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March 16, 1972 - Image 2

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1972-03-16

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Page Two

THE MICHIGAN GAILY

Thursday, March 16, 1972

P a e w oT E I C I A N D A L

Thursday, March 16, 1972

Cinema:

Straw
By RICHARD GLATZER
Thanks to the recent contro-
versy over violence in movies,
Straw Dogs has been tagged as
an action movie about the de-
structive nature of mankind and
in one respect it is just that.
David Sumner, an American
mathematician (D u s t I n Hoff-
man), 'and his Cornish wife Amy
(Susan George) move to rustic
Cornwall for peace and quiet
only to encounter violence and
horror. Not exactly a tale about
the tranquility found in getting
back to the roots.
Then too, there is so much
tension and excitement in Straw
Dogs, courtesy of Sam Peckin-
pah's direction and his fine trio
of editors, that it is all too easy
to char'acterize the film as a
blood and guts thriller and neg-
lect the other equally important
aspects of the film.
For Straw Dogs is a love story
-an, unusually action-packed and
suspenseful love story, but a love
story all the same. The film's
opening sequence immediately
establishes a classic romantic
triangle. First we see David,
struggling with packages as he
walks towards his car, parked
in the town square. Next the
movie cuts to Amy, blonde and
sexy, her hard nipples pushing
against the soft, clingy fabric of
her sweater. David is too busy
to notice those nipples, but Char-
lie, Venner (Del Henney), an old
boyfriend of Amy's, is not.
Right there the movie's ten-
sions are established. Amy is the
Cornish conception of the allur-
ing woman-promiscuous, impul-
sive, childish. She puts a wad
of gum on her husband's black-
board, changes a plus sign to a
minus when David isn't looking,
and rarely knows what to do
. with herself when her husband
is occupied. Yet she must re-
spect David's intellect some-
what; why else did she marry
him?
David is an outsider, an in-
tellectual in a world of physi-
cality. He likes ice in his scotch,
a heater. in his study, and soli-
tude. David likes sex-why else
did he marry Amy?-but he's
not physical enough, not man
enough to keep his wife satis-
fied. And here's where Charles
Venner, the walking phallus,
comes in.
In spite of Venner's appeal,
Straw Dogs is a sentimental
enough movie to have these two
poles, Mr. Intellect )and Mrs.
Sex, gradually meet and satisfy
each other. Amy tries to culti-
vate her mind to please David.
She reads a book on chess and,
when David uses a word she
doesn't understand, consults a
dictionary. "You know, you're
not so dumb," David tells her,
and she earnestly responds,
"Sometimes I need help."
David is not very willing to
admit he "needs help yet he
changes considerably more than
his wife during the course of the
film. He's complacent enough at
first, but he soon realizes that
while he is tripping over stones
and getting in the car on the
wrong side, Amy is comparing
him to those earthy, masculine,
better drinking Neanderthals,
the townsfolk. So he tries to
change. When asked to go hunt-
ing he accepts in spite of him-
self, and he gradually becomes
more and more dominating, more
the man the very unliberated
Amy wants for her husband.
Finally, he makes a moral de-

Dogs: An
cision to shelter Henry Niles propriet
(David Warner), the town mental almost
case, from\ blood-thristy villag- intruder
ers, and in the climactic half- manner
hour fight that ensues, he dem- his hon
onstrates enough violence and the pri
primitive force to keep his wife emerge
satisfied for life. five tou
Where does the strength and And f
guts come from? Peckinpah partlyb
would say that they were there his lair
all along, though David was ig- because
norant of their existence. It's man, h
Peckinpah's belief, and one of can ac
the, themes of Straw Dogs, that
behind the veneer of civiliza-
tion, man is part animal. In
one of the first shots of . the
movie, as out of focus overview
of the town square, the village
children playing look like' ants
scurrying to and fro. Later,
Chris the rat-catcher David has
hired, tells his boss, "I feel
closer to rats than I do to peo-
ple. Rats is life," and a manB
trap used to catch poachersvis yThe c
compared to a rat trap. The vil- Symlph(;
lagers, like animals, commum- brought
cate more through sounds and the aud
gestures than words. And, at last nig
the end of the film, once David phony(
has acknowledged his own prim- Univers
itivism, he communicates to cert und
Henry Niles not so much through liam St
words but through nods and Thel
shaking of his head. Further- Wagner
more, whenever Amy acts horny, tersinge
David tells her,, "You're an sympho:
animal." by Hindi
Like Amy, the townspeople are calculat
particularly animalistic when it pression
comes to sex. They'll make love somethi
to anything they can get their though.
hands on, although they'd prefer perhaps
Amy to a knothole. Sex is on C
their minds 24 hours a day; they Critic
steal a pair of Amy's underwear, plainedt
talk about buggering, and dis- a need i
cuss another man's liking of have re
shee . And Janice, an adoles after la
cent nymphomaniac, will take T
anything with pants-even her There
own brother. David's struggle to
keep Amy is much like a lion
trying to ward off competition,
and Peckinpah intentionally con-
structs the climactic fight so'
that David in Amy's presence
must battle two men who have
made love to his wife; the 214
beasts' fight to the death for the
sexy female.
Yet the mathematician turned
ferocious animal i is protecting
more than his mate when he
finally faces the townsmen-he's
protecting his lair. He tells us
bluntly, "This is where I live.
This is me. I will not allow vio-
lence against this house. .
This is my house!" Sam Peck-
inpah is a big fan of Robert
Ardrey, the noted anthropologist
and playwright, and here he has Co
translated into movie terms part
of Ardrey's theory of the terri-
torial imperative. As Ardrey puts --ioft
it, "PossessIon of a territory
lends enhanced energy to the*

