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October 12, 1977 - Image 5

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Michigan Daily, 1977-10-12

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The Michigan Daily-Wednesday, October12, 1977-Page 5

Blake evokes mixed
responses atArk
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Wendy Goodman and Mike Taylor, reviewers who rarely experience a dif-
ference in opinion, split Monday night in their reactions to Nancy and Norman Blake, folk performers
who appeared that night at the Ark. Here is their argument.)
By WENDY GOODMAN and MIKE TAYLOR
GOODMAN: Blake immediately launched into a sharp guitar instru-
mental. His fingers danced upon the neck of the guitar like a cat on a hot tin
roof. The rest of his body did not move; in fact, his face was expressionless.
Despite the movement of his fingers, his arms and hands appeared limp. For
all the energy he was putting into the song, Blake could have been rubbing
the sleep out of his eyes.
TAYLOR: Blake's opening tunes, which he tossed out in dazzling rapid-
fire succession, were a remarkable display of electrifying energy. His forte
is flat pick guitar playing, so when he concentrated on the guitar, as he did
on the extended instrumental numbers that cropped up from time to time, he
was extraordinary.
GOODMAN: Blake's technical playing may have been superb, but his
performance was dull. He picked his way through the opening numbers with
as much enthusiasm as a third year medical student reciting the periodic
table of elements. His low energy performing style could have been com-
pensated for had he added more variety. His guitar instrumentals were too
long. At times he would sing as a change of pace, and he interspersed fiddle
tunes throughout the show to add spice, but these just didn't seem enough.
TAYLOR: Blake's magical guitar technique made the performance the
exciting event it was. His face may have seemed unenthusiastic, but his
energy was transmitted through his playing. Moreover, the show was filled
with variety; his material ranged from creative originals like Black Berry
Blossom to standards like Tom Dooley, and the duets with his wife Nancy
provided new directions for his music to turn.-
GOODMAN: When Nancy first came on stage, I thought to myself,
"she'll bring the missing vitality." Was Iever wrong! She seemed to have no
energy of her own, so when they played together, Blake was twice as dull.
Something worse also happened when they played duets; Blake went from
great to good in his guitar playing ability. Except for one excellent piece
with Norman on fiddle and Nancy on cello, these joint numbers were
definitely not highlights of the evening.
TAYLOR: It's true that Norman's guitar playing went downhill once
Nancy joined him, but the increased musical texture made up for this defect.
Nancy's cello and guitar playing were quiet, but effective, providing a solid
back drop for Norman's piceking and singing. Together, the two Blakes were
able to create relaxing music rich with imagery and emotion.
GOODMAN: The crowd applauded at the end of every song and
sometimes in the middle after Blake had mastered a particularly difficult
arrangement, but no one ever got involved in any of the hand clapping or foot
stomping that represents an essential part of folk music - audience partici-
pation.
TAYLOR: The audience was probably in a state 'much like the one I was
in. We watched in. awe, unable to believe that Blake's guitar playing was as
good as it seemed to be, and releasing our feelings in our applause each time
a song ended. Blake's guitar style was so melodic that the strings often
seemed to be harmonizing. Blake's singing voice was not especially good,
but it was capable enough to express his'lyrics clearly.
GOODMAN: His songs may have been good, but his singing was dull. It
lacked tonal variation. In addition, Blake smiled only three times during the
entire show, so it's possible he was just having a bad night. My stronger
feeling is that he has simply spent too much time bec9ming an artist and not
enough becominga performer.
TAYLOR: I left the show feeling good about it. Blake may have seemed
detached from his audience, but his technical ability more than outweighed
this flaw. I had heard the guitar playing of a master.
'iincoin Conspiracy'
con spiCuously inane

