AArTHE MICHIGAN DAILY
Ac ts &E enmthienSioFriday, April 16, 1976
A cidity doesn 't I e Sirnon's highbr ow cha
By JEFFREY SELBST ? brows themselves, are afraid to
speak to him directly. I must
HE IS TALL, erect and im- I confess that I was apprehensive
peccable in appearance. His with Simon when expressing my
words, his manner of speech, opinions, wondering whether or
all substantiate his claim that not he thought me an imbecile.
he is "a gentleman, damn it!" But set images are hard to
But for many, that is open to break, though Simon doesn't de-
question. serve such consideration.
He is John Simon, controver- His general opinion of other
sial film and drama critic, vis- critics is not high. "Those idiots,
iting Ann Arbor at the request Walter Kerr and Clive Barnes,
of the Hopwood Committee and are the worst, they're middle-
its chairman, Prof. John Ald- brows. Lowbrows one can deal
ridge of the English department. with, but middlebrows," and
Simon delivered the 46th an- here he trails off into exple-
nual Hopwood Lecture on Wed- tives. (Barnes and Kerr are
nesday, "The Word on Film." drama critics for the New York
Funny though never scurril- Times).
ous, Simon's opinions on every- Robert Brustein and Gore Vi-
thing - from fellow reviewers dal are two others whose sting
and critics to actors whose work has been felt by Simon, in re-
offends him - are lively and sponse to attacks they felt he
biting, clever without being had mounted against them.
bitchy, and immensely intimidat-
ing to all those who may have VIDAL, PARTICULARLY, in
encountered his displeasure at an essay called "Literary Gang-
some point in his career. sters," singled out Brustein, Si-
mon, Richard Gilman and John
YET HE REMAINS essentially Aldridge as targets for his vitu-
a gentle man - courteous, peration. I asked Simon what
charming, polite, though a little had caused this, and he said.
remote. One is never sure of "Well, of course, I reviewed
Simon's opinions without asking, Vidal's plays unfavorably, and
because he seems to prefer it Aldridge reviewed his books."
that way. And many people are
tion at first. One doesn't sit in 1 lumps together with such to the owners of the periodi-
the theater and think, now things that he describes with cal. Even with the space limi-
what would Heidegger say if he j the term "lowbrow." I asked tations of appearing in a week-
were sitting right here now- him about uses of language on ly or a monthly as opposed to
one has an immediate reaction, Tuesday, and why it seemed a daily publication, he manages
and then goes home and thinks that he was more eloquent to squeeze a succinct mean-
about why one likes or dislikes when panning a show rather ing into each review.
it." than praising it. He denied this Uneasy Stages is filled with
His lecture on Wednesday vigorously, stating "I don't see the kind of critical one-liners
was filled with such allusions. why one has to become 'folk- that made reviewers such as
Quoting from the screenplays sy' when one likes a show. Ei- Dorothy Parker or Robert
of all manner of domestic and ther a negative rhapsody or a Benchley famous. Dorothy
imported films, he drew vivid positive rhapsody - the em- ? Parker, one may remember,
examples of his points. But to phasis is on the rhapsody." said that "Katharine Hep-
the audience, this apparently Simon, too, has come under burn's performance (in Phila-
didn't sit as well as Kael's attack for his much-talked- delphia Story) ran the gamut
free-style talk the year before about opinions on physical of emotions from A to B."
- beauty. "An actress has only Simon disagrees. "That was
ONE REASON was perhaps 2112 hours, maybe, to engage Dorothy Parker's failing. Hep-
that students felt intimidated you in the play. If she's beau- burn's strength was in taking
by Simon, whereas with Kael tiful, she draws you in immedi- that kind , of narrow emotional
they had been made to feel ately. In real life, I may like range and doing so much with
as equals. He delivered a pre- you, I may not, but I have it." So his one-liners do not ap-
pared speech, nothing off-the- the time to find your inner pear to be for their own sake,
cuff, and she had fielded quer- values. An actress isn't given as were Parker's.
ies from the audience, though that kind of time. All in all, I would have to
only the ones she particularly "I may be the princess feel- agree with the remark made
wanted to hear. ing the pea through eighteen by Alexis Aldridge, wife of
Simon's question - and - ans- critical mattresses." Prof. Aldridge and an instruc-
Simperiod was cut due to the tor in laterature herself. "Si-
lateness of the hour. Scheduled Simon is clearly a valuable mon may say those things, but
for 4 pm, the lecture didn't artistic resource in America. never just to be funny, always
really get underway until a jHe is not afraid to say what he to make a wonderfully incisive
quarter of an hour lateri thinks, and he is employed by 1 point. I think he is a responsi-
Arte ref tianhourdlater. publications which do not re- ble critic."
