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February 11, 1973 - Image 5

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Michigan Daily, 1973-02-11

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Sunday, F6bruory 11, 1973


Poge Five

Sunday, Februciry I 1, ~1 973 THE MICHIGAN DAILY Page Five

Bright makes right

John Simon's Bergman: Critic as artist

EST, by David H lberstam.
Random House, $10.00.
berstams book as I did during
the period between Henry Kis-
singer's ill-fated election-eve pre-
diction that peace was "at hand"
and President Nixon's Christmas-
eve resumption of the bombing
was to realize the full impact of
Santayana's aphorism that those
who do not learn from the past
are condemned to repeat it. The
U.S. government has been per-
iodically bombing North Vietlam
to the negotiating table for fully
five years, and all that has been
successfully negotiated so far
has been the shape of the table.
Something is radically wrong
with our exalted national trait
of pragmatism, our conceptions
about cause and effect, means
and ends, and our ideas about
what the possession and exer-
cise of power can achieve.
A GOOD DEAL of ink has been
fed through the printing press-
es in an attempt to explain this
seemingly unending tragedy. The
most exhaustive explication pre-
sented thus far has been the pub-
lication of the Pentagon Papers
some eighteen months ago. One
of the Paper's most startling
revelations was that from the
beginning of America's military
intervention in Vietnam, the in-
formation gathered by the Cen-
-tral Intelligence Agency was con-
sistently pessimistic. At the same
time that Robert McNamara was
touring South Vietnam and pro-
claiming to the American public
that the "strategic hamlet" pro-
gram was pacifying the country-
side, the C.I.A. was reporting
that the hamlets were counter-
productive and creating new re-
cruits for the Viet Cong.
The Papers demonstrated that
this sort of duplicity was routing
and rampant in Washington's
public accounting of the war. But
the Papers offered no explana-
1ion of why such deception be-
came a standard operating pro-
cedure. For one, the study dealt
almost exclusively with process,
with the ways in which the lower
echelons of the Defense bureauc-
racy evaluated intelligence and
formulated policy options which
were passed along to decision
makers higher up. But those
materials used by and passed
around among the highest mem-
bers of, the State and Defense
departments and the White House
staff were kept off limits to th
Papers' compilers.
Secondly, the Papers were
meant to be historical, in the
narrowest and most restricted
sense of that term. They were
intended to be an objective,
chronological recounting of what
decisions were made at particu-
lar points in time. Conspicuously
absent was an attempt to account
for individual motivation in the
decision-making process, espe-
cially at the highest levels.
HALBERSTAM'S indebtedness
to the Papers is obvious, as
he acknowledges in a note about

his sources. But he is not so
much concerned with process as
he is with personality. Halber-
stam, unlike the historians who
compiled the Papers, is a jour-
nalist, and in the best tradition
of journalism his reportage is
concerned with people, with in-
dividual human beings whose
personal motivations and interac-
tions provided, in the end, the
vital factors in why and how the
United States got involved in
"The best and the brightest"
of the book's title are the men
who'rwere instrumental in mak-
ing that decision: Dean Rusk,
head of the Rockefeller Founda-
tion and later Secretary of State;
Robert McNamara president of
the Ford Motor Company and
later Secretary of Defense; Max-
well Taylor, soldier-scholar, for-


