THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Wednesday, September 23, 1970 *1
Pa~e Two THE MICHIGAN DAILY Wednesday, September 23, 1970 '
Rent from'-this 'Landlord'
By NEAL GABLER
Almost by the nature of things, advertisements
are deceptive. I mean, caveat emptor is what
Madison Avenue is all about. They'd have you
believe that Z is, in Gene Shalit's words, a "first
rate thriller";' or that Ingmar Bergman's The
Passion of Anna is a story of Swedish ecstsy;
or that They Call Me MISTER Tibbs concerns
black dignity; or that countless dumb, little pic-
tures are this year's Easy Rider. I suspect that
these ad-men .are oftentimes not operating out
of any malevolence toward the public but are
merely victims of their own mentalities; they
don't understand their product, and who knows,
maybe some ad-man really thinks The Passion
of Anna is a sex flick.
Now comes The Landlord and its ads do it an
injustice. They bill it as a film about WASPs
and the military-industrial complex and rent
parties and arrows dipped in barbeque sauce and
an attempted ax murder. Which is to say it's a
fluffy modern comedy frosted with political ov-
ertones. I've come to expect the worst from mov-
ies frosted with political overtones (so maybe it
isn't all the ad-man's fault), and the movies
generally reaffirm my fatalism. These obnoxious
concoctions are not so much films as sad ex-
tensionsof the corporate mind- images that
beam with middle-age pride at their own rele-
vance; images, straining desperately to be with
it; images that convey nothing about now except
that there exist pitiful men in high places of the
film industry. ,
But The Landlord is different. It's an incred-
ibly likable film brimming with modern wit and
charm - and even truth. That's right. If you.
can disregard those ads which make it sound
like Doris Day in Harlem, there is a lot of truth
in The Landlord. It begins by asking the ques-
tion, "How do we live?,". then switches to the
lush green lawn of a suburban estate where El-
gar Enders (Beau Bridges) lounges. Elgar is
trapped in the bizarre life-style of the American
upper c 1 a s s. He is twenty-nine years old, a
WASP, son of an ultra-conservative industralist
and a jet-set mother (Lee Grant) out-of the
propeller age. His father is as understanding as
any person who wears an Army uniform to a
charity ball, and his mother meets his liberal
concern with, "Didn't we all go together to see
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?"
Surveying his situation Elgar concludes that
"We're all like a bunch of ants. The strongest
desire we have, the only true life force is to gain
territory." And he has the money to make his
desire a reality. So he buys abrownstone tene-
ment with the idea of throwing out its residents
and converting it into a chic abode all for him-
self. Through loosely connected vignettes we fol-
low Elgar as he meets his tenants, tries to com-
municate his decision to his parents, gains some-
thing remotely resembling compassion and findg
in a discotechque a mulatto (Is this symbolism?)
girl who just might understand him.
He needs understanding. His parents con-
sider him an outcast from the class with none of
the normal ambitions of a boy in his social po-
sition - like adding a few million to the family
fortune or marrying the queen of the deb co.
tillion or getting written up by Charlotte Curtis.
But the luxury of being able to live casually
dooms his efforts at finding a rapport with the
Other Half; his parents can't accept him be-
cause of what he is, and his tenants can't ac-
cept him because of what he has.
What divides us then-among other things-
is just how seriously we have to take our lives.
How do we live? Well, if you're one of Elgar's
tenants you live in fear of the white power
structure and, more importatly, in fear of life
itself. It's almost metaphysical, as if life is rife
with dangers which only the strong can survive.
How do we live? Well, most of us don't have to
worry about taking life seriously. Until Vietnam
came along we could, muddle through college
and maybe even grad school and then move on
to a profession and marriage and two kids and
the suburbs. We could pass on without ever hav-
ing to confiont anything. It's possible, you know.
That's why the draft comes as such a rude
awakening for most of us. Here it is-our moment
of truth. For one brief period of our middle class
lives control is lost; we face a decision that must
be taken seriously. It isn't surprising then that
students see themselves as niggers unable to live
as they please without Uncle Sam swatting them
down; and this sense of easy vs. hard living
drives a wedge between black and white, poor
and rich, young and old.
When seen in these terms the gaps seem
pretty much unbridgable for the time being;
black and w h i t e life - styles conditioned
by black and white differentials in control
mingle only with great difficulty and hostility.
Elgar, born into wealth, isn't a bad sort. Actually,
he's a pretty good landlord but he has that
extravagance of doing what he pleases with his
building, with his tenants, with his own life, and
none of his kindness can erase that fact. When
he has an affair with the hairdresser on the first
floor it is she who must finally accept the con-
sequences, just as it is the tenants who will have
to accept the consequences if Elgar ever builds
his Xanadu, just as it is the poor who very
often have to accept the consequences of deci-
sions we make and take lightly.
