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September 21, 1977 - Image 5

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1977-09-21

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The Michigan Daily-Wednesday, September 21, 1977-Page 5 -

Bob.*--

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Japanese film overrated

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By CHRISTOPHER POTTER
They don't make good sex flicks in'
America. They don't make good sex
flicks very often anywhere else in the
world, either. Part of this failure lies in
a chronic dual definition of the term: a
sex film usually means just what it im-
plies - a hard-core, low-budget no-plot
quickie; a film about sex could imply a"
great deal more in relevance to the hu-
man condition, yet even our best film-
makers seem shackled in such latter
endeavors by the very existence of their
stigma-threatening, cheapie-
exploitation breathren, not to mention
the collective weight of Hollywood's
venerably protracted don't-offend-
anyone paranois.-
Although considerably more than
half a century has passed since good
Dr. Freud concluded that sex is the sun
the human psyche revolves around, this
ostensibly all-consuming subject was
for years restricted cinematically to
two polarized extremes: either straight
story with no sex, or straight sex with
no story. Carnality may be the obses-
sion of our lives, yet in the movies the
human race was invariably presented
as, respectively, either all mind or all
genitalia:
Even now, immersed in our current
overdue age of liberation from cine-
matic taboos, sex is still treated as a
kind of tolerated orphan, consigned
largely as a moneymaking by-product
of whatever adventure, cops-and-rob-
bers or other mostly male-dominated
action is occupying center stage. And
even the relative handful of films bold
enough to make the subject its prime
preoccupation usually end up vulgariz-
ing the male-female complex into a
form of cartoonish timidity, as witness
Carnal Knowledge, Diary of a Mad
Housewife and other trivializations.
While every now and then a Last Tango
in Paris may shock the senses into self-
recognition, there seem always a half-
dozen films like Lipstick waiting in the
wings to zap us back into the comfort-
ing pit of fantasy garishness.
While the trend toward sexual expli-
citness still may make for occasional
halting gestures toward reality in main-

stream cinema, the corresponding skin-
flick genre has hardly produced a simi-
liar mating of the elements. To be sure,
the new openness has resulted in a dubi-
ous superstardom for a few athletically
prominent hard-core performers, but
the porn creators' determinedly slavish
devotion to bodies without brains con-
tinues unabated, a thematic malfe-
feasance as much out of kilter with the
here and now as were Andy Hardy's
romantic musings on the monastic end
of the celluloid pole.
The resultant starvation for films
containing at least the pretense of sex-
ual maturity may account in part for
the astonishingly rapturous welcome a
number of critics have accorded the re-
cent mass distribution of the Japanese
film In the Realm of the Senses. Much
of its fame had already preceeded its
arrival, thanks to the heavy-handed
bumblings of some of our myopic moral
guardians.
Following a brief appearance at last
year's New York Film Festival, Senses
was promptly seized by U.S. Customs
agents in the grandest I am Curious
Yellow tradition, and righteously de-
ported back to Japan. When the film
made a largely unchallenged reappear-
ance a couple of months ago, its newly-
annointed cause celebre status natural-
ly accorded it a much larger audience,
both high and low-brow, than would
have been true a year earlier.
Which is most unfortunate, because
Sense is a cheat and a fraud, taken
either on the pornographic or the main-
stream level. As a skinfilm it fails flatly
and boringly, its attemptsat tittilation
unpleasant and endlessly predictable.
As a supposed breakthrough commen-
tary on male-female relationships the
film is simply a joke, a rancid potboiler
not worth even a one-sentence commen-
tary were it not for the fact that some
crucial literary tastemakers have de-
cided to take this cardboard non-
work quite seriously indeed.
Although Senses contains a thread-
bare plot, it still remains at times al-,
most incomprehensible. As best I could
decipher, the storyline involves a young
prostitute named Sada, employed at a
high-class brothel operated by a hus-