the White House and the Defense
Department marshalled their an-
alysts and computers and set out
to devise strategems to save the
Innumerable statistics w e r e
gathered in the field in order
to give the planners back in
Washington some way to meas-
ure the effectiveness of their pro-
grams, and the criterion of suc-
cess became those numbers-so
many enemy troops killed each
week, so many trucks and sup-
plies interdicted, so many vil-
lages fortified. The problem was
that statistics could lie, particu-
larly when they were tampered
with, and especially when they
were used to answer the wrong
questions. Not once did Washing-
ton ask whether the government
they were attempting to save was
viable, or whether this kind of
war could be won at all by tech-
nological and military superior-
ity alone.
EVEN WHEN pressure against
the war mounted during the
Johnson Administration, decision
makers closest to the President
failed to question initial assump-
tions, to consider whether they
might have possibly made an
error in intervening in Vietnam.
Rather, they gathered round to
defend their policies and beat
down with a vengence criticism
from within their own ranks.
Once, late in the war, George
Ball raised some doubts about
yet another troop increase, and
McNamara cut him down with a
barrage of statistics. Ball, un-
familiar with the facts cited
against him, had his aides comb
through the intelligence reports
to find out where McNamara had
gotten his information. The aides
went to work, and when the
figures failed to materialize, Ball
realized that they never would
because they did not exist. Mc-
Namara had invented them. As
the war dragged on without reso-
lution or apparent end, the main
interest of most of the high
policy makers was not so much
to defend Vietnam as it was to
protect the President When that
happened, Washington truly lost
its sense of purpose about the
war, if not the war itself.
If there are any reservations
that should be noted about The
Best and the Brightest, the most
imhportant one is that the author
decided to cast his work in the
style of the "new journalism."
With a topic as complex as Viet-
nam decision-making, the adap-
tions of the novel's narrative
techniquesthelp to give the sub-
ject a human dimension and
keep the reader interested. But
the "new journalism," at least
as practiced at this stage of its
development, can be especially
grating with its subjectivity. Af-
ter almost seven hundred pages
of small anecdotes designed to
describe scores of personalities,
all without any citations about
their sources. one begins to won-
der what the writer has in mind,
character portraiture or charac-
ter assassination. Still, an frri-
tation such as this serves its pur-
pose because it reminds us that
a nation may go to war for an
abstraction, but it is people who
decide when a nation fights and
where its soldiers die.

mer Army Chief of Staff and
later ambassador to South Viet-
nam; McGeorge Bundy, dean of
Harvard College, and Walt Whit-
man Rostow, professor of eco-
nomic history at M.I.T., both
later special assistants to the
President. In 1961, in what now
seems to be an irrevokably lost
time of naive faith and hope,
these men and their companions
were acclaimed as the new men
of a new Establishment-not then
so detested a word-whose mem-
bers were willing to forsake plush
private positions and emoluments
in order to serve their nation.
On January 20, 1969, after al-
most a decade of public service,
the last of them left Washington.
By then their reputations were
tarnished; their nation internally
divided and internationally re-
pudiated; their hopes and prom-
ises derailed; all because a small
country's problems had attract-
ed inordinate amounts of their
attention and energy, totally out
of proportion to its international
importance or their own nation's
domestic priorities.
At the root of their public
failure was a mixture of hubris
and corporate mentality. These
were men who believed, above
all, in the applicability of ra-
tionalism to public affairs. Given
America's technological capabili-
ties, they were sure that there
were no problems that could not
be resolved in America's favor.
So when noncommunist Vietnam
teetered on the verge of collapse,

