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January 11, 1976 - Image 4

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Michigan Daily, 1976-01-11

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Sunday, January

11, 1976

Page Four THE MICHIGAN DAILY Sunday, January 11, 1976



Silent Clowns: Celebrating
the comedy of early film


Schizophrenia and
the superhippies:

Walter Kerr. New York, Al-
fred A. Knopf, 374 pp. $17.95.
QILENT SCREEN c o m e d y
flared up around 1914 out of
the beginnings of the motion
picture, burned brightly for less
than fifteen years, then fizzled
with the introduction of sound
film in the late 1920's. During
its brief life span silent comedy
produced a wealth of films and
film stars, a great many of
which are familiar to us today.
..Walter Kerr's The Silent Clowns
is a joyous celebration of silent
comedy as well as an enlighten-
ing study of silent screen co-
medians and their work.
The era of the "silent clowns"
affords the author a relaxedj
detachment for this dead, and
Charlie Chalin thus complete, form. Kerr treats
P the subject with the respect a
true art form deserves. And

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silent comedy was, at its best,
true art. Kerr's style is fully
accessible, one that is scholarly
and inciteful but not pedantic.
Kerr, a longtime drama and
film critic with New York news-
papers, has an obvious enthu-
siasm for his subject revealed
by his lively writing. He enter-
tains while he teaches.
KERR STARTS by carefully
laying the background for the
development of silent comedy.
He then takes a close look at
the comedians and .their films,
lavishing attention on the three
greats - Chaplin, Keaton and
Lloyd-but also provides incite-
ful treatments of the lesser
celebrated performers such as
Fatty Arbuckle, Harry Langdon
and Laurel and Hardy.
Kerr does not just examine
his subject, he dissects it. He
digs deep behind the personas
of the comedians and freezes
scenes and individual frames
from the films to unlock the es-
sential secrets of how and why
the comic effects are created.
Kerr recounts a scene from one
of Charlie Chaplin's early films,
"Making a Living," in which
Charlie is "in a newspaper of-
fice trying to persuade an editor
to give him an assignment. As
he presses his cause, he keeps
slapping the editor on the knee
for emphasis. The editor, an-
noyed but making nothing of it,
shifts his knee to a less acces-
sible position. Chaplin, without.
interrupting his sales talk or
even seeming to pay attention
t' what he is doing, automatical-
1 pulls the knee back so that
he can continue to pound it."
Adds Kerr, "In a few seconds
of film (Chaplin) has established
what would become a perma-
nent, immensely productive pat-
tern: he is adjusting the rest of
the universe to his merely re-
flexive needs . . . Chaplin needs
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Call 662-8193 for information

(the 'universe) malleable, made
it suit his convenience even
when that convenience was most
temporary and inconsequential.
A man must be comfortable."
Z E RR acknowledges a special
fascination for the work ofn
Buster Keaton and he provides'
what may come to be regarded r
as a definative treatment of
this much neglected comic who
stands in Chaplin's giant sha-
dow. Keaton's trademark was
his absolutely unshifting blank Buster have arrived at an en-
facial expresison that accepted tirely equitable relationship.
anty course of events with equal There is nothing to scream
passivity. "The most silent of about."
the silent comedians," Kerr ERR DOES not refrain from
calls Keaton. "Though there is Edisaprobation where e
a hurricane eternally raging isapprobationc.. hAe-r9-1e


some ba4 ideas, too, so
crazness could have s
-Kurt V


about him and though he is eels ue.acrecows a"Breakfastof Ch
often fully caught up in it. Kea-wherefthy maw tafights autos
tnh drrican'e eythe quiet smashing into buildings, ram- QCHIZOPHRENIA isa
paging chase scenes and not with a logic of its
Kerr discusses a shot from much else-delighted audiences the point of madness,1
"Steamboat Bill Jr.' in which a at the time but today are much zophrenic- becomes in
furious storm wind topples a more apt to elicit yawns and to love and death. R.I
massive building facade as Kea- perhaps a few bemused smiles. called schizophrenia a
ton stands calm and unknowing Kerr views these films as 'prim- able reaction to an insa
beneath. Keaton strictly adhered itive' comedy, merely "success- Perhaps it is because
to the integrity of the camera ful agitations, . .'. if laughter in such an insane wo
and, with one exception, actual- once accompanied them it has schizophrenia has bec
ly performed all the stunts in to have been the laughter of topic of so much rece
his films. For this one, Keaton breathlessness, not the laughter ture. Robert Pirsig's no
rigged up the building facade of perception." About Ben Tur- his schizophrenia, Zen
(weight-two tons) and position- pin, one of Sennet's more popu- Art of Motorcycle Ma
ed himself under it so that, lar actors, Kerr comments, "I has won a cult followin
when it collapsed, he would am sorry to say that I have philosophy of his m
emerge unscathed in the small never at any time seen him do Kurt Vonnegut's books
opening provided by an attic anything that made me laugh." schizophrenic protagon
window in the facade (clearance; Ithough undeniably m
-three inches). Keaton had The written text in The Silent nevertheless far more
never before performed a stunt Clowns s complemented by able telhe sane ch
o this"scale but he went through beautifully designed overall for- Mark Vonnegut, in hi
with it despite the protestations mat. The book is richly illu- account of his schiz
of everyone on the set. "This strated, clearly printed and al- advances the theory of
shot in the completed film. together handsomely produced. sponse to a mad w
writes Kerr, "is stunning; . . . This does create a danger that then retreats from it,
stunning in a special way, Kea- the book will be condemned to was all just a matter
ton's way. It is not, for instance, gather dust on coffee tables, icalsl "The chemists
frightening as a similar shot but hopefully Kerr's written up with embarrassing
of Lloyd's might have been text will get the attention it upsp
frightening. When Lloyd stunted, deserves. The era of the silent pnllie simple non-p
he meant to terrify; and he in- comedians is gone but, with the '
creased the audience's agitation help of outstanding book like At first, the book se
by letting us see how agitated this one, it is by no means for- a' guide to the perfe
he was in the situation. Nothing gotten. life. Mark, his up-fr
of the sort here. Buster is pla- friend, loving dog, an
cid. The wall falls impassively. Thoma, Fields is a senior ma- overhauled Volkswagen
When it has fallen, wall and joring :n English. for British Columbia t
- commune. They and th
who eventually join th
no pains in their purs
SSU NDAY at H 1 L L E Llevance. They buy a f