band-and-wife team. The husband,
Kichi, takes an immediate and lascivi-
ous interest in his new employe, and the
two of them are soon humping away in
various locations and positions, usually
complete with a small, entranced audi-
ence of onlookers. (Voyeurism and ex-
hibitionism seem constantly crucial to
the film; it reminded me - unhumor-
ously - of the Woody Allen-Louise Las-
ser episode of Everything You Always
Wanted to Know About Sex.
Sada's .and Kichi's daliances gradu-
ally turn less frivolous and increasingly
intense, as the initially shy Sada be-
comes more and more the aggressor in
the relationship. Eventually the affair
turns downright deadly, with the in-
creasingly obsessed Sada first pseudo-
playfully, then literally strangling her
lover, with Kichi calmly, stoically ac-
quiescing to her ultimate act of love-
hate. Then, possibly in celebration a
male-female reversal of the Snuff
films, Sada proceeds to slice off the
dead Kichi's genitals in the most sto-
mach-erupting ,scene I have ever in-
voluntarily witnessed in a film. At the
end, physically and spiritually fulfilled,
Sada curls up next to her lifeless, man-
hood-less lover, bloody trophies in
hand. Sheer edification, folks.
Is all the gore in any way redeemed
by what may have sounded like a sub-
tle, intriguing character development?
Not on your life. Sada and Kichi are
given absolutely nothing to say about

themselves or each other, save the
standard grunts, groans and lewd utter-
ances standard to the skin genre. While
the two actors involved seem rather
more talented than their American E
zombie counterparts, they simply have
no material with which to build their .
roles into anything more than the paper
mache figures they remain to the end.
Technically, Senses' camera work may
be a bit sturdier than our grainy, jiggly .
domestic product, its music just a
shade less banal. Otherwise, the film's
aesthetic kinship to the Deep Throat
crowd is complete and inextractable.
Why, then, all the fuss? Anti-Puritan
frustration? The sheer, repressed des-
peration to turn dross into gold, no mat-
ter what the intellectual and moral
cost? I have no desire to play sociologi-
cal pundit; let me simply state that In
the Realm of the Senses is a cheapjack,
noxious imposter of a film which
carries about as much social-sexual
relevance as a worn-out vibrator. Sure-
ly we have a crying need for adult films
- just as surely we can find better
champions than this one.
PASS THE PEACEPIPE
The United States signed its first
Indian treaty on September 17, 1778
with the Delaware Indians. Later trea-
ties featured specially medals, many of
which are on display at Henry Ford ;,
Museum, Dearborn, Michigan

Q-eG~lpse

MASS

MEETING

Maybe this time

FOR 'USEIS
MICHIGAN UNION ASSEMBLY HALL
THURSDAY SEPT. 22
7:00 p.m.

Would-be dancers try out for roles in Musket's upcoming production of
Cabaret, premiering Nov. 3 and running .through Nov. 12.

Local art galleries: A sensual treat

By KAREN BORNSTEIN
After days of seeing nothing but
dreary, gray Ann Arbor rain, treat your
senses to the colors of The Contempor-
ary Miniature exhibit on view until
Sept. 30 in the University of Michigan
Gallery and John Brunsdon's Welsh
landscape etchings at the Alice Simsar
Gallery1on 301 North Main, on view un-
til Oct. 12.
"The best things come in small pack-
ages," is a phrase describing the cur-
rent exhibit, The Contemporary Minia-
ture. Miniatures, as the name implies
are small works of art, often times no
larger than a picture postcard. But
miniatures are tiny in size alone while
grand in every others aspect that con-
stitutes high quality art.

Miniatures include all forms of the
artistic media created on a small scale.
Oil paintings, etchings, woodcuts,
prints, sculpture, stitchery, and photo-
graphs are some of the 92 featured
works of 72 artists from the United
States and Canada.
These small artistic treasures are by
no means an addition to modern art.
Gallery director-Martha Reesman
says, "The miniature has been repre-
sented throughout history in all manner
of artistic expression.. This exhibit
demonstrates that works of art need not
be large to be of great artistic value,
and that the miniature still thrives."
Most of the miniatures demand that
the viewer look at them closely until he
or she is drawn into a separate world,
experiencing the intricacies of the

Romantic opera arias
are soprano' s forte

materials that are used. Each stitch,
line, or dab of paint is meant to be ex-
amined. The result is an intimate ex-
perience between the work and the
viewer.
For example, in Rita Dibert's "Rela-
tionship Fragment," strands of silver
braided wire are arranged on wood.
Upon closer examination sparkling
green and black threads are apparent
which add to the total effect of the work.
The idea for the show was originated
by Ralph Wolfe, printmaker'and for-
mer teacher at U-M's Residential Col-
lege. Jurors consisted of U-M history of
art Professor Clifton Old and School of
Art Professors Frank Cassara and
Lewis Sadler.
Besides chosing 92 works for display
from the 500 submitted, they also
awarded five prizes. Award winners
are Robert Mauro of Mantua, N.J. for
the serigraphs "Intervals, Twin,
Triad"; Harvey Gordon of Kalamazoo,"
MI for the watercolor "Flower Pot";
David Bigelow of Murfeesboro, Tenn.
for etching and watercolor "Blue
Bear"; Pat Garrett of Ann Arbor for
the metalwork "Josh in S. English";
and Nancy Hansen of Ann Arbor for the
pencil drawing "Pears".
"The Contemporary iniature", sup-
ported through a grant from the Michi-
gan Council for the Arts, is the first ex-
hibition of the Union Gallery's 1977-78
season. The gallery's hours are 10 a.m.
to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays,
and noon to 5 p.m. week-ends.
Much larger and more expansive
than miniatures are John Brunsdon's
"Welsh Landscapes." Brunsdon, born
in Cheltenham, England studied at the

