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November 05, 1977 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1977-11-05

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The Michigan Doily--Saturday, November 5, 1977-Page $

I 0V.
Icy,'Deer field'flops
Bobby Deerfield, Sidney Pollack's latest ultra opus, predictably takes on
an air of such cosmic self-importance that its entertainment value is ren-
dered insignificent. The picture strains and strains for an immense, haun-
ting ly'icism, but comes out tedious, empty and very long. Its marginal
story centers on the title character, a champion Grand Prix driver (Al
Pacino) transplanted far from his New Jersey roots to the glamorous race
car circuit of Europe. Bobby is a professional life-evader; a cold, constricted
man voluntarily locked into a guarded, rigidlypatterned existence. As tne
beauteous Lillian (Marthe Keller), his eventual physical and spiritual
Prometheus, says accusingly: "You spend all your life trying to avoid
A DRAMATICALLY POTENT CHARGE, perhaps, but philosophically
illogical to the proceedings at hand. Bobby races autos, surely one of the
most hazardous and least entrenched professions available. Moreover, we
know he isn't just any old driver but a champion driver right up there hob-
nobbing with the celebrity gods of his sport. One surely does not achieve such.
Olympian status through vigilant avoidance of all risks. I suppose Pollack
meant to illustrate a primal paradox in Bobby's unhappy value system, but
in doing so the director heightens inconsistency into unbelieveability.
Bobby Deerfield's heritage springs from the "come alive!" genre, a
long and often goopy line of movies juxtaposing lovers and skulkers (Zorba
the Greek, Harold and Maude). The standard plot features a social-emo-
tional recluse who gets lifted out of his molehill by an inveterate free spirit
who, through crazy chatter and kooky deed, exhorts the morose hero to "get
out and live! Live!!"
Thus it is with Bobby and Lillian. They meet inadvertently while Bobby
is visiting an injured driver at a hospital. She is meant to symbolize
everything he is not: high-spirited, fun-worshiping, creative - a giver of
life. Of course life means ever so much more to her since unbeknownst to
Bobby she is suffering from a terminal illness (presumably leukemia,
though the disease is never specified).
DURING THEIR HALTING COURTSHIP she berates him for being
dull, for not making up stories or screaming in cars and for his reluctance to
ride in a hot-air balloon. Eventually, of course, Bobby mellows, shucks his
smothering, mother-image French mistress and starts to trip the life fan-
tastic with Lil. Soon we find him celebrating his new liberation by bellowing
out "Red Sails in the Sunset" and doing what for Pollack must be the
ultimate emancipation - a Mae West impersonation. Ah, life! Ah, love! Ec-
ch, Hollywood!
Their conjugal bliss, alas, cannot last; As he gets stronger, she gets
weaker, her sick blood cells betray her soaring spirits. Though she doesn't
seem physically wasted by her illness, Lillian takes on a progressively
matronly countenance both in dress and manner until by the film's latter
stages she seems to have gone positively dowageresque.
This sedentary transformation is certainly no help to Marthe Keller, a
lovely but icy performer who needs allthe directorialy-enhanced warmth
she can get to convincingly play a bouyant life bestower. Even the natural
sparks one might have expected to overlap from the real life Pacino-Keller
love-in fail to ignite very often; Bobby and Lillian are rarely seen so much as
touching each other as they wend through their cathartic but doomed rela-
BOBBY DEERFIELD is a cold, cold concoction that seems every
moment to give creedence to its hero's sterile view of the world even as he
begins to thaw away from his own inhibitions. To his credit, Pollack has the
aesthetic decency to spare his two lovers (and us) the smarmy-poo hijinks of
Harold and Maude-type pseudo-adorables; but he doesn't fill the gaps with
anything else save a montage of prolonged, winding shots of Town and Coun-
try Europe, shots in which Bobby and Lillian occasionally appear.
Pollack is tempermentally ill-suited as director imaginable for any let-
yourself-go genre effort. Never for a moment in Bobby Deerfield do you lose
the feeling of calculation, of a watchmaker's wheels turning in an ever-
precise, rigid-patterned anithisis of th zany and loose. Indeed, I have i
watched so beautifully +loodless a cinematic work since Stanley Kubric
foisted Barry Lyndon-ipon us two seasons ago.
It is a tribute to Al Pacino's range as an actor that he large transcends
the straightjacketed limitations of his role. Pacino utilizes every tool at his
disposal to liberate his character from the zombie restrictions of script and
direction, and succeeds in subtly modulating Bobby into a poignantly
tangible self-victim struggling to break free of his cloistered corners. You
- believe in him even if you doi't believe in or care about anyone else in the
film. That is Pacino's individual triumph, and also Bobby Deerfield's collec-
tive disaster.


