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January 12, 1978 - Image 6

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1978-01-12

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Page 6-Thursday, January 12, 1978-The Michigan Daily
Cose Encounters.

Alien tour deforce

haughtily at the phenomenal
success of Jaws two years ago, yet even
those most critical of its overt commer-
cialism had to concede Jaws' standing
as a brilliantly-executed example of
audience manipulation. Close Encoun-
ters of the Third Kind, written and di-
rected by Jaws director Steven Spiel-
berg, demonstrates that its creator is
far more than a master entertainer in
the Hitchcockian sense.
His new film, which concerns a visit
from other-wordly aliens who ride
around in UFOs, is an optimistic, spirit-
ually refreshing journey through man's
most mythic fantasies, as well as a
technically-superb celebration of the
film medium and all it can be. I can of-
fhand think of ng other film that has the
pure visual majesty of Close Encount-
ers, or achieves its effects with such su-
preme simplicity of feeling.
It is ironic that Close Encounters may
well go down as the science fiction film
of 1977, the year of Star Wars. The fact
is that I was never particularly
enamored of Star Wars, as the only
vaguely human emotion it seemed to
issue was a frenetic excitement that left
the viewer pummeled. Though lauded
to heaven as a film for the child in all of
us, Star Wars seemed strangely cold
and lacking in this effect; despite the
technically virtuostic special effects,
the only genuinely child-like aspect of
Lucas' intergalactic western was the

irritating, fairy-tale sensibility of the
plot, and the whole thing was so
unabashedly slam-bang that one expec-
ted cries of "Head'em off at the pass!"
during the climactic space-race.
truly for the child in us, if such can be
said of any film, for Spielberg imbues
the potential vastness of the medium
with a feeling of mysticism and
largeness Star Wars never comes close
to capturing. In this respect the design
of Close Encounters is nearer that of
2001: A Space Odyssey, yet the com-
parison is misleading since Spielberg
forsakes Kubrick's intellectual and of-
ten dry formulations for the pure and
utter beauty of an extraterrestrial
The questions of human progress and
destiny that form a thematic sub-text
for 2001 are gently understated by
Spielberg, who wants you to share in
the beauty of his vision free of conflict
and detached comtemplation. Above all
else, it is Spielberg's instinctive aware-
ness of what film can do - his ability to
exploit the characteristics offilm no
other art form can even approximate -
that makes Close Encounters such a
satisfying film experience, and one not
likely to be digested and forgotten im-
mediately upon leaving the theatre.
The film draws one into its vision
slowly and inevitably, its Hitchcockian
plot climbing from utter domestic nor-
mality to an overpowering climax. Roy
Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), a power-
lineman from Muncie, Indiana, is sent
out to investigate a black-out and has a
close encounter with an extraterres-
trial spaceship. Spielberg and special
effects ace Douglas Trumball (of 2001
fame) have conceived these alienships
with inspired brilliance - barely
collections of brightly-colored light,
they whisk through the night sky as if
FOLLOWING HIS encounter, Drey-
fuss becomes completely mesmerized
- not by fear, or any fanatical desire
that everyone believe him, but by won-
der. This sensation, transcending any
earthly commitments and shared by all
who have contact with the aliens, is the
very force behind Spielberg's film: an
overwhelming passion to know what
lies beyond the final frontier. Dreyfuss
becomes obsessed with a mysterious,
flat-topped mountain shape. He sees it

in his shaving cream, a crumpled
pillow, and generally everywhere he
looks, and is sure it means "something
important." His kids and wimpy wife
(Teri Garr) are forgotten; his single
desire becomes to discover what the
shape means, and thereby make sense
bf whatever he saw that night.
Dreyfuss portrays this inner-driven
soul with convincing intensity, but
Spielberg does a less admirable job of
handling the ensuing family conflicts,
often laying on the idea of the mun-
daneness of everyday life too thick to
maintain the expectant tension so vital
to the film's sense of forward move-
ment. A scene where Dreyfuss sculpts
the mountain shape from his mashed
potatoes is funny and touching - his
family gets more than mildly upset,
thinking poor dad's gone bonkers - yet