At the reception immediate- quire either that he talk And that may be just the best
ly following, the bulk of stu- down to an audience or adopt k appraisal anyone has made of
dents who did risk speaking to a critical viewpoint palatable I this truly admirable man.
him (and the rewards of such a------
intimidated by his image as Brustein, dean of Yale dra-;D
the man with the tongue of ma school and erstwhile drama Joh n St'O
razor-sharp steel, afraid that critic himself, attacked Simon
they too might get in his way. in a malicious display which
In interviews on Tuesday and I took the form of a review of he's treating this thing as if it In "Advice to the Hatelorn",
Thursday, Simon came across two Simon theatrical essay col- were absolute rubbish. That as well as numerous other ar-;
is all those things, but also as lections published at the end of really upset me!" By now he is ticles collected in Singularities,1
a man who sincerely wanted to last year, Uneasy Stages and laughing. he states the position that the1
know other's reactions. He elab- Singularities. Citing Simon's *- drama (or any other) critic beI
orated on points in his speech,|"monstrous brutality" and "ir- Simon was born in Yugoslavia "an artist, a teacher, a philoso-
yet wished to know my reac- responsibility," Brustein deliv- and came to the United States pher. He writes as well, orI
tion, as well as other members ered quite a blow for a man as a young man. "At the time," nearly, as a novelist, play-
of the audience I might have who, in Simon's words, "used he recalls, "I was writing poet- wright, or scriptwriter. He triess
overheard, to consider himself my friend." ry and teaching, so naturally to teach his readers all that
I thought that's what I'd do. they have not learned even in
.:..:..f.::.i: :nE .;;.: :::.<:.;:.: .: As it turns out, I haven't writ- college, even in most of their
ten any poetry and I've done reading, even in most of their,
'one is never sure o Simon's opinions very little teaching. Well, I did humdrum exposure to the art
ofs na couple of oems the other sr dquestion"
wit hout anao' hrnu,,e o 710 Q -e? to f r- v day-
odIv Fhoto by PAULINE LUBENS
ion of this basis leads to a kind risk are great) were foreign
of misunderstanding of the in- students. One criticism of Si-
tent behind his criticisms. One mon has been that he dislikes
U n i v e r s i t y student at- American forms-the "wacky"
tending the lecture said, "It comedy, the "musical," etc.,
seems that Simon invents a po- and this was expressed in the
sition and then thinks up an ex- fact that these foreign students
cuse for it." Yet, it seems to spoke with him almost exclu-
me that he is one of the few sively about foreign films. Too,
critics who does not. there may be a subtle xenopho-
bia present - "How dare a
But at times, it sounds as foreign-born critic review styles
though Simon himself would which, being homegrown Amer-
agree with this student. When ican, he cannot really under-
asked how it was that he forms stand!"
a critique, he replied, "Well, Simon despises folksiness and
it's always an emotional reac- the "homegrown." This he
The Magic of Bergman
e The Magnificence of Mozart.
v Carmen F. Zollo presents
%~ Ingmar Bergman's
Eric Ericson& Coiducting The Swedish State Broadcastinw Network SY-PI-nY
SHOWTIMES: Mon.-Fri. 7:00 & 9:256-4W"
Saturday & Sunday 4:40 - 7:00 - 9:25
fer it that way. And many people are in-
timidated by his image as the man with the
tongue of razor-sharp steel, afraid that they
too might get in his way.'
Simon taught at Harvard, the
University of Washington. MIT
and Bard College, where after
two years, he "had alienated
a sufficient number of the fac-
ulty that I wasn't asked to re-
He then drifted into publish-
ing, working with the Mid-Cen-
tury League, editing their
monthly magazine. But even
there he encountered opposi-
tion. "The vice-president was a
dangerous man . . . he was
madly jealous that they (the
editors) liked my work better
SURELY A LACK of percep-'
TONIGHT i the MLB!!