Script handicaps Cabaret


Mendelssohn Theater
Emcee..................... Rodney Saulsberry
Clifford Bradshaw........'...Benjamin Whiteley
Ernst Ludwig..................... Michael Goz
Fraulein Schneider............Sandra Storrer
Fraulein Kost.................Janna Morrison
Herr Schultz....................Joshua Peck
Sally Bowles .......... ......:. Susan Dawson
Music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb
Directed by Philip Paul
Music direction by Lief Bjaland
THE STAGE Cabaret is a weak
show. It is "based" loosely on the
stories by Christopher Isherwood and
the subsequent play by John van
Druten. But it really isn't faithful to
either of these sources, and its attempts
to turn the point of the story away from
nihilism and decadence and toward
Nazism are annoying and have the sub-
tlety of a brickbat. To facilitate this
switch of emphasis, Kander Ebb, and
Joe Masteroff, who wrote the book,
created new, irrelevant characters, de-
leted some important ones, and wrote a
number of indistinguishable songs.
Musket's production of this up-and-
down show has its up-and-down mo-

ments, too. Its cast is stronger in the
small parts - isn't that frequently true
with Musket? - than in the major
Herr Schultz (Joshua Peck) and
Fraulein Schneider (Sandra Storrer)
were both very fine. Storrer is perhaps
the best actress in Ann Arbor, and
Peck, while he cannot sing a whit, no,
not even a whit, performed very cred-
itably as the Jewish fruit store-owner
(one of the invented roles). In particu-
lar, his song "Meeskite" was very cute,
and he sort of talk-sang it nicely.
SALLY BOWLES, though, is rather
too precious for her role. Susan Dawson
makes Bowles into a mindless B-girl,
which she is not, and never understands
the depth of her character until the final
scenes. She has a pleasant, though real
weak, voice, and fails to carry off her
The emcee (Rodney Saulsberry), is
an object lesson in why an actor recre-
ating a role should not view the per-
formance of someone considered the
role's definitive interpreter; in this
case, Joel Grey. Saulsberry tried to
emulate Joel Grey, but fell into the pit
of Wretched Excess - and it was just
awful. The gyrations and lewdness of
the emcee must be kept under tight con-
trol. Berlin, and the nightmare

decadent world, isn't after all hell, but
simply a gargoyle-populated world into
which one dips for fun. The Berliners of
the time weren't Satanists, merely mad
There were some problems with the
direction, too. The Kit Kat numbers -
"Two Ladies" "The Money Song"
lacked energy, for all the energetic
capering of the emcee, and I think this
was because they lacked scope and
definition Perhaps they would have
been more defined staged on a stage-
within-a-stage, surrounded by extras;
who knows? Only the prepubescent-
looking chorus girls lent an air of kiddie
porn to the show as they ground their
little hips
Three of the others - Clifford

Bradshaw (Benjamin Whiteley), Ernst
Ludwig (Michael Goz), Fraulein Kost
(Janna Morrison) - all did a nice job. I
wish Morrison had had more to sing.
They all semmed just a bit uncom-
fortable with their roles - but that
could have been dem old opening-night
I think the movie Cabaret is a work
of art. That ought to have been evident.
It was done with restraint, and verve,
and charm, and gusto - a near-perfect
film,. certainly the best movie musical
A lot of the problem with the stage
musical is that the material is weak. So
the show (perhaps a bad selection?)
demands a doubly fine production, with'4
a superlative Sally. Musket, while itst
wasn't bad, had neither. Too bad.}
* Ut

You can play late
at the Union
'til 1 a.m. tonight

Dinner and Social Get-Together
DATE: Saturday, November 5
TIME: 6:00 p.m.-1 1:30 p.m.
PLACE: International Center, 603 E. Madison
(across from South Quad)
All students, faculty and staff, and community are invited.
Come and meet some fellow students and students and
friends! Spread the word and bring a friend!
For more information or if you'd like to help, please call Ann Lyons
at 764-5248.


I ยง

Topeng Babakan
A group of 12 dancers from Sunda, West Java will perform both Penca (The Art
of Self-Defense), and Topeng Babakan (Masked Dance) on Saturday, November 12
in Rackham Auditorium.