in pursuit of the light that has shown it-
self at his window. When he is inex-
plicably kidnapped by the aliens and we
see the lights of foreign spaceships dis-
appear into 'the clouds, transforming
the sky into a great, surreal sunset,
there is a strange sensation that he is
somehow in good hands. Spielberg's use
of a young child is ingenious; Barry
seems to represent man's curiosity
toward the unknown in its purest state.
WHILE ALL THIS has been going on,
A French scientist named Lacombe
(Francois Truffaut) has been fran-
tically hauling his team over the globe
in pursuit of clues to the whereabouts of
potential UFOs. They discover five
World War II bombers that mysteri-
ously disappeared in 1945, then journey
' to India where a primitive tribe is chan-
ting a five-note succession they claim

'Close Encounters is an


spiritually refreshing journey thro
man's most mythic fantasies, as well
technically-superb celebration of

as a

berg uses the peculiarly awesome land-
mark of Devil's Tower as Kubrick used
the monolith in 2001 - the obsession
with the mountain as a source of
mystery and answer to fundamental
questions of human destiny suggests
man's desperate, insurmountable
struggle to understand the cosmos.
Spielberg unfortunately overloads
the middle third of the film with chase
scenes intended to heighten the sus-
pense, at one point making a clumsy
hommage to North by Northwest when
Dreyfuss and Dillon elude army heli-
copters on the steep, rocky slopes of
Devil's Tower. However, the two of
them eventually reach the crater on the
mountain's other side, where Truffaut
and his team have hastily erected a
"mission control" with which to meet
the aliens.
It is here that Spielberg lays down his
cards, creating a dazzling display of
imagination and technical wizardry
that simultaneously manages to be
playful, imagistically gorgeous and
mystical. After a number of small alien
ships arrive, flooding the mountain
with their floating luminosity, everyone
stands in silent anticipation of
whatever it is they have journeyed so
far to see.
Slowly, ominously, over the plateau
of Devil's Tower, drifts the mother ship
- an elaborate, brilliantly-lit Christ-
mas tree ornament the size of Disney-
world. As it touches down, practically
blocking the night sky from view, a syn-
thesizer fixed to a giant light-board
beeps out the five-note theme as a sort
of communicative password, and the
spectacular craft answers with broad
tuba tones designed to teach the earth
computer the rudiments of the aliens'
musical language. A short dialogue of
music and light takes place, and the
moment has a magic, joyful quality
that is absolutely enchanting.
THIS MUSICAL light-show is indeed
so spectacular in its magnitude, that
the appearance of real live alien
creatures (and boy, are they cute)

comes as almost an anti-climax. It is a
tribute to Spielberg's genius, however,
that the final 20 minutes of Close En-
counters avoids the pop-religious
gushing it could so easily have slipped
The fact is that this' meeting of two
worlds, though benign, retains an am-
bience of mystery and simple innocen-
ce that affirms Spielberg's vision
without hackneyed heart-wrenching.
That the climax comes as the
fulfillment of a benevolent dream
doesn't detract from the film's dignity,
any more than did the positive image of
the star-child (of which the first crea-
ture to step out is obviously derivative)
at the conclusion of 2001. Close En-
counters' joyful depiction of an ex-
traterrestrial visit may not be overly-
profound myth, but Spielberg's sense of
visual spectacle is ultimately exhiler-
ating in its grandeur.
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - ,Gov.
Rudy Perpich has begun a program
aimed at cutting down on the number
of paperwork forms circulating in
state government. But the agency in
charge of forms reduction recently
sent other agencies a set of instruc-
tions on how to reduce paperwork.
The instructions totaled 16 pages.

film medium and all it can be.'

another in which he frantically uplifts
his shruberies and neighbor's fences is
comedy a la Disney that drags on too
long. The depiction of domestic regu-
larity that traps Dreyfuss is rescued
from tedium, in several instances, only
by his bumbling charm.,
In another part of -Muncie, a young
widow (Melinda Dillon) and her four-
year-old son Barry also see the space-
ships, and are soon overtaken by the
obsessive visions sightings inspire. The
sequences with young Barry are
exquisitely-realised expressions of
child-like innocence and wonder, as he
scampers across a barren, star-lit field.

