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November 12, 1972 - Image 12

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Michigan Daily, 1972-11-12
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Page Four


Sunday, November 12, 1972

Sunday, November 12, 1972



of Ann Arbor, Inc.

"The 'message' film
is only one extreme
the tip-of a

socio-cultura I



1 1' i


4705 Washtenaw, Ann Arbor

.-- --

Sunday and Monday
Novmber 12 and 13
Aristophanes - Aristotle - Dumond - Fine - Gogol - Milio
- Petronius --- Sartre - Breton - Zola - The University of
Michigan: A Pictorial History - Female Sexuality - The
Assault on Privacy - Shakeseare's Critics - The Art of F. Scott
Fitsgerald -- Rebel Voices - The Satyricon - 9226 Kercheval
Books originally priced from $1.95 to $20.00
25c to $5.00

(continued from page 3)
broad-based popular sentiment which informs the
staple Hollywood diet, the "Love Story" of last or
any other year.
(History has borne this out with the witch-hunt-
ing of the McCarthy era. The Hollywood Ten's
vulnerability to persecution runs in direct propor-
tion to the extent their marked social concern iso-
lated them from the mass of their fellow film-
makers. The grimmest twist to date on the "au-
teur" theory.)
Inseparable as it is from this cultural base,
the "message" film worthy of its name could be
said to derive from a tension between what the
audience is led to expect and what the direc-
tor wishes to deliver. If this formulation holds, au-
thors White and Averson are seriously limiting
themselves from the beginning: they say at one
point "As goes the nation, so goes Hollywood" and
if we are to take them at their word it is only
outside Hollywood and hence outside much of
America's film history that we can look for the
majority of genuine "message" films.
What we are left with is a hodge podge of movies
in some way "making a point" - and their
number is legion. At one stage (considering con-
troversy over American war-involvement) the au-
thors say, "Hollywood, whose power structure gen-
erally hesitates to alienate any segment of the
Great Audience, was reluctant to take any overt
political stance." True no doubt. But one feels if
they have really understood their generalization,
they would more profitably concentrate on those
specific 'auteurs' (Frank Capra, for example) who
have seemed to salvage some measure of personal
and artistic identity from the levelling pressures
of their industry. If this would necessitate a basic
readjustment of their historical, cataloguing ap-
proach, it would nevertheless allow them to con-
front the major Hollywood achievem~nents more ser-
iously than they do.
Such reversion to the 'auteur' theory (jovially
applauded by these writers as "Gallic metaphys-
ics"), however, would then pull the book into the
province of an aesthetics which they consider
"elitist" and go on to repudiate with scorn: "The
elitist critics hold their aesthetic noses when they
ponder the often exaggerated situations and the
'deus ex machina" solutions found in pop cult.
They are equally condemnatory of people who read
detective thrillers when they should be reading, in
their opinion, more serious, enduring literature.
Whether melodrama per se is necessarily inferior
art begs the question . . ." Its unpleasant tone
apart, the principle behind this is sound. Unfortun-
ately they seem almost to abandon it with a sub-
sequent compromise: "On those rare occasions
when a film is able to shuck the conventions of
melodrama and still have the narrative pace and
fluidity to hold and entertain an audience, it
achieves what even the elitists begrudgingly ad-
mit is Art."
There seems to be, in sum, a mistaken pre-
mise informing this book: that popular culture is
an umbrella beneath which we can honorably be
sheltered from critical evaluation and discrimina-
tory processes. On a superficial level, their sup-
posed allegiance to what is, indeed, a desperately-
important cause (unsatisfied by liberal arts studies
or sociology alone) seems suspicious in the light
of their irritating tendency to name-drop from the
world of those "elitists"; "As T. S. Eliot wrote in
his poem 'The Hollow Men"', "what Dr. Samuel