Russell's 'Valentino' fa

By OWEN GLEIBERMAN
Ken Russell is the one movie director
who shouldn't be making film biogra-
phies, as the only purpose the facts ser-
ve him is to break up his surging dis-
play of visual hyperbole. Russell's la-
test extravaganza, Valentino, offers
one as much insight into the legendary
silent screen star as would a two-para-
graph encyclopedia entry. The best that
can be said for it is that it avoids (for
the most part) being dull; At worst it is
pointless and artistically decadent
drivel.
Russell, who makes what are prob-
ably the most purely visual films of any
contemporary director, is simultane-
ously classically stylized and 60's-flam-
boyant. His films look great, and one
can't help but be overwhelmed by his
talent for gorgeous, glittering imagery.
If this was all there was to Russell then
his films might be pleasant enough, but
unfortunately he tries for something
more, and he fails miserably.
Following the trend of his numerous
composer biographies, Russell's Valen-
tino (Rudolph Nureyev) is the misun-
derstood artist who, following initial
public recognition, encounters mass ex-
ploitation and rejection. He is the inno-
cent hero, unable to endure against the
evil, insensitive world around him. The
artist vs. society idea might seem a bit
dubious when applied to a silent movie
celebrity, but it could have worked, had
Russell probed Valentino with the same
forceful imagination that pervades his
visual style. Alas, Russell's insight is
all but non-existent, and his method of

"explaining" characters by tossing in
odd "meaningful" tidbits from their
lives is hopelessly amateurish.
Juxtaposed with the elaborate visual
styling is the most meandering, junior-
high-play dialogue imaginable; Russell
is incabable of making a simple nar-
rative point without having one of his
characters methodically relate what is
going on. The plot flows awkwardly,

But such lack of exposition is to be ex-
peeted, as Russell doesn't know how to
show anything through the film
medium - he can only tell and explain.
Valentino never delves beyond the
characters' exteriors, and they interact
with each other in such a zombie-like
fashion that you feel you're watching an
aquarium. However it's not as if Rus-
sell didn't attempt otherwise: Valen-
tino always yearned to be an orange
grower, yet when the film tries for a
feeling of ,pathos and desperation -
Valentino is shown lying drunk on the
floor, grasping for a symbolic orange -
there's nothing to react to. The charac-
ter as presented is so cardboard thin,
that the film's meager attempts to "un-
derstand" him seem ludicrous and out
of place.
Russell's method is to convert the
whole world into a chamber of horrors,
thereby exalting his hero. But to say he
goes too far in this respect is to under-
state. A grotesque sequence in a jail is
so gratuitous, that it's obvious Russell
is basking in his role as king of shock
theatre. Russell isn't concerned with
consistency; if something looks good
(i.e. if it evokes a gut reaction), he
throws it in. Although I won't argue that
some find this method appealing, it
can't add up to more than a grab-bag of
pretty (or not-so-pretty) pictures.
Even Russell's surreal imagery has
its disadvantages in context, as it mere-
ly emphasizes the plodding obvious-
,ness of the dialogue. I have gone from
the opinion that Russell is horrible at
working with actors to thinking that he

Lls flat -
just doesn't care. Nureyev (why he took ;
this role, I'll never know) performs well
under the circumstances, creating a
convincingly honest and naive hero, but
there's nothing for him to take off from.
The dialogue is there either to be
screamed in a hypnotic frenzy or to im-
part plot information, in which case it
takes on all the character and interest
of a textbook. The events recalled in
Valentino don't add up to any sort of
truth about the man, just as the sup-
porting characters aren't established
beyond the point of cartoon villainry;
And Natasha (Michelle Phillips), Val;
entino's second wife, certainly doesn't
help matters with her excessively
wooden performance and irritating u14
tra-American accent.
Regardless of how imaginative Ked
Russell is, Valentino remains the most
skin-deep kind of movie, substituting
the crude, automatic response people
have to sensationalism for genuine
emotional involvement. Doubtless
there will be some who can get ofd
purely on Russell's photographic virttu
osity, but the made-for-television mo4
ie mentality of Valentino is too muco
for me to stomach. In his composer b
ographies, I believed in Russell enougo
to think that regardless of how far-out
his style was, it was all in attempts to
realize his intense non-verbal feelings
about music and some of the men whb
created it. With Valentino, Russell fail}
to come up with even a weak homage tp
the glory of stardom, leading me to be-
lieve that his lurid obsessions are a
pointless as they are extreme.

Nureyev
like a grid sheet of Valentino's life, as
Russell picks out (and exaggerates) the
events that best lend themselves to
juicy visual realization.
The story, related in flashback, is ir-
ritatingly choppy, as we -follow Valen-
tino from excessively humble begin-
nings as a two-bit dancer through his
blossoming film career. Along the way,
he kills a man, marries a few times,
and fights a boxing match to assert his
manhood, in deference to those who
think him a "powderpuff." By far the
most puzzling aspect of the movie is
that Russell has failed to exploit the
single characteristic that rendered
Valentino a legend - the rock star
charisma that could electrify crowds.
Valentino makes virtually no connec-
tion between the major characters and
the outside world that shapes their ac-
tions, leaving the viewer to imagine
how this dancer became the idol of so
many. Thirty seconds after the studio
heads risk all by signing Valentino, we
are informed that his first two films are
already hits, and the movie proceeds
from this premise of stardom.

