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October 07, 1970 - Image 2

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The Michigan Daily, 1970-10-07

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Page Two

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Wednesday, October 7, 1970

Page Two THE MICHIGAN DAILY Wednesday, October 7, 1 97Qb

cinema:

Indian writer defends culture

'The Activist':

A

body without a head

By NEAL GABLER
The Activist is a hideous film
suffering from many of the
same afflictions as the move-
ment it attempts to portray. It
is dogmatic and cliche-riddled,
insensitive, self-righteous, vis-
ceral and humorless. (This last
is , especially unfortunate con-
sidering the vast, untapped
comic potentialities here.) Not
content with being politically.
sophomoric it is also an aesthe-
tic disaster choking on its rinky-
tink Muzak with flutes and
xylophones, its rock ballads with
pithy poetry like "Flying is like
dying," or "They say the world
has grown so cold. It's from a
war that's grown 'so old," and
coated with a gloss that resem-
bles nothing so much as Dow
Finsterwald's Golf Tip Show
that WBN ran back in Chicago
to fill time between the end of
the Cubs' game and the begin-
ning of the hour.
I'll admit to some confusion
over the film's aims. There are
some movies that are so godaw-
ful you ask yourself, "Is this a
comedy or is someone actually
stupid enough to take this thing
seriously?" In the same way The.
Activist's characterization of the
radical as dull, egotistical (his
girlfriend gives him a hand-let-
tered book of his own political
pronouncements), r a c k e d by
masculinity problems (he is
constantly invoking his virility)
could be either an intentional
castigation of the radical psyche
or, seen a bit more sympathe-
tically, as indices of his solid,
unshakeable heroism.

I'm probably being overly
generous in allowing even the
possibility of intelligence. In all
likelihood The Activist is just
what it appears to be: a paean
of praise to the collegiate guer-
rilla. But its heroic type is no
modern-day Marx; instead the
activist (Michael Smith) is an
old-fashinoned gunfighter gird-
ing for battle. He smooths vaso-
line on his face, winds tape
around his arms, dons a helmet.
Back at the apartment is the
beautiful co-ed who urges him
to settle down at Nanterre, "a
real good poli sci school outside
Paris," but who realizes that her
man must do what he thinks is
right. There are his cowering
compatriots. "The N a t i o n a 1
Guard! That's another league."
And there's the cynical, embit-
tered poli sci prof, the voice of
experience, who has been
through it all and has retreated
to his beach hideaway. The
world is nearing the precipice,
he says. Forget the causes, he
says. Settle down with your girl,
he says. There's an admission's
officer at Michigan who owes
him a favor, he says. But the
activist grits his teeth and
glowers. He ain't gonna chicken
out.
The image of radical as West-
ern mythic hero says some ter-
ribly revealing things about our
radicals and the society they
hope to redeem. We live in an
existential age, an age in which
people are defined not .by what
they are deep down so much as
by what they do. The Presi-

dent underscores every warning
with a scowl and furrowed brow,
and every hopeful phrase with a
grin and wagging V-signs. The
hard hat demonstrates his pa-
triotism by beating on peace
marchers. The revolutionary ex-
presses his fervor by rock-throw-
ing and bomb-planting. But at
the core of our society and at
the core of many of its individ-
uals, is a void. I hate to sound
like Teddy Roosevelt, but where
character once stood in simpler
times, now the empty rhetoric
and flailing fists of the Right,
Left and Middle hold sway.
Film is especially susceptible
to our highly-charged romanti-
cism of action not thought. It is
existential almost by its very
nature: twenty-four images a
second bursting upon the brain.
And a good deal of its current
popularity among my peers
comes, I think, from the fact
that films (any film) can be
emotive. More and more the
insight and enrichment that are
the traditional rewards of art
are being relegated to "feeling."
As someone recently told me,
"Hell, I've stopped listening to
movies. Now I just watch them."
His attitude is perfectly un-
derstandable. We hear so much
nonsense these days that we
close our ears almost by reflex
when the verbiage starts spewing
out of someone's mouth. Yet The
Activist, The Strawberry State-
ment, and most other youth
movies try to circumvent the
p r o b I e m by circumventing