unusual

love story

tor . . . the challenger is
invariably defeated, the
expelled." So the mild-
ed mathematician, once
me is threatened, allows
meval beast in him to
and he alone takes on
ugh townspeople.
fights wisely and well-
because he is protecting
r and his mate, partly
he is now a balanced
alf, brain, half brawn. I
cept Peckinpah's theory

that the man best fitted for sur-
vival is a thinking man who
acknowledges his own primitiv-
ism, though I'd rather not be-
lieve it, I can even accept his
belief that deep down, all men
contain a jungle beast trying to
escape.
What I can't accept is Peckin-
pah's approval of what he sees
as man's essential nature and
his view that the non-animalis-
tic, non-violent man is incom-
plete and silly. A moral man

los ton Orchestra:
Mleasurable chills

can believe humans are violent
beasts, but a, moral man can't
a p p r o v e of our destructive
poWers.
It's not until the last quarter
of Straw Dogs that I realized
just where the director stood on
this issue. Then Dustin Hoffman,
a man who earlier shrunk At the
sight of a dead animal, smiles
at having killed several men and
proudly says, "Jesus, I got 'em."
It's very rare that one false
touch, one bad line, can make
me dislike a film I was enjoy-
ing, but, "Jesus I got 'em," did
just that.
Have You Heard
The Rumor?
9:00 Sot.-March 1
50c
Couzens Hall
Cafeteria

Leon
Tholnhmas
"Without question is the
most interesting, exciting,
and innovative s i n g e r to
come on the scene in many
a year."
Pauline Rivelli,
JAZZ & POP
''. .he must be seen to
be believed." VARIETY
"He should not be missed."
RECORD WORLD
LEON THOMAS-Brilliant vocalist-percussionist performs one night
only in concert with ALICE COLTRANE and The Contemporary Jazz
Quintet
THIS FRIDAY NIGHTL March 11-8 p.m.-HILL AUD:
Reserved Seats: $2.00, 3.50, 4.00, 4.50 at Michigan Union12-6 p.m.
and SALVATION RECORDS on Maynard St.
PLEASE NO SMOKING IN AUDITORIUM
COMING APRIL 21st (day classes end) : KRIS KRISTOFFERSON
Reserved seats go on sale Monday, March 20,
12 noon Mich. Union. $1 .50-3.00-4.50. SORRY NO CHECKS.
UAC-DAYSTAR PRESENTATIONS

It

By DONALD SOSIN
closing chords of Brahms'
ony No. 4. in E minor
a rousing ovation from
fence in Hill Auditorium
ght as the Boston Sym-
Orchestra concluded its
ity Musical Society con-
ider the direction of Wil-
einberg.
program also included
's Prelude to Die Meis-
r von Nurenberg and the
ny "Mathis der Maler"
demith, all standard fare
ted to make a strong im-
. I would 'have loved
ng more out-of-the-way,
Like a Toch symphony,
s who have recently com-
that the orchestra shows
for some discipline would
peated their statements
st night's performance.
were some uneven spots,
Sunrise
4 E. Washington
iles
Leather
A rt Objects
Handcrafted by
Sunrise
iinuinal Farth

curious cut-offs and a lack of
tight ensemble that was all the
more evident for the few cli-
mactic moments where every-
thing was just r i h t. The
orchestra's sound still causes
pleasurable chills and under
Steinberg's masterful hand there
is sweep and drive that make
the inattention to details an-
noying, when one realizes what
potential the group possesses.
DIAL 668-6416
TWO HIT
ENCORES
NOMINATED
FOR
ACADEMY
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BEST EDITING
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AND
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kiutea
JANE FONDA
BEST ACTRESS
BEST SCREENPLAY

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Jewish Traditions 1
Temple Beth Emeth has openings in its Religious
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ECONO-CAR
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Get with it . . . it's springtime!
$hed the coats and boots and head for the
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From Friday noon through Monday noon
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