudden
ethical ambiguity. Instead, he simply
pursues the robbery through to its con-
clusion, which is carried out in the most
time-honored traintop-mayhem
tradition (the most exciting section of
the film, due entirely to its
camerawork).
TO MAKE matters worse, Crichton
then proceeds to add illogic to
amorality. In a four-to-five minute

nothing to connect the period with
anything else in the film. Crichton
makes no attempt at then-vs.-now
social commentary, nor does he use his
settings to evoke a conscious, visual
feeling for history, as did Kubrick in
Barry Lyndon or Terence Malick in
Days of Heaven. His images are post-
card-pretty, but serve no purpose what-
soever. For any relevance to the time in
which it takes place, The Great Train
Robbery might just as well be about
present-day Philadelphia and the Penn
Central; the film is chronologically
rudderless.
The picture's cast fares little better
than its author. Connery carries out his

ber, her perpetual function is to serve
as chattel to distract the assorted
See 'GREAT', Page 12

NOON LUNCHEON
Soup and Sandwich-75C
FRIDAY, MAR. 30th
Professor Joel Samoff
Political Science
"Academic Freedom & Radical Faculty"
GUILD HOUSE-so2 Monroe

U

I.

ANN ARBOR'S
OLDEST & FINEST
NATURAL FOODS
RESTAURANT

presents .. .

SUNDAY
BRUNCH
featuring...
- waffles
pancakes
and omelettes
9 AM-2 PM

-.
.
~r

RECORDS

314 E. Liberty
Ann Arbor
662-2019

Vi

BY JOHN SINKEVICS
Cult followings have traditionally
kept rock groups, movie directors, and
novelists from total destitution as well
as emotional disintegration. George
Romero (Night of the. Living Dead),
Kurt Vonnegut, and Iggy Pop have en-
ticed enthusiastic groups of loyal fans
across the country to watch bizarre
movies, devour books, and gobble up
inventive albums.
But few "cult" stars have succeeded
in attracting great numbers of devotees
to their cause. Certainly there are some
exceptions in the rock world. The
Grateful Dead, Peter Frampton, and
more recently, Elvis Costello succeed
where countless others have failed. The
same is true, or will be, of Supertramp.
The group's latest release, Breakfast
in America, is destined for success
among discerning rock listeners, not
because it is their best album (Crime of
the Century is their penultimate work),
but because it is spiced with
remarkably unique instrumentation -
the trademark of Supertramp.
But there is yet another reason - the
album provides so much of what is
lacking in rock today. A subtle vacuum
is slowly forming in rock and roll. Even
while Elvis Costello ignites one part of
the rock world with sparks once thought
forever doused, Bruce Springsteen and
friends have captured the vitality of the
East, and Lou Reed and David Bowie
hold their own in their own way, a
question remains: What is there of a
"Seventies" sound?
A POTENTIALLY dangerous pit of
refurbished heavy music and conver-
sely mellow filler melodies is too often
the answer.
Groups like Styx, Boston, and ELO
are trading punches at the top by
spewing forth a barrage of less-than-
original, standard-beat tunes -
creating a crumbling cake without so
much as a taste of creative frosting.
And that's where Supertramp comes in.
Led by the band's two original mem-
bers, Roger Hodson and Rick Davies,
Breakfast in America does little to
touch the sentiment of staunch patriots,
but rather drags the listener through
the mud of the States in perhaps.the
most original and hypnotic manner 'in
years.

Not since Neil Young's American
Stars and Bars, or David Bowie's
single, "Young Americans," has a
group captured so well the evasive
character of the country. In "Gone
Hollywood," the LP's introductory cut,
Davies describes the city with dreani-
shattering lyrics:
It's such a shame about it,
I used to think it would feel so good
But ichose to blame about it
So many creeps in Hollywood
I'm in this dumb hotel,
Near the 'Taco Bell'
Without a hope in hell
I can't believe I'm still around
And while the lyrics are short of
genius - at times devastating, at times
nothing more than playfully trite -
they are ceriainly pertinent. This
perhaps is most vividly portrayed in the
"Logical Song," the cut on the album
which best characterizes the biting
melodies and vocals of the band:
But then they sent me away to
teach me how to be sensible,
logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world
where I could be so dependable,
clinical, intellectual, cynical.. .
Now watch what you ay or they'll
be calling you a radical, liberal,
fanatical, criminal. Won't you
sign up your name, uwe'd like to
feel you're acceptable, respect-
able, presentable, a vegetable!
Melodically, Supertramp is inescap-
able: they don't allow the listener to
ignore them - whether in love or
hatred - because they are so atypical.
Revolving unmistakably around the
delightful keyboard work of Davies and
Hodgson, the music is accented by
drums and bass which rise to fierce
crescendoes - highlighted by John
Helliwell's searing saxophone.
THE LISTENER is teased by many
songs into thinking a sonic explosion
will take place. The drums begin win-
ding up, the bass begins to thump, and
then, unexpectedly the atmosphere
subsides into a relative, worrisome
calm. It is only then that the group
plays its ace by whirling into a
calculated blast of energy.
But perhaps the group has begun to
sacrifice the provocativeness with
which it attracted its original cult
following. Senseless meanderings into
tedium occur twice on the album:
"Lord is it Mine?" and "Casual Con-
versations." These songs are not
merely incredibly boring - they seem
not to be Supertramp.
Nevertheless, the group's forceful
message is there gracing the cover of
their latest release. A portly waitress -
right arm outstretched in a Statue of
Liberty pose - is shown standing in
front of an arrangement of salt shakers
and silverware unmistakably taking
the'shape of the New York skyline. It's
Breakfast in America: the stars and
stripes on a plate served up by Super-
tramp - with a grain of.salt, naturally.

'Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland. . . and a han-
dful of lesser lights, all cavorting with the words 'I am
with it' practically flashing like neon above their
heads. '

The Ann Arbor Film Cooperative presents at Aud A
Thursday, March 29
THE FURY
(Brian DePalmo, 1978) 7T& 9-AUD A
This time DePalma (SISTERS, CARRIE) did the impossible. He took a witless
story with cardboard characters and transformed it into an instant classic.
This thriller of telepathy, telekinesis, and the C.I.A. has more memorable
sequences in it than any other three films you can think of. Beginning with
a spectacular terrorist attack on an ocean resort, DePalria keeps topping
himself with a car chase through a junkyard drowned in fog, a telekinetic
attack against a ferris wheel, and two of the. most gripping, gruesome
murders ever puft on the screen. Bravura filmmaking. KIRK DOUGLAS,
CARRIE SNODGRASS, AMY IRVING, and an incredible JOHN CASSAVETTES
as the most malevolent, screwed-up villain since lago.

span, the director has Connery cap-
tured by the police (all the others ap-
pear to get off scot free), put on trial,
convicted, then freed in an absurd last-
minute rescue that seems to have been
slapped on as a sloppy afterthought.
While we ponder the debatable joy of
the buckaroo-style deliverance of a
calculating murderer, we may also
notice that it's never made clear
whether out intrepid gang succeeded in
capturing any of the golden loot they
labored so fervently to secure.
For all its flashy posturing, The
Great Train Robbery remains a
singularly dour, charmless work; at no
point can you feel the film making con-
nections with itself. The key-heists -
which occupy the bulk of the picture -
are carried out with little tension and a
total, humorless lack of imaginative
flair. As the gang members go through
their constricted skullduggeries, the
film embarrassingly becomes a living
textbook of don'ts for would-be thriller
directors - you find yourself counting
off the times and ways this moment
could have been terrifying, that
moment could have been hilarious.
Like a blind marksman, Crichton fires
off target with a masochistic
unanimity.
THE DIRECTOR conjures up daz-
zling, atmospheric re-creations of the
London of a century ago, but does

gangleader duties with a somber,
churlish demeanor that contrasts ap-
pallingly with the style and grace this
splendid actor almost automatically
brings to a film. The 'lovely, talented
Lesley-Anne Down labors as spiritedly
as she can with a dubious, distasteful
role (as the gang's lone female mem-
Jh
is preserved on
5mmMMHRORLFUO
The Michigan Daily
420 Maynard Street
AND
Graduate Library

.,

Tomorrow:I'M ALL RIGHT JACK & A SHOT IN THE DARK

+
.4

El TEA TOPDEIA ESPERANJA
(Theatre of Hope) From Santa Barbara, California
Performs the play
"HIJOS"
(Children)
TMORROW, fri., AMarcb 30, 197T9
Schorling Auditorium,
sSchool of Education Building
8:00 p.m.
SPONSORED BY: Minority Student Services-Chicanos at Mich-
igan-Community Services-Office of the Vice President for
Student Services-Office of Ethics and Religion-UAC-Rack-
ham Office of Student Affairs and Fellowships.
FREE * OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

.*..o. .. .

Now Showing, Campus Area lu"erfieid

"
..r...w....rq s

"New Music for Psalms
and Other Jewish Songs"
A Performance and Talk
on Jewish Music by
JANE MYERS,
Director LaeiOr School
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Thursday, March 29
8 p.m. at Hillel Foundation
1429 Hill Street

WEDNESDA YIS MONDAY IS
"BARGAIN DAY" "GUEST NIGHT"
$1.50 until 5:30 I 2Adultsfor $3.00
Except Wayside & State Except Wayside

ADULTS M., SAT., SUN.
I VE. & HOlIDAYS $3.51
MON.-THURS. [Vt. $3.01
ALL MATINSS 52.54
CHILD TO 14 $13.4

a-

MEN

#I-HAIR THE FILM
ST ATEFri.+& Sat. #2-CONCERT FOR
Liate ShawBANGLADESH

TONITE at 7:00 pm Only
FRI 7 & 9:25-SAT 1-3-5-7-9:25
SUN & WED 1-3-5-7-9
ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE
"BEST FOREIGN FILM"
BEST FILM
OF THE YEAR
-National Society of Film Critics
A GEM!
-Rex Reed

MedlatriCS presents

MON., TUES., THURS. 7 & 9
FRI 7 & 9:25--SAT. 1-3-5-7.9:25
SUN 5:15-7-9, WED 1-3-5-7-9}
4 ACADEMY AWARD
NOMINATIONS
INCLUDING
BEST ACTRESS
BEST SCREENPLAY
BEST SONG
Ellen Alan
Burstyn Alda
P E O A E RI G
, Next Var"
PIPE RGAN EVERY NIGHT

LOLITA

(Stanely Kubrick) Kubrick's brilliant adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's contro-
versial novel about a middle-aged man's (James Mason) strange passion for
a young nymphet (Sue Lyon) which cannily shifts from social satire to tragic
farce.
Thurs March 29 Assembly Hall Mich Union 7:00, 9:30

GET OUT YOUR
HANDKERCHIEFS

MAntlHealth Research Institute

I

w

r

r

I

s.

Back to Top

© 2020 Regents of the University of Michigan