Rhythm and blues marks Parker's


onto the rock scene last year,
his talent seemed phenomenal. The
two albums he released, "Howlin'
Wind" and "Heat Treatment," dis-
played his wondrous ability to fuse
classic rhythm and blues forms with
the rock styles of Van Morrison,
Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and
the Rolling Stones.
Parker's backing band, The Ru-
mour, is a stunning group of musi-
cians. Their proficiency gives the
music a solid feeling. In fact, the
"solo" album the band released a
couple of months ago, "Max,"
proved they're good enough to stand
Needless to say, Parker's fans
have been anxiously awaiting his
third record, with the question,
"could it be as good as the last two?"
always firmly in mind. Stick to Me
(Mercury SRM-1-3706) is finally out,
but the question can't be answered
with a simple yes or no. Though some
of the tunes are the best Parker has
done, others are sadly mediocre.
Stick to Me reveals for the first time
Parker's human =vulnerability. Like
most people, he has his successes and
his failures.
show strong artistic growth on the
part of Parker. The average song
length has been shortened to about
three minutes - ideal pop song time.
Within this seemingly restrictive
format, Parker has blossomed. The
tight, Phil Spector-esque, wall-of-
sound arrangements give the music-a
classic pop song ambiance. Strings
are used in such a subtle fashion that
they never seem outwardly evident,
but they add flourish to the songs.
The horns are not so discreet, but
thev're arranged in a more nreeise

getting better and better. The Morri-
son and Springsteen influences are
still important, but Parker's own
relaxed but urgent vocal style is
becoming increhisingly evident.
THERE'S PLENTY of variety on
Stick to Me, a marked improvement
over Heat Treatment, which suffered
from too much of the same thing.
'The New York Shuffle," 'The
Raid,' 'Clear Head,' and "Stick to
Me" are all essentially rockers, but
each uses different tempos and in-
strumental combinations. "I ' m
Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down"
and "Watch The Moon" "Come
Down" could be called ballads, but
neither remains entirely within that
format. "Problem Child," "Soul on
Ice," and ,Thunder and Rain" are
the type of songs Parker excels in -
neither ballads nor rock 'n roll songs
but something in between. "The Heat
in Harlem, at seven minutes, is
altogether different from the rest.
The title track opens the LP in
grand fashion. Properly promoted (it
seems it's this that makes or breaks
a song, not it's artistic value), this
could be Parker's first big hit.
Opening with ominous chords, it
quickly becomes a hot rhythm and
blues tune, complete with funky
horns,-guitar, and piano. The lyrics
are menacing and possessive.
Unfortunately, the rest of side one
doesn't fare as well. "I'm Gonna
Tear Your Playhouse Down," the
record's only cover, may have been a'
good tune when it was first done, but
it seems out of place on this album.
"Problem Child," "Soul on Ice," and
"Clear Head" have distinctive in-
strumentation but lack focused'
"The Fabulous Forties"
sponsored by WCBN
M..A -kA,;n nn

lyi'ics. These songs seem insignifi-
cant'and forgettable.
SIDE TWO, however, is a master-
piece. It's a thematically unified
twenty minutes of music that in more
pretentious days would have been
labeled a "suite". The cohesive
subject is oppression, and each of the
five songs illuminates a different
aspect of this compelling topic. The
causes of oppression range from
metaphoric weather conditions to the
vicious reality of our police state.
Whatever the causes, the results are
always the same - human anguish.
"The New York Shuffle" gets
things off to a rousing start with its
emotional condemnation of New
York City politics. It's amazing that
an Englishman can view New York
with such perception.
"Mr. Mayor - give me the key/
let me lock you up
Throw that key down the U.S.
The band explodes on this number,
and what better way to illustrate the
savage, episodic images that make
up this song?
THE MOOD relaxes some with

"Watch the Moon Come Down," a
lusty ballad. 'Thunder and Rain," a
tasty bite of rock 'n' roll featuring
feverish guitar work, doesn't seem
any more positive than the last tune
- just angrier: "Lovers get caught
just the same in the thunder and
It all comes to a head with "The
Heat in Harlem," a complex epic
almost on par with Springsteen's
"Jungleland'' or "New York City
Serenade." It begins with a swinging,
finger-popping melody that perfectly
frames the chaotic images Parker is
presenting. The tempo slows down a
bit later on, giving the impression of
a lazy, static afternoon.
Thus, lack of consistency is the
only real flaw in Stick to Me. Had
Parker been able to produce a first
side as effective as the second, it
would have been a great album. But
perhaps that's asking too much.
Songs like "The Heat in Harlem" and
"The New York Shuffle" come along
only every now and then. We should
savor them, and hope that Parker's
next album is filled with songs just as


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