has come from the sky. Using high-
powered tools of mathematics, Truf-
faut's team translates this theme into a
geographical marcation of Devil's
Tower in Wyoming - the mountainous
shape Dreyfuss keeps seeing - for
which they immediately set off to ren-
dezvous with the aliens.
The scientists effectively evacuate
the area by concocting a phony story
about a poisonous nerve gas disaster,
but Dreyfuss and Dillon, as well as a
dozen others who've seen the space-
ships, get a glimpse of Devil's Tower on
television and are compelled to the area
oblivious of family and friends. Spiel-

D. W. Griffith's 1915
Woodrow.Wilson said that this first
big feature film was "History made
with lighting." Griffith's epic of the
Civl War and Reconstruction stars
the seemingly ageless LILLIAN GISH,
High quality print complete and
tinted -with the some colors as the
original. What the Silents really
looked like.
Fri. Copro's
You Can't Take it With You
Tonight at 7 &9:45
Old Arch. Aud.

D ESPITE ITS prestigious label,
The Alice Cooper Show should be
sold on late-night TV, not in record
shops. Shame. on Bob Ezrin, who
helped create some of Alice's great-
est triumphs, including Billion Dollar
Babies and Killer, for producing' this
shoddy rendering of Cooper in con-
cert. Shame on Alice forbecoming
such a slick performer, walking
Sinatra-like through a series of old
chestnuts to the accompaniment of
suspiciously tidy applause.
Alice was a mythological figure in
the early 70s, just as Kiss is now to a
new generation of adolescents. Al-
though not as crude a showman as
Gene Simmonsrwho delights audi-
ences with a flick of hisserpen-
tine tongue, Cooper could outdo
Simmons for sheer shock value.
During the "Dead Babies" rage, an
indignant Ann Landers correspon-
dent complained that her daughter
fainted after witnessing a mascaraed
degenerate fondling a boa constric-
tor, hacking a "blood"-filled baby
doll to bits, and then hanging himself.
Cooper had a touch of the circus geek
about him; rumors circulated that he
murdered live chickens and kittens
Has Alice's art evolved, Beatle-~
like, from rough beginnings? As he
slips into middle age, he seems to be
abandoning his former Grand Guig-
nol antics for an easy listening style,
with such tunes as "You and Me" and
"I Never Cry." Although this album
includes a few of his earlier "sick"
songs, he seems a bit apologetic for
his youthful excesses.
an older. more easily revulsed

audience, he now tosses off loaded
lines like "While friends and lovers
mourn your silly grave/I have other
uses for you darling." The old Cooper
appears only momentarily on this
K-tel version of Alice's Greatest Hits
(not one of the tunes on this record is
new), during "Eighteen," whichhe
delivers-with the raspy }passion oa
Phoenix; ArizonaPeter Lorre, -
The live album is a well-estab-
lished rock convention, and Alice's
producers must have felt duty-bound
to make one. This is a mistake, I
think, because Cooper in concert (at
least on this recording) isn't that
interesting. His new, gentler sound,
exemplified by "Only Women Bleed"
and "You and Me," comes across
well here, but his stranger songs

seem flat in comparison with earlier
studio versions. Studio production
adds mood and effects to his music
that just can't be engineered in a
stage performance.
THE STUDIO recording of ','11Love
the bead" on Billion Dollar Babies is
a masterpiece of seductive morbid-
ity, a utiliziig sinister guitar riffs,
neurotic violins and phased passages
of Alice gasping in sexual ecstacv.
while its live counterpart is dull.
"Billion Dollar Babies" should be a
duet. Alice does it alone, but without
Donovan's sepulchral descant he
sounds as if he is trying to be in two
places at one time. Happily, "Black
Widow" does include Vincent Price's

latest: Stagnation personified

prerecorded, impassioned introduc-
tion ("I feel that man has ruled this
world as a stumbling, demented
child-king long enough! And as his
empire crumbles, my precious black
Shoddy as The Alice Cooper Show
is, it documents an intriguing mid-
life identity crisis: snarling, mas-
caraed ghoul or the new Mel Torme?
Who knows where Cooper's new,
found conservatism will end? Per-
haps by 1984 he will have dropped
Alice altogether and reverted to his
true identity of Vince Furnier, the
minister's son, truly sorry for the
shocking way he acted in his callow
youth. Mick Jagger said it well:
"What a drag it is getting old."