Johnson called . . .", "to paraphrase Lord Ac-
ton . . .", "As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said
..." etc. tec.
On a more important level, they betray this
cause by an inverted snobbery which confuses the
unpretentious with an embattled provincialism:
it is easy to read this book and - barring two
references (names and no more) to Godard, two to
Eisenstein, one of Pudovkin, and two to Dziga
Vertov - assume that no cinema has existed out-
side the U.S. - an invidious suggestion under any
circumstances but never more when, in the Rus-
sians and European figures such as Godard, we
have perhaps the primary models for the "mes-
age" and/or quasi-political film-maker.
This apart, and on their own level, the authors
leave some gaping questions and omissions. Why,
for instance, no mention of Don Siegal's "Inva-
sion of the Body Snatchers"? Surely - under its
allegoric covering - this was the most striking
"message" film of its period, but in no way "elit-
ist" art. Why no mention of "Bonnie and Clyde"?
Why no mention of Roger Corman's "Bloody Ma-
ma", an impressive and important film springing
direct from a man who cut his teeth on the staple
Hollywood B-picture? Why no indication of that
cynical social awareness injected into the Holly-
wood of the 30th by former reporters such as Ben
Mecht and Herman Mankiewicz?
For what it's worth, one could go on to list ac-
tual inaccuracies (about the novel "Grapes of
Wrath", about the films "The Wild One" and
"The Victors") and summaries (e.g. of War-
"The big subject
is often a trap"
show's essay on the cowboy, Pauline Kael's on
"High Noon") so misleading as to be downright
travesties. Beyond that, broader questions, such
as why, if you're dealing with the recent work of
expatriate Kubrick, exclude recent films of exiled
and more politically "suspect" 'auteurs' such as
Jo Losey? Why - in heaven's name - recognize
the Hollywood Ten outrage and still sum up with
the flag-waving comment that America "has nev-
er hesitated to examine its failures via the public
media," has always shown "eagerness to allow
diversity of thought," and to air its "dirty linen
before the scrutiny of our world neighbors?" "Only
a society as sure of its identity as ours," they
claim, with an absence of irony so complete it's
almost impressive "can afford such openness."
The American film-critic Andrew Sarris once
made a remark authors White and Averson have
seen fit to quote but not to learn from: "The Big
Subject is as often a trap as an opportunity."
Beyond their own disservice to film-criticism,
their addition of one more expendable volume to
its own library, these writers force one into an at-
titude of "Leave us your photographs" (over two
hundred in number, they are the only good thing
in the book) "and forget about Social Relevance."
That they. should do is a crime, for their con-
spicuous failure to confront their theme seems
to throw one back to the old deceptions of the New
Criticism: the super-alienated dissection of the
isolated art-work. Bertolt Brecht had an answer
for most things and, while we wait for a realiza-
tion of those opportunities The Celluloid Weapon
flunked, it is worth holding on to one of them:
"As long as the social function of the film is not
criticized, then all film criticism is symptomatic
criticism and itself has a symptomatic character.
It exhausts itself on questions of taste and re-
mains completely imprisoned in class prejudice.
It never recognizes that taste is merchandise
and the weapon of a particular class, but rather it
sets taste up as an absolute which everyone has
access to, which everyone can buy, even if, in
fact, everyone cannot pay."

Letters from prisoners

socIr TY casts a fearful glance
at its prisons. Popular myth-
ology once fought such an asser-
tion; only criminals should cringc
at the sight of rows of concrete
and steel cubicles, it said. Some-
how, that changed. Or perhaps we
simply became more aware that
what we believed was indeed a
myth. Not only do the innocent
sometimes go to jail, but the guilty
only become more "criminal" by
being made outcasts. Born are
characters desperate enough to riot
against armed guards, or so pas-
sive they are literally destroyed
by the experience of being im-

prisoned. For all the expense, so-
ciety does not benefit; in fact, the
human loss is enormous.
None of this is news to us now,
but knowledge of the prison reality
is still sketchy. What do we really
know about the people inside and
the lives they lead? In a violent
society, self-protection and ven-
geance too often subordinate any
larger concern, much as the offen-
der seldom sees the long-range
consequences of his act. The
knowledge that a better approach
is needed does not in itself bring
a change.
The letters below are from

three prisoners who asked their
feelings and experiences be shared
with those on the "outside." They
are members of a movement scat-
tered throughout the prisons of
this country aimed at establishing
the fact that prisoners do indeed
have rights. The right to bargain
for more than the average 25
cents/day wage. The right to have
conjugal visits. The right to an ed-
ucation, medical treatment and
humane conditions. Above all, re-
course beyond the arbitrary, and
often brutal, rule of prison admin-