RECTS, by John Simon. Har-
court Brace Jonanovich, $9.95.
A HORSE-DRAWN carriage is
seen on a hilltop, silhouetted
against a gray sky. Leaning to-
ward it from the left is a gal-
lows and reaching toward it
from the right are the bare,
crooked branches of a fallen
tree. The carriage is that of Vog-
ler's Magnetic Health Theatre.
Albert Vogler is a mesmerist; he
sells cures, performs feats of
magic, and claims to possess
powers by which he can induce
visions in any human being. He
has been accused by many of
being a'fraud. It is said that his
magic is made of cheap tricks,
that he has no extraordinary
powers. The setting is forebod-
ing. The gallows and the bran-
ches are waiting to claim him,
each in its own way.
In this single, prophetic image,
filmed in 1958, Ingmar Berg-
man captured the look of John
Simon's critical mind. It is as
if he knew that one day he
would face this man in person,
and knew also something of the
unpleasantness involved in doing
so. Indeed, let us presume for
a moment that Bergman is Vog-
ler, Later in The Magician, the
film which opens with the above
scene, Vogler finds himself
caught between two people. One
is Vergerus, an arrogant, conde-
scending counselor of medicine.
To him the very idea of magic,
of the sipernatr, is repugnant.
He believes Vogler is a charla-
tan. "Everything is exlinable,"
he says. He wold fig'iratively,
if not quite literally, like to hang
Vogler, and this would sit his
purposes quite well. His only
interest is psvsiology. In Vogler
he sees a woderfl secimen for
an autonsy. The other person is
Ottila Egermn, a woman bor-
dering on desair who harbors a
rather pathetic belief in Vogler's
powers. "I understand you," she
says. "I have longed for you
I understand why you've
come .. . YI will enlin why
my child died. What God meant.
That's why von have come. To
soothe my sorrow and lift the
burden from my shoulders."
Vogler is helpless. before both
these people: that his magic is
made of tricks is true, and he
has no way of knowing the ans-
wers to Mrs. Egerman's qes-
tions. Besides, part of his act is
pretending to be a deaf mute.
BERGMAN used Vogler as a
prototype of the artist, the
artist being a man who used me-
chanical devices to produce cal-
culated effects in his audience.
Bergman's thinking today is not
so different from this, and not
that much different from what
he once though to be the ideal
position for himself as an ar-
tist. In the interview that onens
Ingmar Bergman Directs, John
Simon mentions this to him:
S: There is one statement of
yours tht everybody is al-
wys quoting: about your
thinking of yourself as a hum-
ble, anonymous workman on a
Gothic cathedral.
B: Very romantic. Forget it.
Whet I meant originlly ws
that anonymous creation in
art, in music or painting or
sculpture or theatre, was very
unneurotic. And that is the best
kind of all, creating unneurot-
ically: which is why the nine-
teentf - century romantic no-
tion of original genius strikes
me as very silly, and as hav-
ing nothing to do with creation.
S: But, then, if you're nei-
Today's writers...
Dan Feld is a graduate stu-
dent in American Studies and
was formerly an editorial asso-

ciate of the Books Editor.
Nigel Gearing is a grad stu-
jent in English and is the Books
Editor's roommate.
David Gruber spends most of
iis time at the flicks and is in
,io way connected with the
Books Editor.
AM i'uni VflI'DC' flt9

ther the nineteenth-century or-
iginal nor the medieval work-
man on the cathedral, what
third possibility does that
leave - something in between?
B: Yes, I am a man making
things for use, and highly es-
teemed as a professional. I am
proud of my knowing how to
make those things.
Very few critics are willing to
see him this way. In his own
country of Sweden, where there
is a growing concern with social
issues and living conditions, the
popular verdict among the
younger critics and filmmakers
is that Bergman's intensely per-
sonal, psychologically, oriented
films are irrelevant. (Bergman
brushes this off by simply stat-
ing he is unable to make social
films; it is not his style and not
his interest.) Outside his coun-
try he is seen as something of a
magician, one who grapples with
life's fundamental problems. He
is acknowledged to be an ex-
tremely talented director who is
always developing his concerns
and techniques, but cannot al-
ways blend them together well.
Nevertheless, those instances
where concerns and techniques
do work together are marvelous,
sometimes startling pieces of
filmmaking, and they h a v e
earned him continual critical re-
BUT NOW what a lucky man
Bergman is. In beginning
his introduction to Bergman's
films John Simon proclaims:
"Ingmar Bergman is, in my
carefully considered opinion, the
greatest filmmaker the world
has seen so far." Ah, to be in
the hands of a carefully con-
sidered opinion! Notice how
cleverly pl-ced is that carefully
considered clause thro'igh which
we will read the rest of the book.
In John Simon's opinion! It be-
comes clear that Bergman is bo-
ing used for someoae's ulterior
purposes. Simon is going to re-
veal to us as much about him-
self as. about his subject. He
I tike film to be a totally
visual and totIlly aural me-
di'm - in this ambidextrous-
ness lies its glory - and I
consider utterly mist-ken the
nostalgic sentimentality of
those exalters of time past
who would put the silent film
above the sound, or in any way
minimize the imoortance of
the ear in the enjoyment of
film . . . Now though a film-
maker-who masters the visual
possibilities of cinema is to be
admired, the true lord of the
medium is he who controls
equally sight and sound, whose
word is as good as his image,
and, above all, who can manip-
ulate the two in such a way
that they reinforce each other