drama altogether and relying on
image and identification. Sure,
the activist is a creep who
mumbles in monosyllables and
simple sentences. Sure, he has
psychological problems that
the filmmakers mistake for some
kind of courage. Sure, he's a
cruel sonofabitch. BUT . . .
when the cops start wading in
swinging their truncheons and
squirting their mace; when two
know-nothings turn a water-
hose on the activist and his co-
ed because these bumpkins are
gung-ho for victory in Viet Nam,
then the young audience identi-
fies. Insight? Enrichment? The
acts -- the cops' sneers a n d
curses - tell us all we need to
know.
What we have in essence is a
theater of life-you are the way
you act. Camus considered the
chief rule of dramatic acting
that "everything be magnified
and translated into the flesh,"
and that's a pretty good de-
scription of what we've been
seeing on the news for the last
few years. But what happens
to drama when reality is mag-
nified and translated in this
way? What happens when we
lose the soul or character or
whatever you want to call it
that has always made reality
real and drama dramatic?
What happens is that we get
idiotic films like The Activist
that don't understand that
copying reality just isn't good
enough when the reality is so
melodramatic. Herein lies the
danger of making social films in
America-1970. Medium Cool and
The Activist can incorporate
real events into their narratives,
and the reality of life and the
reality of the film ultimately,
get blurred. (Persona is a com-
ment on this very process.) But
Wexler recognizes that the me-
dium is indeed the message. so
much so that most of us have
p S
lovers
lane

internalized the art of perform-
ing and some of us have even
substituted the performance for
our lives.
It's appropriate then that The
Activist begins with the dis-
claimer: there are no actors in
this film. That can be taken
either as fact or critical judg-
ment. Michael Smith, in the
most superficial performance
I've ever seen, points up just
how vacuous identification-via -
image can be. Leslie Gilhoun, as
the Vogue sorority girl who falls
in with Smith's revolutionary
cadre, is no great shakes as an
actress but she is very pretty
and she does do an excellent
heart-pounding stint in bed;
five positions in five aninutes is
one hell of a way to earn a X-
rating. Even then Smith, with
his lumpy, freckled, pimply
back, manages to prove that you
can carry identification only so
far. Who wants to see a beauti-
ful girl making love to a dumb
guy with a pimply back no less?
Not that Smith can take any-
where near all the credit for
this catastrophe. Behind the
camera tick obtuse little minds
that concoct drek like, "It all
boils down to two things: You've
got a brain and a body. If you
commit one and not the other
you're a phony. That's what
liberalism is all about." And
that's what The Activist is all
about too. It seems to reflect
the growing doubt that the body
might not have a head after all.

By CHRIS PARKS
"The government must be
forced to recognize the sover-
eignty of American Indians,"
said Vine Deloria, Sioux Indian
and author of "Custer Died for
Your Sins." Deloria spoke Sun-
day before a quiet c r o w d of
about 100 people at Canterbury
House.
The event, part of a cam-
paign to publicize his latest
b o o k on Indian affairs, "We
Talk, You Listen," was co-spon-
sored by the Centicore Book-
store and the American Indians
Unlimited.
Deloria said he believed the
origins of m a n y of America's
problems were written into the
Constitution. While it contin-
ually stresses protection of in-
dividual rights, he s a i d, the
Constitution ignores the rights
of groups and cultures.
These rights, according to
Deloria, include a group's right
to its own community, 1 a n d
base, religion, resource develop-
ment and cultural development.
Recognition of a broader inter-

pretation of the Constitution to
include the protection of the
rights of cultures and groups,
he said, is the major goal of
growing cadres of young Indian
lawyers.
Deloria added he is not es-
pecially interested in stories of
oppression and hard times in
the past -, his new book con-
centrates on the oppression he
says his people are suffering
now. Deloria cited several inci-
dents of alleged police brutal-
ity which occurred in connec-
tion with recent controversies
over fishing rights on the West
Coast as examples of this cur-
rent oppression.
Calling for an alliance among
revolutionary groups to fight
government oppression, Deloria
added, however, that any such
alliance would have to be tem-
porary because of the widely
divergent goals and interests of
the different groups.
He said he would settle for
nothing less than the total re-
turn of the N o r t h American
continent to the Indian peoples.