Pretty heavy stuff. Yes, The Landlord is
heavy stuff but it carries its weight well. It is
an easy film in style, reminiscent of The Grad-
uate-slick and bright, seldom staggerng under
ponderousness. Like The Graduate it makes
points subtly with gentle humor rather than
through sledge-hammer drama or broad parody.
It is, in short, one of the better American film
A lot of the credit should go to director Hal
Ashby, scenarist Bill Gunn and star Beau
Bridges. Bridges, who looks like a blond bassstt
hound, communicates naivete without being
the wide-eyed rich boy in the big city. Ashby's
direction resembles that of Landlord producer
Norman Jewison. Like Jewison, Ashby is fas-
cinated with the look of things: colors, com-
position, transitions, overall polish; and he lets
the fluidity of the film roll unsnagged moving
quickly rather than languishing on each point.
Gunn's screenplay is a gem of briskness. and
preciseness, lean but sharp. This slickness and
sharpness keep the film from falling all over
itelf, and soits worst moment comes when the
Style lapses, when Ashby slows down and Gunn
gets too conventionally dramatic.
At least it seemed to be the worst moment,
but I can't be absolutely sure it didn't work out
exactly the Way Ashby wanted it to. In the
sequence, Elgar gets involved with Fanny (Diana
Sands) and the involvement has repercussions.
Her husband attempts to cleave our hero into
little white pieces. Under the circumstances this
seems too abrasive for the general flow of the
film. Did Ashby 'goof? The scene certainly upset
me. both emotionally and aesthetically, but
maybe that's what it was calculated to do. It
pulls us from the surface 'where Elgar cavorts
down into the real tragedy of these lives. The
film's flow is hurt but the scene makes us more
conscious of that flow which paralleled Elgar's
carefree attitude. How do we live? Well, some
people's lives aren't all that funny or easy.
That's one of the things The Landlord tells us.
x:":::"::::; :: :i::~xs<;:.;:;>;::;:;;;:3;;>,can be reached in rmis. 22-24, Michigan
TI I Y F IC A imniaio o Union (764-2148), Sept, 23.
DILYj1 UJFFAj imuniationsorconsideration at this
BULLETIN Placement Service
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23 3200 S.A.B.
The 1971 College Placement Annual
D-Calendar Inow available at Engineering Placement
De dr Office, 128 H, W. Engin. Bldg.
Statistics Seminar N. Starr, "Re- Registration Meeting for Placement
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Arigell Hall. 4 p.m. at 2 p.m., Aud. B, Angell Hall. Find
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han. "The FORTRAN IV Programming ..- ________ .
Language -I," Nat. Sci. Aud., 7:30-9:30
Univ. Symphony Orchestra: Theo Al-
scantara conductor, and student solo-
ists : Hill Aud., 8 p.m.
Regents' Meeting: Oct. 15, 16. Com-
meting must be in the President's UNION-L
hands no later than Oct. 1. N
Computing Center to hold course on
PROJECTACCOUNT, program which
enables projetct directors and instruc-
rors to allocate computeruresources,
room 1011, No. University Building, on F i s t
Sept. 24, 3-4 p.m. Inquiries should be
directed to C. Engle, 764-2410.
Foreign Visitors SI 047 N
Mr. Y.Bien, U. of Tel-Aviv, Israel, S1 043 DE
GAY LIBERATION FRONT
If you're goy or think you might be,/or straight and
would like to help fight sexual oppression, come to
NEW MEMBERS' MEETING-Wed., Sept. 23
8:00 P.M.--1 17 N. Thayer"-No. 4
GENERAL MEETING-Thurs., Sept. 24
8:30 P.M.-3-C Union
Lecture and Discussion: "Counselinq"
The place to meet
Boch Club president and found-
er speaking on:
Plus a Short election of officers
includinq a new president.
Refreshments and FUN afterwards
THURS., SEPT. 24, 8 P.M.
SOUTH QUAD WEST LOUNGE
No musical knowledge needed,
for further info. call 663-2827,
603 E. Liberty
Doors Open 12:45
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12/21-1 / 3
a ski program consisting of:
11 NIGHTS FIRST CLASS HOTEL-double occupancy
2 MEALS PER DAY (breakfast and dinner)
TRANSFERS TO AND FROM MILAN AIRPORT
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free bus transportation in area for duration
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Phone or stop in:
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starts at 1:00-4:25-7:50
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(313) 769-6871 or 769-5790
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All Ladies 75c until 6
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Shows at 1, 3, 5, 7. 9
Next: "THE ACTIVIST
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PROF. DAVID WURFEL
"RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA"3
National Director-Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam
Minister-United Church of Christ
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If You Can, That's Great. But We Don't Ask That. All We
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Reading to an Ann Arbor Merchant.