and perform in unison or har-
mony, contrast or counter-
,point, at the filmmaker's beck
... Bergman has, I firmly be-
lieve, achieved the perfect fu-
sion more often than Antonioni
and Fellini combined . ..,
or anyone else in history, ob-
IT IS SIMON'S custom to write
in sweeping pronouncement
(a term -he uses himself) whe-
ther it be for his film column
in The New Leader or this book-
length study of a filmmaker's
work. But rarely does he give
ot such praise. In Private
Screenings and Movies into
Film, both of which are collec-
tions of his film criticism, he
spends a good deal of time com-
plaining . that there are not
enough films worth writing
about, that most films are not
Art. Films that are not Art are,
of course, not worth his atten-
tion, but being a critic he is ob-
ligated to write on them. The
pain that this causes him, the
sense that he feels his profound
intelligence is being squandered
on films that are something less
than the "perfect fusion" of
"sight and sound" pervades all
his writing. His sense of futility
seems so great that one won-
ders r. - he continues writing.
The answer is that he enjoys ex-
pounding his beloved opinion. So,
in order tobdo this, he stabs peo-
ple in the back, filmmakersand
critics alike - with witless
crude, carelessly considered de-
nincintions, designed in the end
to attract attention to himself.
His world of film is filled with
"derailed fanatics." "modish
shaman," and "brilliant mono-
maniacs." and he is their self
appointed executioner. Ironical-
Iv, Simon, near the end of his
inter-iew with Bergman, asks
the director about an encounter
with a man of a similar nature:
S: Sneaking of critics, do
you have any afterthoughts
aho't vo'ur famous, incident
with Johnson? (Bergman had
hit this critic at an open re-
B: No, the only thing is ex-
actlv wh-t I said, I hate phy-
sical violence. -
S: What did this particular
critic do to make you so an-
B: He doesn't believe in what
he's doing and he's cynical
and he plays a game with oth-
er human beings, and I hate
this way of behaving. Not of
humiliating me, because I
know who I am and what I am,
but he has a way of humilia-
ting, in a terrible way, the ac-
tors. I have seen too much of
what he has done to people in
this theatre and in other

TO BE SURE, Simon does not
humiliate Bergman in his
book. He shows himself instead
to be a surprisingly flexible man.
While at one moment he will be
looking way down upon the in-
significant members of the film
world, which now means every-
body, he will, in the next mo-
ment, be bent oyer backward to
eye his savior. This rounds out
his character. He deems Berg-
man the one filmmaker worth
his serious, detailed discussion.
Exalting him to the skies, how-
ever, accomplishes nothing. In
fact, aside from thrusting upon
Bergman a status he cares noth-
ing about, it carries very nega-
tive undertones. It reinforces his
condescension toward everyone
else, and it forces upon the read-
er a limited critical position. Ap-
parently Simon's sole criteria for
greatness is the "perfect fusion"
and the number of times it is
achieved. What is lacking is any
acknowledgment of other kinds
of energies at work in filmmak-
ing. These he positively dis-
counts, both in Ingmar Bergman
Directs and in his reviews. Dir-
ectors who make only one "mas-
terpiece" or one every now and
then are considered one-shot ar-
tists or sporadic artists. Fellini
and Antonioni, having once made
masterpieces of their own, have
now fizzled out in his mind.
If a masterpiece is not made
on a regular basis the film-
maker drops from Simon's mind
completely, or he receives from
him various malicious comments.
It is no matter that some di-
rectors have contributed some-
thing lasting to film, that they
have found new forms of cine-
matic expression, that they have
exnanded the range of film's
possibilities. To my mind, a
filmmaker need only do this
once (and this once need not be
a flike) to earn a position of
admiration or even greatness.
is overbearing. That Berg-
man is a master of the medium
need only be stated once in the
course of a book on his works.
Simon uses "master" and "mas-
teroiece" and "Bergman master
stroke" and "Bergmanian mas-
ter touch" to describe every-
thing in his films but the credits.
He probes Bergman's movies
(The Clown's Evening, Smiles of
a Summer Night, Winter Light,
and Persona are the ones he has
selected for this book) like a
surgeon, in metallic sentences'
often using unintelligible words
dug up from moldly corners of
the dictionary. All to sound im-
pressive. Unfortunately, though,
it only sounds like a little boy
doing his hero worshipping at
the expense of the reader. In
reality, Simon assumes a sub-