AM JUST ONE of the many
thousand state and federal
prisoners whose problems and
torments have been cruelly com-
plicated and hopelessly increased
as a result of the present bar-
baric system of retributive jus-
tice. Judging from my own sad
experiences and the experiences
of countless others, as I hear
them being bitterly related al-
most every day, this system, the
fundamental concepts of which
have not been essentially changed
in nearly three centuries, sim-
ply does ont serve the purpose
for which it was intended. Al-
though becoming more and more
expensive to administer with
each passing year, there is hard-
ly a trace of evidence to suggest
that it actually helps to reduce
crime or, in the ultimate sense,
to protect society. More often
than not, the convicted offender,
who it is pledged to rehabilitate,
is only further frustrated, op-
pressed, hardened, and embit-
tered. The property loss result-
ing from the offenses of perhaps
90 per cent of convicted law-
breakers actually amounts to
less than three or four hundred
dollars, while the accumulated
cost of their elaborate court pro-
cedures, their years of unproduc-
tive confinement, and the in-
evitable post-release "supervi-
sion" which in some ways is
often even more frustrating and
harassing than jail, must fre-
quently exceed twenty-five or
thirty thousand d o l1 a r s! But
while the economic waste of this
colossal failure may be deplor-
able, the human waste it pro-
duces is absolutely tragic.tThere
is probably no' sickness, disease,
war ,or despotic tyranny in the
history of mankind that has con-
sistently taken from us so many
of the young, and without killing,
mutilated their lives so irre-
deemably, as has the system of
punitive justice as prescribed in
this most prosperous and pur-
portedly educated nation in the
Without the safeguards of due
process in conjunction with the
ban against cruel and unusual
punishment, convicts have been
beaten, chained and strapped to
specially constructed steel bunks
for hours, days, and even
months, being forced to defile
their persons and lie in human
waste. Convicts have been tear-
gassed in cells. Cells that are
isolated with the prisoner behind
closed doors where he remains
for days, weeks, months, and in
some cases, even years in the
Segregation Building.
Prison administrators are cor-
rupted by their own dogmatic
and self-righteous interpretation
of humane treatment, and view
segregation with all its ramifica-
tions as a necessary disciplinary
Disciplinary proceedings at
Leavenworth are a sham. Pub-
lished and unpublished rules and
regulations a r e enforced by
members of the institution disci-
plinary committee. A convict is
guilty when the guard writes the
conduct report. The best report
is: "Investigation." When they
Just think you might have done

something! "THINK?" You
If one cannot negotiate with
human power as a relative equal,
he has only a limited number of
alternatives. (1) He can submit,
and become a vegetable. (2) He
can resist, and become an out-
law. (3) There is another alter-
native, more seductive; he can
turn to the use of force.
Let us not forget that we are
lawbreakers and we are being
punished for our crimes, having
said that one should also recog-
nize that punishment is one thing,
cruel and abusive treatment is
another. Shouldn't prisoners be
at least treated like Jews? Call
Hitler, get 'your gas chambers,
and firing squads, and let's re-
habilitate them. Let's correct

acknowledgement in determining
release. And, the condition of a
prisoner's emotions is only con-
sidered when his desperation gets
out of hand. Every prisoner lives
with the fear which consumed
them, so his acts of defiance and
usurpation of control over his
own being musttberdown-played
so it does not catch on or jeo-
pardize careers or lead to other
kinds of protest.
A prisoner has almost all of his
identity snatched from him. He
is alone in a crowded ghetto
berefit of community and con-
cern. He has no control over his
daily routine. The act of protest,
violence, does reclaim some of
this . . . but at the expense of
life. Prison life . . . Most men
will endure and wait, they will

