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October 28, 1977 - Image 7

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1977-10-28

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The Michigan Daily-Friday, October 28, 1977-Page7

Go odbar'

falls short


its potential

A S THE WHITE credits ran across
the blackened screen at the end of
the first-night showing of Looking for
'Mr. Goodbar at Briarwood, a male
voice behind me boomed out a one-word
evaluation: "Boring!!" Seconds later a
female voice somewhere to the left cen-
ter shouted "Read the book!!" A
woman directly in front of me chimed
'in: "I want my money back! !"
I remain in doubt whether this un-
conventionally audible backlash was
simply a dissatisfied reaction to s
second-rate film, or possibly a
subliminal safety-valve response to a
motion picture so disturbing that some
form of vocalization was necessary as a
release. I suspect a measure of truth to
both motives, as I found myself absor-
bed in the same kind of duplexity;
Looking for Mr. Goodbar is at once a
deeply unsettling and a deeply disap-
pointing cinema work.
For months I had been unashamedly
rooting for this film, more than for any
comparable picture I can remember. I
wanted this one to be great, to be a
magnum trendsetter, a pivotal lan-
dmark in the torturously halting
progress of American movies toward
the thematic maturity necessary for
genuine art.
We are so in need of a breakthrough
film in the fundamental area of sex and
love, of the interminglings and
traumatic schisms these central
elements provoke in the lives of all of
us. When an abundant number of film
critics can pour and fawn over a piece
of grade-C cartoon-kinky trash like In
the Realm of the Senses, one realizes
just how alarmingly impoverished we
are in cinematically adult portrayals of
men, women and what they do for and
to each other. Looking for Mr. Goodbar
might have provided these goods;
ultimately, after much flashy audio-
visual pyrotechnics, it doesn't.
The film is based, of course, on Judith
Rossner's best-seller about Theresa,
Dunn (Diane Keaton), a young woman
immersed in a contradictory existence:
By day a devoted, loving teacher of

grade schoolers, by night a predatory
nomad, prowling bars and nightspots in
perpetual search of temporary gratifi-
cation, of the fleeting sexual warmth
which is all she claims to want. Embit-
tered by a childhood disease which left
her physically and psychically scarred,
she is unable and unwilling to make an
emotional commitment to anyhone
much beyond the limited boundaries of
the one night stand.
TERRY DESPISES the idea of mar-
riage, of having children, of the
whole idea of the family unit. While she
suffers poignantly from what she per-
ceives as a spiritual vacuum gnawing
at her iexistence, she continues to wan-
der, to search through ever darken
corners which ultimately lead to dis-
Although Rossner never really suc-
ceeded in unlocking the whys of the
paradoxes of Terry's life, her novel
remained an alarming and often
brilliant portrait of the agonizing dif-
ficulties in linking the conflicting
elements of one's personality into a
self-tolerable whole. The book itself
reads so cinematically that it should
have provided writer-director Richard
Brooks with ample opportunity not only

to effectively dramatize Rossner's
ideas but to lend them a greater degree
of illumination.
Unfortunately, Brooks has chosen at
nearly every turn to simplify what was
complex to render in unalloyed black
and white what was multi-textured
shades of gray. He botches chance after
chance to improve on the book; for
example, Rossner's attempt to depict a
muted, Jeykll-Hyde duality in Terry's
life style suffered from the imbalance
of devoting all of about four pages to
her protagonist's work with her school
children, with the bulk of the book given
over to her nocturnal scroungings.
Brooks succeeds in evening out the
night vs. day contrast, but, in an appar-
ent lack of trust in audience
sophistication, has gussied up Terry in-
to a positively angelic spiritual guide to
a class of deaf children, complete with
the one difficult student whom she of
course inspirationally breaks through
to, amidst sun-bathed smiles of joy and
love. How can such a healer become
such a slut when the sun goes down?
Good question. By heightening
Terry's paradoxes, Brooks transforms
the perplexing into the unbelievable. He
fairly swathes Terry with loving per-
sonality, especially within her own
family. While Rossner's heroine
remained profoundly resentful toward
her parents for simply not noticing her
spinal ailment, and was chronically en-
vious of her beautiful, favored older
,sister, the movie Terry oozes with
love and charity for Mom, Pop,
especially for Sis.

BpROOKS HAS rather pointlessly
moved Goodbar from its original
New York setting to an intentionally
anonymous urban locale, but much
more importantly he has yanked the
film out of the historical perspective of
the novel. Rossner's book was a
definitive period piece, spanning the
catharsis of the mid and late 1960's. It
was a crucial if indirect chronicle of the
beginnings of the equal rights
movement, of the evolving concept of
the Liberated Woman as embodied by
Terry's progression away from family
and traditional "women's values"
toward a genuine independence. It
was also an ominous account of the in-
troduction and increased reliance by
the upper middle class on the stimulus
of drugs to smooth and ease their of-
times quietly desperate existences.
Yet Brook's myopic decision to up-
date the film to the present renders
Rossner's depiction of sociological
evolution meaningless. Goodbar's new
70's backdrop lends an awfully tame
look to Terry's single-woman
liberation, her discovery of gay bars,
cocaine and nude sleep-ins. One won-
ders if she's been locked in her room for
the last ten years.
Rossner tended to project an an-
noying two-dimensional quality to the
main men in Terry's life; Brooks goes
the author one better by turning most of
the males into one-dimensional, often
raving stereotypes. Terry's withdrawn,
guilt-ridden father is played by Richard
Kiley as a shouting, guilt-dispensing
monster, a domestic tryant who
despises - non-Catholics, childless