missive position in realtion tp
Bergman, whereas in relation to
whomever he considers inferior
he makes his opinion the one to
be reckoned with. He is the Ver-
gerus-Ottila Egerman figure of
film criticism, every bit as arro-
gant as the former, less human
and more pathetic than the
The one noteworthy thing about
Simon's book is the format of
the book itself..Ingmar Bergman
Directs is the second in a series
of "visual analysis" books by the
Halcyon Press (the first was
Stanley Kubrick Directs). These
analyses are studies of form and
content; they discuss a particular
filmmaker's individual works, or
the best of these works if there
are many to' choose from, what
these' works say, and how they
say it. Extensive use is made of
stills and shot sequences from.
the films, enabling the reader to
see for himself what the writer
is referring to in his commen-
tary. Lighting, editing, camera
angles, compositions, settings,
dialogue, acting, and other com-
ponents of filmmaking are taken
into consideration. There is room
for everything in these books;
they offer film criticism its first
chance to do a thorough study
of the film medium.
ALL ONE gains from Simon's
book is a sense of futility.
One comes to it wanting to learn
something about Ingmar Berg-
man, and one is met by a acritic
who doesn't care to tell you any-
thing unless you acknowledge
him to be of as great importance
as Bergman. It is the reader that
Simon ultimately dislikes. The
reader is but a "layman," Simon
and Bergman are true Artists. A
"layman" cannot possibly be ex-
pected to understand the Artist
without the help of another Art-
ist. Simon is no Artist and he is
no help.
Other articles and books on
Bergman do exist, many by writ-
ers who geniuinely care about
Bergman's films and about their
readers; Robin Wood, Stanley
Kaufman, Pauline Kael, John
Donner, Susan Sontag to name a
few. Many of Simon's views, in
fact, are padded by those of
other critics. A good deal of his
chapter on Winter Light is mere-
ly a transcription of Wood's
ideas on the film. Bergman's
screenplays, including the re-
cently published Persona and
Shame, also do more to give a
feeling for Bergman's emotional
and intellectual concerns than
does Simon's brittle writing.
Simon is best left alone to sit
on the shelf, or perhaps left to
some monastery where he can
sit in silence and carefully con-
sider his opinions without offend-
ing anyone.

History as she is writ, new style

Centicore Bookshops, Inc.
FRAME in our. current stock

STATES, by Harvey Wasserman.
Harper Colophon Books, 262 pp.,
NOT VERY MANY people read
American history any more.
Who can blame them? The prob-
lem with historical writing is the
historians who have lost sight of
their function as story tellers.
In this age of social science
specialization they are trying to
become "scientific" specialists
themselves-never realizing that
good story telling about how we
came to our present state is
more urgently needed than ever.
Harvey Wasserman has a
story to tell. That's the first
point. It's about how the fore-
bears of the present ruling class
took over the country right after
the Civil War-and how they
then destroyed the progressive
left-loyal-opposition, a task ac-
complished by economic and po-
litical blackmail, by violent re-
pression, and by incarceration
and extermination.
THE STORY, which Wasser-
man tells in a frank and un-
pretentious manner, is as fasci-
nating as it is tragic. Wasserman
abandons the dry footnoting style
of most academic history writ-
ing (the sources are in a bibli-
ography at the back-where they
belong) and instead offers us
an historical tale that is satisfy-
ing in several different ways.
He comes up with information