'Foot Loose'
R OD STEWART, the Scottish Lon- the few s
doner with the gravel voice, has they'll sti
been around for years, but his solo The ne
talent wasn't apparent until 1971 has Stew,
when "Maggie May" scored his first before ha
hit single. A quick scan of his other more for
hit singles, "I'm Losing You", "To- number t
night's the Night", "Stay With Me", ly, "I've f
and most recently, "You're in My of the all
Heart", tells you much about his rock single, "I
persona. aft had
Rod is a combination of the macho play as a
lady-killer and the used and abused a track1
introvert, and Rod the Mod, as he is before iti
known in England, has released inane ref
another album which perpetuates seem tor
this almost schizophrenic image. It's think ofr
called Foot Loose and Fancy Free to make
(Warner Bros. BSK-3092). It is a best, an
collection of hard rockers and gentle shameles
ballads, that, with a number of ex- number o
ceptions, can be enjoyed by the
casual listener as well as the STEWA
Stewart-phile. While a few of these the next
songs become intolerable after a few imaginat
listenings, there are some which are strong in
destined to become, if not rock clas- excellent
sics, then certified Stewart classics. slowdown
The album starts out with the best appreciat
track. "Hot Legs" is a complete do, as "E
switch from "Tonight's the Night". fair amo
This time, poor Rod laments that the deserved
girl with the hot legs is wearing him Side tw
out. The melody and tempo bears a one, but
resemblance to David Bowie's "Jean postpone
Genie". All together, the song really Me Hang
kicks and is receiving a great deal of numberc
airplay as a result. I feel this song is Stewart a
easily as good as the highest, energy his inter

cker and will be
ongs off of this
ill be playing in t
xt track, "You'
art at his vocal1
is he spat out the
ce than on this
that lyrically sa
had it". The next
bum's absolute
You're in My Hea
received tremet
result. It is, un
that gets on or
is over for the fir
frain and atroc
ramble like theN
no more rhymes
a song that is
d a thinly disc
sly commercial
one hit.

too fan cy free
come one of believe that the song was written for
album that him. Stewart's version won't take the
en years. place of the Supremes classic, but it's
re Insane," a good cover nonetheless. The next
best. Never track, "(If Loving You is Wrong) I
lyrics with Don't Want to be Right", fails as a
hard rck conyincing cover. Try as he might,
ys, gsica- the song plods along and Stewart is
song is one unable to inject any new life into the
worst. The old soul standard.
art", is a hit Stewart takes a nosedive on the
ndous over- next track. "You Got a Nerve" is
fortunately, lyrically silly. Stewart resorts to his
ne's nerves marathon rhyming for verses and the
rst time. An instrumentation, a sorry and con-
:ious lyrics fused stab at latino, makes the whole
writer could song a waste of time. The last song
s, combines fails to drag the quality up much. "I
juvenile at Was Only Joking" has a melody line
guised and that is extremely similar to "You're
1 shot at a in My Heart". The lyrics here aren't

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ART REDEEMS himself in
track. "Born Loose" is an
ive song that is extremely
strumentally, featuring an
lead-in and a mid-song
n that must be heard to be
Ied. That is not too hard to
Born Loose" is receiving a
unt of airplay, which was
in this case.
No is far weaker than side
the first track seems to
the inevitable. "You Keep
ing On", the old Supremes
one hit of 1966, is done by
at half the original speed and
pretation would make you

PP%%C~t 1 AIN A -6 AC--OW$
., ww w^ r% n n vt & u.nn r,~ f

Rod Stewart

too bad and the ending is especially
nice. But after such a killer first side,
it's hard to get excited about any of
side two material.
Reeaue it is nrimarily the rnrkers

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