"We are deprived
of our sexual
identity . ..
IN ADDITION to the daily degra-
dation we are also literally
stripped of ourrsexual identity.
This is one of the most inherent
rights endowed t4 man ,and for
a system to forcefully and method-
ically deprive an individual of this
right is not only a crime against
the individual but against society
in general. We will, one day, re-
turn to our respective communities
in an attempt to remold our shat-
tered lives and it is these com-
munities which will suffer as a re-
sult of the hatred, apprehension
and sexual frustration instilled in
us by arbitrary, capricious and
discriminatory administrators.
The prison administration con-
stantly reiterates the theme that
conjugal visits, furloughs and ear-
ly releases are being considered.
They, however, have failed to im-
plement any meaningful policies
by which an inmate can attempt to
hold his family together until his
release. It would appear that the
faulty policies presently in effect
coerce the inmates' family to sever
all ties during his immurement.
The courts have ruled that a loss
of consortium (or a loss of sexual
service of one's spouse) can be
successfully tried in civil suits.
The courts refer to it as "pain and
suffering" caused by the inability
to carry on a natural and tension-
relieving marital act due to the
injury of one's spouse in marriage.
This can take on a broader mean-
ing. If the courts have ruled that
consortium is a violation of a pri-
vate law, then why must thousands
of men and women housed in the
Ohio penal system be deprived of
this natural and tension-relieving
marital act?
The average grade level of all
inmates is 8.0. Should an inmate be
condemned for not containing him-
self sexually? Should he be expect-
ed to practice sublimation and to
transmute the forces that drive his
desires to more socially acceptable
channels? The less fortunate in-
mates are indirectly forced to par-
ticipate in homosexuality and bes-
tiality arising from the fact that
he is totally unaware of the func-
tioning of his sexuality and how
to cope with it.
I, personally, have been deprived
of the mate of my choice for such
a painfully long time that when I
view a picture of a woman, other
than to admire her aesthetically,
my entire being screams out just
to touch her. It seems as though
the vibrations turn me inside out
and I find myself stripped bare. I
want to say to someone, "Look, I
really do need you." We can say, I
love you 27 times a day, but it's
not like saying, "Look, here I am,
vomit and all, sick and frightened.
Recognize my need and my hu-
manity." Will there ever be a day
when our needs and humanity are
recognized, or will we continue
to be forced to react as perverted
sex-starved maniacs?
It strikes me as being quite pa-
thetic that after the giant step
taken to implement the "Gilligan
Plan on Consorship" that a ban
is still unnecessarily enforced on
one of the most popular maga-
zines in America, mainly, Play-


who a
on the
not of
real. 'T
ters a
pond a

Attica guards, Oct., 1971


m YEr clrc.~+ tJ~l

At the



Super Breakfast Menu
* eggs; ham, bacon, or sausage or any
omelette on our menu
o with toast & coffee or tea
" Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-1 1 a.m.
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Ann Arbor, Mich.

them . . . Let's kill them . . .
"Bury us, deep, society, lest we
come back and haunt you."
We have begged understand-
ing for the lashing out and the
desnerate impossible r e v o 1 t s.
When you stop and consider, the
weeks and months between erup-
tions are really a miracle, when
at present, we "cons" have as-
sumed the universal hatred for
guards and are struck by an ex-
pression of sentiment that seems
quite out of place in this nest
dominated by the big eagle (gov-
It is impossible to hate a person
like him (the guard) . . . He re-
quires pity, for with him it is a
matter of having a free body but
an imprisoned mind and spirit
.. . for how else could a person
accept his job wherein he is paid
his silver at the expense of so
many others' misery? We live the
day to day existence of men
locked in cages, kept by people
who would be fired by any zoo
in the world. It is a luxury to
have hot water? In America? In
1972? In Leavenworth, in the ad-
justment center known as "63"
building, we are allowed two
cereal bowls of hot water a week.
In prison, rehabilitation is a
very personal effort which re-
ceives very little real official

exist in this welfare state . . .
For regardless of how badly we
are treated, we shall always
have "HOPE".
Your mind, your consciousness,
is the only thing this system
fears . . . The mind is the only
thing capable of understanding
and identifying this system's ul-
terior motives and then branding
them with their proper names.
EVIL. What is so truly shocking
about this is that this man or
system, if examined and eval-
uated by present standards, can
be termed brilliant. Here is a
man or system whose job it is to
aid in my so-called rehabilita-
tion, a man who has the capacity
to understand the present situa-
tion in this PRISON, yet the real
monster is this man or system
.mbut who also has the bold-
faced audacity totell me that
he is a good and moral man or
system. The penal system, the
prison, needs to change. It is not
effective as it now stands. We
are here. We need your help,
your time, your concern. We
will help in any way we can,
but we are waiting for you to
come to us . . . WE CAN'T
Robert Welge
No. 92397-131
P.O. Box 1000
Leavenworth, Kansas 66048




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