women and humanity in general
(Terry, inexplicably; still loves him
Brooks distorts the delicate jux-
taposition of Terry's two enduring,
good-bad boyfriends, the carnal semi-
hood Tony and the chaste social
worker, James. The latter came across
in the novel as essentially a well-
meaning wimp; As portrayed by
William Atherton (looking garish in
curled red hair and black turtlenecks),
James comes across as a spiritual
compatriot to Anthony Perkins' Psycho
prototype. Atherton indulges in an Ac-
tor's Studio set of jerks, figets, wild-
eyed stares and a general stalking
goulishness that often casts him as a
much more potentially lethal threat to
Terry than is the supposedly evil Tony.
IRONICALLY, Richard Gere lends
his stud's role such a sensual warmth
and charm that Tony becomes the most
vibrantlysympathetic maleucharacter
in the film. His erratic but unabashed
and uncomplicated passion leaves the
other men looking like "so many
predatory cadavers.
Mr. Goodbar isn't a total loss; Brooks
is enough of a rrofessional that some of
the book's transition to film works.
Terry's interludes with Tony
convey beautifully the intricate love-
violence interplay that makes their,
relationship tick, and the picture's final

calamitous sequence is an exercise in
almost unbearable horror.
But such insights don's occur often in
the much-publicized sex scenes
which come across as unremarkable
and to some degree teasingly
old-fashioned. Brooks obscures
bodies with couches, TV sets and other
artifacts much as Playboy used to con-
ceal private portions of anatomies with
strategically-placed flower pots.
But then there is Diane Keaton. Until
Annie Hall, I refused to concede she
was an actress at all; now I'm ready to
admit she may be a great one. She
brings such a many-leveled synthesis
of sweet vulnerability and sadistic
ferocity to Terry Dunn that she
dominates and almost rescues the film
single-handedly. The competition bet-
ween her and Kathleen Quinlan for the
Oscar should be awesome to behold.
Sadly, Looking for Mr. Goodbar is
less than awesome. It is unavoidably
arresting and often riveting, but
brought painfully short, of the
monument it could have been. The vigil
goes on.
32F . IH., YPSILANTI 482-7130 -.

No one really knew.
Not the crowds who cheered him.
Not the women who made love to him.
Not thefamily who reached out to him.
No one until now. No one until her.

Author Dixon shows
wit and sensitivity

IN THE . WORLD on contemporary
fiction, Stephen Dixon is completely
unique. Writing in a style which cap-
tures the growing alienation and
dissatisfaction now threatening our
lives, Dixon's prose has made him one
of the most widely published fiction
writers of- this decade. Most unusual,
and perhaps the most enjoyable aspect
of Dixon's writing is his ability-to deal
with the absurdity of human
relationahips; he is -absolutely
humorous while remaining completely
realistic. Reading to a responsive
crowd in the Residential College
Tuesday evening, Dixon's direct
honesty and love of people, writing, and
life was made very clear.
Following an introduction describing
Dixon as "one of the most vital writers
of long and short fiction today," he
walked into the room saying, "I have
some bad news. I am not the Stephen
Dixon he was talking about. I came in
his place." There is no doubt that
Dixon is full of tricks, and in his playful
use of words, he performs every trick
Opening with "Joke," a recent and as
yet unpublished work about a man and
a woman in the process of getting un-
dressed, Dixon demonstrated his
ability to both read and write a style of
conversation which is entirely his own.
"Yes I say no I say all right I say take
it off," is just the beginning of his spar-
sely punctuated, non-stop, long-winding
Reading next from his first book en-
titled No Relief, Dixon attempted to
read "Last May," a story dealing with
the loneliness people feel during times
of death. In an emotional and deeply
human moment, Dixon stopped and
said, "I'm sorry. I just can't read
this. It's too personal. I just don't
know how it will hit me
sometimes."Throughout the entire
reading, however, there was a feelng
that Dixon was giving of himself in an
intensely personal way.
Dixon moved next to an excerpt from
the title story "No Relief": "I walk
across town. I go to several bars and
it's pretty much the same thing. The
woman are net the right type for me
and I am not *right for them. We do not
fit. I try to strike up a few conversations
... They avoid me. They say 'Yes,
that's right, nice night, no I already
have a drink, what you say? I think I
see someone I know, I have to go to the
ladies room, if you don't mind." I'd just
like not to speak, I really only came
here to hear the music and think, I'm
sure you understand.

- one else. Some other kind of man.
One they think they can feel more
comfortable than with me." Dixon's.
stories come from the inside; they rise
up from the bars, sidestreets, and sub-
ways of New York City, and are con-
tinually exploring the human relation-
ships of those who live there.
In another story entitled "Night,"
Dixon read a poetic account of the
overwhelming power of the dark.
"Night blooming night bleeding
night ... Damn you night. Your length
your stars your starlessness. .. You
miserable night why these miserable
Reading next from "Work," Dixon's
newest book about the modern
American Labor market, he demon-
strated once again his humorous view
of common life. Dixon writes: "Waiter
come here please. The pieces in my
salad are too large."
"I don't mean to sound rude maam,
but try and cut them with a knife and
fork. That's what everybody
does ... Thats the way the chef makes
them in the morning. He makes so
much of it. 2 garbage cans full. But
clean cans . .
"I don't want sociological ex-
planations. I want the same portion of
salad with all the pieces cut mouthsize
small but not for the mouth of a
In his last story, called "Speak,"
Dixon writes about an alienated man
who, alone in his room, is unable to
sleep or speak. "This is one day I can't
go on. No, yesterday I couldn't go on.
And the day before that."
Even in the most depressing
situations Dixon manages to find a
realistic humor, and one that is always
absurd. Dixon loves life, and at the
reading on Tuesday evening, it was
clear that not only he, but his writing
will go on.
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