"America doesn't belong to the
blacks or chicanos a n y more
than it does to the whites," De-
loria said.
To achieve this goal, Deloria
said, it will be necessary to
"make the system devour itself."
He said he is working towards
this aim by searching through
official documents and records
to find deeds and agreements
with Indians which have been
violated.
In one instance, Deloria said,
such action led to a court suit
over the legal ownership of the
city of El Paso, Texas. Deloria
said he believes a great deal of
land in Michigan may still legal-
ly belong to Indians and the
matter is going to be researched
in the near future.
Deloria totally discounted the
possibility of any kind of inte-
gration or assimilation into
white America as a solution to
the Indians' problem, saying
"You can't tranfer anything
from one culture to aother out-
side of trading goods."

RADICAL FILM SERIES
Presents
A FREE NIGHT AT THE MOVIES
OUR GANG, LAUREL & HARDY
KEYSTONE COPS
Canterbury House-Tonight
330 Maynard 7-9-1 1 P.M.

.

".."

. .. an editorial
Overdose: A toast to life?

Janis Joplin, the big little girl
belting out the blues is dead,
She was twenty-seven.
Police who went to her Holly-
wood hotel room, after a friend
found her body, say that there
were fresh needle marks on her
arms.
Whether or not Janis died of
an overdose, and it seems high-
ly probable that she did, is
secondary to the fact that we
have lost yet another musician
who gave us all a good deal of
pleasure and that it is the third
time it has happened in a single
month.
Allan Wilson of Canned Heat,
Jimi Hendrix and now Janis.
It would be easy to start to
propagandise around these peo-
Sle's deaths, but it is now un-
ziecessary to push out the same
old line about drugs killing.
Those who wish to have heard
the message are alive, those
wishing to ignore it are dying or
dead.
Janis wanted to call her first
album Dope, Sex and Cheap
Thrills, but the record company
wouldn't let her. It's ironic.
Catapulted to fame after the
Monterey Festival in 1967 along
with Hendrix, Janis was respon-
sible for some of -the farthest
out blues to come from a white
female singer.
Last night I listened to Cheap
Thrills again.
I also listened to Future Blues
and the Monterey album.
Only a month ago all of these
people would have lived. It tends
to bum you out a bit.
-Jonathan Miller
Daily Official Bulletin
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 7
Day Calendart
Botany Seminar: Dr. Thomas, Stan-
ford University, "A Re-examination of
Thysanocarpus (Cruciferae)," Botanical
Gardens, 10 a.m.
Botany Seminar: Dr. Thomas, Stan-
ford University, "The Population Prob-
lem", Nat. Sci. Aud., 4 p.m.
Physics Seminar: G. Brownell, M.I.T..
"Nuclear Physics in Medicine," P&A
Colloq. Rm., 4 p.m.
Statistics Seminar: Prof. J. Lingoes,
"Clustering Formulation Evaluated I
Probabilistically," 4205 Angell Hall, 4
p.m.
Kelsey Museum & American Institute
of Archaeology Lecture: Dr. H. Loten,
U. of Pa., "Maya Temple Architecture
at Tikal, Guatemala", Aud. B, Angell#
Hall, 4:10 p.m.
Computer Lecture: Prof. Carnahan,
"The Fortran IV Programming L a n g-
uage - III", Nat. Set. Aud., 7:30 - 9:30.
University Players: "The Caucasian
Chalk Circle," Trueblood Theatre, 8
p.M.
General Notices
Representatives from Law School of
Cornell University will be here Oct. 13
to talk to students interested in study
of law. Please make appointments at
preprofessional1desk in Jr.-Sr. Coun-
seling Office, 1223 Angell Hall.
FOREIGN VISITORS
Following person can be reached thru
Foreign Visitor Div., Rmns. 22-24, Mi.
Union (764-2148): Dr. S. B. Bharadwaj,
Admin. Staff College of India, Oct. 7-9.

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