5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.-DISCUSSION HOUR
DATE OF NEXT WORKSHOP: Sunday, January 18, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
REGISTRATION DEADLINE: Midnight, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 1976
COST: $12.00 per Unit --$30.00 for the Day - LUNCH INCLUDED
524 PACKARD, ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN 48104 -- PHONE 994-0019


By DOC KRALIK ' no adjoining roads, a boat with
an unworkable motor. They eat
THE EDEN EXPRESS by only natural, vegetarian foods,
lark Vonnegut. Praeger, 214 I and wash occasionally in a near-
p$8.95 g. gr by stream. When the stream
$89 freezes, they don't wash. Mark
appears to have made every
"Dwayne's inciPienf insanity possible compensation to avoid
as manly a matter of chemi- dealing with society. Then, just
4s, of course. But Dwayne, as things at the farm are at
their most laid-back, Mark goes
.e all novice lunatics, needed mad.




11:00-JOINT BRUNCH, Grad and Undergrad
5:30-6:30-DELI, $2.00
7: P.M.-MOVIE: The Garden of The Finzi
Continis $1.25
$3.00 for the ;DELI and MOVIE
1429 HILL ST. - 663-3336

"The Gard
of the
Finzi Conti
Directed by
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Sunday, Jan
1429 HILL. STR

that his
hape and THE DESCRIPTIONS of his
mad visions make the book
worth reading. Although much
onnegut, of the narrative is sketchy, these
avmPions" sections are filled with precise
detail and lucid commentary.
a disease At one point, Mark himself is
own: at amazed at how touch he can
the schi- remember about his illness. The
ndifferent Eden Express is a first book. It
D. Laing ° non-fiction, but Vonnegut
Sreason-. showsthe courage of a mature
ne world. novelist in delving into painful
we live subject matter. However, be-
orld that yond these compelling descrip-
ome the tions of madness, the- book is
nt litera- marred by a number of serious
vel about flaws.
and the
intenance The worst, and most irritating
g for the f 1 a w is Vonnegut's writing.
ad half. Throughout much of the book he
all have utilizes a sort of hippie jargon-
ists who, ese that tends to adumbrate his
ad, are insights. At one point, uncertain
reason- of just what to say, he alludes
iaracters. to a Bob Dylan song. An allu-
s candid sion to a literary work is sup-
ophrenia, posed to further understanding,
the sane but an allusion to a Dylan song
orld, but only s o u n d s contrived. And
saying it when Vonnegut wishes to denote
of chem- the superlative of some adjec-
fixed me tive or adverb, he merely re-
gly inex- peats it three times, as if it
escription were some knd of prayer: "I
had really really really . .
fucked up big big big." This
ems like type of progressive composition
ct hippie can also be applied to entire
'ont girl- sentences. "This is no fun, this
nd trusty is no fun, this is no fun."
ntake off
o form a The second flaw is the scanty
e friends characterization. Even in a book
em spare of non-fiction, the reader has a
uit of re- right to know who Kathy, Jack,
arm with Vince and Luke are, how they
--- feel about a situation, or at the
very least, what they look ite.
IToo often, the supporting cast
en seem to be just names without
nis" XTONNEGUT concludes t h at
schizohrenia is 'a disease,
WINNER treatable like any other with the
right drugs. This is too simple.
Like any other novice lunatic,
ca Mark-had some bad ideas too.
DN His relationships with his father
P.M. "and girlfriend, both of whom
are major characters in the vi-
. sions, never get the kind of
comprehensive discussion they
EET should if we are to understand
his madness. Moreover, Vonne-
gut seems to have soine curious
attitudes towards sex: "It seem-
ed like cyanide frosting on an
arsenic cake." Whether or. not
these problems were involved
in his crack-up cannot be con-
sidered because they are not
developed e n o u g h.' Vonnegut
seems content to advance them
briefly, enough to trouble the
reader's mind, and then leave
them unresolved. In light of
these unresolved themes, the
conclusion is especially unre-
warding; Vonnegut seems to
have exchanged the -mindless
idealism of one generation for
< r that of another: Superhippie de-
cides to go to 'medical school.
Mark Vonnegut is not yet the
skilled writer his father has
been for many years. Still;the
book has some merit. The
stark, matter-of-fact account of
his madness gives the book a
limited value, although it can-
not obscure its very serious
problems. If Vonnegut did not
have a last name that sells
books, his early work would not
have been dumped on the public
in such an embarrassing form.

Doc Kralik is a recent LS&A
graduate and reluctant entree
i to be real world.

people who can:

Lacer's seven
Iwarning sigaI
1 1. Change in bowel or bladder habits. I
* 2. A sore that does not heal.
* 3. Unusual bleeding or discharge.
4.Thickening or lump in breast or elsewhere.
5. Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing.
6. Obvious change in wart or mole. I
* 7. Nagging cough or hoarseness. I

Wed., Jan. 14th

. ' t '' ',, rfi tf >Ki { ' + 'z^x " < ? = rid.; a r ,.} " .. '.... . ,. , li r


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