UF'~S TV~il1'5pm

By DOBILAS MATULIONIS
The Lincoln Conspirary (at Briar-
wood) is, superficially, an inevitable
low-budget backlash of the "conspira-
cy" paranoia of the public conscious-
ness. Truly excellent films, such as
Alan J. Pakula's The Parallax View,
have explored these interesting con-
spiracy theories to a chilling
plausibility. Unfortunately, The Lin-
coln Conspiracy falls far short of any
kind of excellence as its intense, un-
relenting incompetence easily over-
shadows any miniscule virtues it might
have.
The poor quality of'the movie is pain-
fully obvious since its inferiority is
largely technical. The film fails to
follow the most basic and rudimen-
tary structures of narrative, not to
mention the essentials of artistic in-
sight. A decent story line, logical- plot
development and scene sequence, all of
which should be second nature to a
group of professional filmmakers, are
confused and distorted time and again.
The soundtrack of the film, with its
incessant drums, grates on one's ner-
ves while the actors turn in embar-
rassingly stilted performances. One
humorous example of the film's inept-
ness is the glaringly phony make up,
which is perhaps the worst I have ever
seen. The mustache of Bradford JIill-
man, who plays John Wilkes Booth, is
so artificial it has to be seen to be
believed.
The movie is a fragmentary series of
overblown, but meaningless mini-
dramas, and the budget was so low that
the climactic scene, Booth's famous
leap from the President's box onto the
stage and shouting "Sic semper tyran-
nis" was completely sacrificed.
Needless to say, a maddeningly mind-
less omission.
Nevertheless, Mr. Conway's inade-
quacy as a director is inexcusable. He
fails to elicit even passable perform-
ances from experienced actors, and his
attempt to exaggerate the importance
of banal dialogue by shooting low-
angle, a la Orson Welles, does not suc-
ceed. Conway seems to be incapable of
distinguishing between good and bad
scenes and between takes and outtakes.
This film, along with a series of other
bad films, supports the shocking fact
that there are other professional direc-
tors, not just Mr. Conway, who lack the
instinct and the good taste necessary to
make a tolerable film.
It is tempting, and quite easy, to de-

everyone connected with the film's
production either failed to realize its
coarseness or was powerless to do any-
thing about it.
To a cinema connoisseur, movies like
The Lincoln Conspirary are the sad
symptoms of Hollywood's chronic, but
not serious, B movie/exploitation sick-
ness. The film is a waste of time and
money, but its worst offense is a la-
mentable and, for the most part, unin-
tentional, mistreatment of a respected
medium. The latent tragedy of this film
is its depressing promise of more to
come, as long as a significant portion of
the cinema remains (by its very ex-
pense) in the control of businessmen
with vague and incorrect ideas about
quality entertainment.

%OIDUT OT TIItATlur CLIAN SOOHr[Tl [ iO
In Her 1927Sten
S $
Ar I
$3.50 Advance-54 50 at the door at Theatre Box
Office and TIX.INPO at Jacobson's J-Shop.ACC N
THURS. OCTOBER 13, 1977 MICHIGAN THEATRE
1:30,PM & 8:00 PM STATE & LIBERTY. ANN ARBO,

a

115-_t em? of, This product ion
ARENTA L GOANCE is Advised
Directed by NAFE KATTER
Featuring WILLIAM R. LEACH
Guest Artists in Residence
Wed.- Sat., Oct.12-15, 8 pm.
Sun.,..Oct.16, 2pm. only

Power Center
The Universityof Michigan
Professional Theatre Program
Guest Artist Series 1977-78
PTP Ticket Office
Michigan League Mon.Fri.10-1, 2-5p.m.
For infrmation CalT(313)764-0450
Tickt vaialehrou UDSON'S

{

FIRST UNIVERSITY SHOWCASE
THE FIRST BREEZE OF SUMMER
Oct.26-29 in Trueblood Theatre
Tickets Now On Sale!

THURSDAY
at NOON
OCTOBER 13
SANDY GROSS
of
Polk Audio
will hold an open house seminar and
discussion on loudspeakers; their de-
sign, philosophy and application.

F?. ab~Aut

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