Cheltenham College of Art and at the
Royal College of Art. Mr. Brunsdon has
exhibited extensively in both one man
and group exhibitions in Europe, Aus-
tralia, Japan, South Aerich', Canada,
New Zealand, and the United States.
The exhibit reflects Brunsdon's ex-
ploration of light and different atmo-
spheric qualities on the English coun-
tryside.
His etchings, once abstract, are cur-
rently more literal in composition. He
creates a large, general impression of a
landscape with huge, broad areas of
colors ranging from deep emerald
greens to sandy beiges. He explores ev-
ery possible shade of the colors he
chooses.
Unlike the miniatures that demand
intimate inspection, it is even more ef-
fective to step six feet back from the et-
chings. The color patches slowly begin
to fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw
puzzle and a very overall effect is
achieved. Despite the lack of detail
there is nothing ambiguous about the
landscapes and forms are always
recognizeable.
ViewingbBrunsdon's etchings is sim-
ilar to looking out of an airplane win-
dow five minutes after take off. Per-
spective changes, detail diminishes,
but instead of colors fading away they
remain bright, intense, and the very
opposite of a rainy Ann Arbor day.

SORORITIES
A'
SPECTRUM
OF EXPERIENCES
registration 9-14-21
in the f'shbowl
or call 663 -4505

r
r

b'
f

MASS MEETING SEPTEMBER 21
7:30 in the f i shbowl

By MELANIE POTASHc
Mirella Freni is the title of a newly-1
released Angel album consisting of op-
eratic. arias sung by that world-.
reknowned soprano - you guessed it -
Mirella Freni. Freni, known mostly for4
her interpretation of Mimi in La1
Boheme (a role she has sung in houses
from Seattle to Sydney - and one she1
does not quote on this disc), sings most-
ly from the same repertoire - Puccini,
Bellini, Donizetti, etc.1
Listeningto this album, one of songs
which could be called her "greatest
hits," I was able to get a reasonable feel
for what this woman can do. While it is
true that the full impact of the drama
and eotion that should characterize
any well-performed opera cannot be
appreciated when listening to a few
short arias on a record, Freni's talent
allows for beauty, serenity, and feeling
to exist even in the disembodied voice.
The clear and precise tones flow
smoothly along and seem to almost car-
ry you through the song. So many times
it can be an effort to simply listen to
such music,'yet not so with this brilliant.
soprano. None of the notes, no matter
how high the degree of difficulty, sound
forced or strained. Freni sings with
such natural ease that a type of music
often strange to the untrained ear be-
comes more familiar sounding.
The first piece on the album is a se-
laetinn frnm Mdame Rutterfly (one of

A major complaint about operas (and
one that I must say I frequently have
had myself) is that they are in a foreign
language making the story-line nearly
impossible to follow. However, a singer
who knows how to properly manipulate
vocal patterns can convey the plot as
clearly as if it were spelled out in the
boldest print. Such a person can, with a
simple change in inflection, invoke any-
thing from laughter to tears. Mirella
Freni seems quite capable in this re-
spect as she demonstrates in the selec-
tion from Verdi's La Traviata where
she skillfully communicates the tender
moment when true love is revealed.
Freni is famous simply for her seri-
ous works. In the course of her career,
Freni has had occasion -to associate
with some of the biggest names in opera
and music and she enjoys the praises of
them all. She is perhaps not as well
known in this country as in Europe but
this year's tour could indeed change
that.

All Grad Students interested in teaching
will find
G700
SEMINAR ON COLLEGE TEACHING
extremely useful in your own classes
THURSDAY, SEPT. 22-10-12 a.m.
Room 215 SEB

Contact Prof. Murray Jackson

764-9472

Perspective MMA Students

Cuiong Iluuugh Rprrauul Alaterialmn and Prclidcnt of Na op a IIII1III! c

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