that is omitted from most
American history books. For in-
stance, did you know that there
was a "back to the land" move-
ment around the turn of the cen-
tury, championed by the progres-
sive left-which helped to pub-
lish books such as Three Acres
and Liberty, by a Mr. 3olton
Hall? Or did you know that
Mabel Dodge (a friend of D. 1I.
Lawrence's) and some of her
pals were doing peyote in New
York City in 1914?
man's book are interesting,
but they are relevant mostly
because they are part of a tough
argument which makes sense
on a much deeper level. Was-
serman stakes out the.argument
at its origin, Puritanism, and
explains how the descendants of
that religious orthodoxy fought
a pseudo-battle with the neoposi-
tivist evolutionists in the late
nineteenth century -pseudo be-
cause the battle obscured the
fact that the two were forging an
alliance, ensuring that the new
ruling class, with its might-
makes-right social philosophy,
would shape the character of
our contemporary society.
The two groups held different
conceptions of the basis of social
values-godly creation and origi-
nal sin of the Puritans contrast-
ing with evolution from a more
primitive species, the view of,
the new Liberal ruling class. But
the conflict this defference led to
obscured a more important fact,
for both conceptions justified an
ideology designed to protect the

position of the ruling class, re-
gardless of which class it was.
In Puritan America this meant
punishing (or at least ostraciz-
ing heretics:
"So the Puritan community
'punished' without mercy-to
the point of organized murder
-Indians, witches, Quakers,
Baptists, Nonconformists, and
other deviants on whom they
often practiced elaborate tor-
tures, as if their own preoccu-
pation with hell demanded the
construction of a wo rk in g
model on earth."
When the Liberals took con-
trol, whatever moral value the
Puritan ideology contained was
lost, and so the triumph of the
Liberal evolutionary ideology be-
came a victory for an even less
humane view of social values.
Now "the fittest" who survived
(who - were on top socially)
were, by definition, the ones who
had the right (power) to en-
force their idea of social values.
At least in Puritan America this
included the idea of a commu-
nity of men. Now, with the
ascendency of the Liberal ruling
class, community was replaced
by a politically crippling ideology
of total individualism.
THE LEADERS of the progres-
sive (and loyal) opposition
knew well what the ruling class
was up to. Wasserman quotes
one of them, Tom Watson, who
"You are kept apart that
you may be separately fleeced
of your earnings. You are

made to hate each other be-
cause upon that hatred is
rested the keystone of the arch
of financial despotism that en-
slaves you both."
Not only was Wasserman able
to find such statements, but he
was able to document the con-
sequences of a failure to unite.
A generation after Watson, un-
der the guise of wartime secur-
ity measures, the Wilson admin-
istration (of making the world
safe for de mo c racy fame),
cracked down on the left pro-
gressive opposition:
"Under the cover of war the
government smashed 'Mother
Earth,' 'The Masses,' and the
entire Socialist and Wobbly
press. Four printings of James
Joyce's 'Ulysses' . . . were
confiscated and burned in pub-
lic . . . Mote than a quarter
of the Socialist party local
headquarters were b u r n e d,
blown up, or otherwise de-
ance of farmers and laborers,
created with such struggle after
the Civil War, was destroyed in
the twentieth century. In part
its collapse was caused by gov-
ernment oppression between the
two world wars. But this is not
the only reason. Today many of
the sons and daughters of that
alliance form a central pillar
of support for the Nixon admin-
istration-and this fact points to
the rest of the explanation. In a
larger sense the defeat of the
progressives is a testimony to
the capacity the ruling class has
for spreading its gospel of sur-
vival of the fittest. That gospel
was fed to the workers and farm-
ers who once supported the pro-
gressives. But while they were
being brainwashed by the world's
most effective propaganda ma-
chine-American media, particu-
larly radio and television - the
workers and farmers also were
bought off with that parade of
"consumer goods" we have
comestoscall progress. Progress
is what the people get from those
fittest who survived; but the



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Discover Emotion:
A Perfect Guide for Any Situation

The human race is unaware
of a powerful force of na-
: ture which, when it's recog-
nized, reveals a personal
guide for right and wrong.

We admit most disturbances stem
from wrong but not .thatthey all do.
However, conflict or an accident are
examples where both sides suffer over
the same wrong. So there is proof that
all disturbance results from wrong. This
allness ihakes the disturbing force of

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