His speech amounted to an
analysis of dialogue and its ne- 1
cessity in the medium of film, I
and was similar to an essay he'd I
written, collected in his book l
SigularitIes, discussing the
sane topic as it applied to thea-l
ter. Simon was puzzled because,
This was perhaps the only
time that this supremely self-'
confident man looked a littlei
bewildered. I asked him whatI
he meant by "used to," and heI
smiled. "Well, I still considerj
him my friend," he said.
(Robert Kramer, John Douglas, 1975)
Concerns the radical generation of the 60's and where they
documentary it uses fiction and actors to achieve a kind of
cannot be innored.
MLB 3-7:30 only
are today. While not a
documentary truth which
-- . t -, VG 14. Atli Cl ,
THE KING OF HEARTS
MLB 4-7 only
among other things, very few: SOME THREE or four years '" KNEW it wasn't something
members of the audience came ago, his critical denunciationsI was tsywthifo
up to speak with him at the of Sylvia Miles brought him a wsonggy he added.
reception following the lecture. somewhat more instant response '
than he usually receives. She Then in 1962, he became the
THIS SEEMED strange be- broke a plate of cold cuts over film critic for the New Leader.
cause the year before, when his head in a Beverly Hills Around that time, he succeed-
Pauline Kael spoke, or rather. restaurant. ed Robert Brustein as drama
answered questions, she was "It's been reported as gou- critic for the Hudson Review.
mobbed afterward by hordes of lash, spaghetti, cold cuts," he Since then, he has added the
people asking every type of con- says, dismissing the entire epi- post of drama critic for New
ceivable query - about her sode with an ironic wave of his York Magazine to his list of
work, specific films, her atti- hand. "I would have thought credits, and contributes heav-
tudes, etc. the whole affair amusing, ex- ily to the New York Times Book
But her appeal may be based cept that I was wearing a new Review section, as well as
on -exactly the same types of jacket that I'd just bought in pieces for that newspaper on
htred Phaum line Kes. for art some wonderfully pretentious film and drama.
hatred of Pauline Kael for arti
is second only to Goebbels outique in Beverly Hills And if ever a man does not
hatred of the Jews," he said "Closure to Beverly Hills, lack for credentials, it is John
Wednesday, and went on Thurs- think it was called - and I'd Simon. Member of the New
day to elucidate. only worn it two or three times. York Drama Critics' Circle, the
"Pauline Kael is competent Of course. the jacket was re National Society of Film Cri-
to do certain types of things,' stored. tics, he is also a Fulbright
he said. "For example, she can "Some years later I was scholar (1949-50) and the re-
tell a good Western from a bad watching a movie called Cali- cipientrof a Rockefeller founda-
Western. But her brain is not fornia Split, a very bad movie. tion grant (1964).
accustomed to using itself in a as it happens, and there's this
manner suitable for judging worse-than-bad man in it nam- SO HE IS not ignored by his
art." ed Elliott Gould, and what is profession, and is hardly steep-
he wearing but my self-same ed oeion, at least by his
HIS OWN IMMAGE is of less jacket! And wearing it as if it peein ignominy,
accessibility than is hers. Peo- were a piece of shit, which on
ple - perhaps fearing that they him I guess it would sort of auto- But in the world at large, Si-
might be lowbrows or middle- matically become ... and he's mon has come back under at-
- ---- wearing it through most of the tack largely from a lack of
film - in the lavatory, where understanding of the philosophi-
Interesting facts he gets it all bloody because cal base from which his criti-
from they punch him in the nose, and cism derives.
THE BAND WAGON
(Vincent Minelli, 1953) MLB 4-9 only
A washed-up movie idol, a prima ballerina and a busy producer put on a Broadway
show which turns into a pompous musical version of the Faust legend. Rehearsal com-
plications result in a general snipe at the rampant egos of theatrical people and their
machinations. Highlv imaqinative choreoraphy by Michael Kidd, Starrinq Fred Astaire,
Cvd Charisse, and Oscar Levant.
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