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May 25, 1979 - Image 10

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1979-05-25

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Page 10-Friday, May 25, 1979--The Michigan Doily
A SECOND OPINION OF 'MANHA TTAN'
Alen takes egotism too far

By CHRISTOPHER POTTER
While sitting through Manhattan
and trying guiltily to deduce why I felt I
was watching just a very enjoyable
movie instead of the greatest film of the
year, decade, or all time, as it has been
variously trumpeted, I formulated a
test theory: Try to picture George
Segal instead of Woody Allen in Man-
hattan's lead role of Isaac Davis, and
see if the film would hold up as ec-
statically as most folks seem to feel it
does in its present form.
The point I was trying to make to
myself was a suspicion that the mere
force of Allen's visual aura and per-
sonality, his presumably irresistible
ubiquity, was sufficient to make Man-
hattan seem a much cleverer, much
deeper film than it actually is. I took the
concept home with me, slept on it and
woke up to a rather startling contrast: I
had absolutely no trouble envisioning
George Segal as Isaac, could in fact pic-
ture him as being considerably more
sagacious and entertaining than Allen
himself. Could it be that the writer-
director's omniscient presence, far
from being Manhattan's saving grace,
is actually its greatest liability? Has
Allen, flirting with a risk which befalls
other multiple cinematic talents, gotten
too close to his work, too absorbed in
the cosmicity of his own hangups to
In yesterday's Daily, critic Owen Gleiber-
man gave Woody Allen's "Manhattan" a
highly favorable review, calling the film
"exhilarating" and "awesome" along the
way. Today, Christopher Potter airs some of
his reservations about the movie.
-Arts Ed.

maintain the delicate but crucial ar-
tistic distance so necessary for a suc-
cessful film?
THIS IS hardly to say Manhattan
is a lousy movie. In many ways it's an
extraordinary, even unique
film-Allen's bittersweet tribute to the
city he both worships and hates, to the
Beautiful People he often despises yet
can't live without. Perhaps never has a
love affair with urban living been por-
trayed in such irresistibly seductive
images, from the complex mosaics of
the Big Apple's buildings to the equally
mulitextured layers of its inhabitants
faces. Rarely have the self-constricting
tactics of the supereducated, who em-
ploy intellectuality to barricade
feelings, been more incisively ex-
trapolated, yet they remain tinged with
a forgiving gentleness that is inevitably
the most pervasive element in all of
Allen's films.
The romantic tug-of-war Isaac Davis
(Allen) undergoes choosing between
the two women in his life provides the
perfect thematic fulcum to turn the
plot: Does he want Mary (Diane
Keaton)-gorgeous, passionate,
culturally intimidating yet neurotically
fragmented? ("I always get the feeling
people are uncomfortable around me,"
she frets); or should he be true to Tracy
(Mariel Hemingway)-young, innocent
yet wise beyond her years, able to cut
through all the intellectual
gamesmanship to clear, plain truths
about life ("Just have a little faith in
people," she says unsappily at Manhat-
tan's climax).
PREDICTABLY, Allen handles all
his characters with an intelligence and

love that's a joy to watch. Yet his own
alter ego Isaac remains very much the
film's focal point; and since Manhat-
tan is Allen's first "straight" comedy,
eschewing his previous atmosphere of
absurdist crazyness, one becomes un-
comfortably aware of a reluctant but
stifling conceit which the director is no
longer able to modify or conceal with
laughter: It's not Isaac Davis' dilem-
mas and predicaments up there on the
screen, it's Woody Allen undisguised,
constantly and embarrassingly begging
the viewer for love and understanding.
Beginning with Love and Death and
progressing through his subsequent
films, Allen has transformed himself
into perhaps the most self-obsessed
filmmaker in the history of the art.

Never has one's own tormented soul-
twisting angst been thrust so un-
disguisedly-albeit tenderly-at an
audience. In terms of such naked
autobiography only Fellini and, much
more obtusely, Bergman come to
mind; yet both at least maintain the
pretense of disguise-neither has opted
to appear perpetually as himself in his
own films.
Allen seems convinced that his own
quandaries involving sex, death and
other isms are, if not universal, at least
universally appreciated-sufficient
that he can use his audience as a kind of
public purgatorial sounding board. It's
a risky artistic assumption in .the best
of situations; and the irony is that as
Allen develops and grows as a film-
maker, as he progresses from comic
surrealism to tragi-comic realism, his
presumption turns downright perilous.
It's obvious Allen craves an audience's
love; he's always been able to claim it
through laughter, but now he craves
See WOODY, Page 11

Gong strikes a clinker

By MARK COLEMAN
The average listener may never have
heard Gong before, but that may be as
much by design as by accident. Since
Gong's conception in 1969, Daevid Allen
and his communal art rock ensemble
have pursued the elusive cosmic muse
diligently despite -endless personnel
changes, record contracts, and
changing social climates. Throughout
these changing times, one thing
remains constant; Allen's commitment
to ignoring convention while ex-
perimenting with a number of forms,
is preserved on
The Michigan Daily
420 Maynard Street
AND
Graduate library

musical and otherwise.
This present day incarnation of Gong
(there is a splinter group performing
more straightforward jazz-rock under
the same name) appeared Tuesday
night at Second Chance in a concert
dubiously advertised as "Floating
Anarchy: No Wave Planet Gong."
Featuring a number of acts, each
committed to a unique interpretation of
music, the show lives up to the anar-
chistic style promised in the title.
AFTER A fairly mundane perfor-
mance of progressive instrumental
rock by a four-piece outfit known as Zu,
the show rapidly spaces out. During a
half-hour saxophone improvisation,
Yochko Seffer bends notes and hops
scales dynamically, making up in
energy what he lacks in profundity. The
climax of his set, however, is an exten-
ded jam with a tape of what sounds like
a foghorn. Then, as Yochko stands en-
tranced, the tape switches to a droning
choral effect accompanied only by
chanting. Yochko mercifully joins the
Zu band for some watered-down fusion
to conclude the set.
The plot thickens considerably when
Gilli Smyth takes the stage. Dressed in
an obscenely colored, feathered dress,
Smyth brings a new dimension to the
term "middle-aged hippie." Reciting
an endless stream of inaudible
"poetry," she leads her band Mother
Gong through some increasingly
grating noise-mongering. At times the
band achieves some pleasant, jazzy
climaxes, but things go awry each time.
See GONG, Page 16

Look Who's Fifty!
Michigan League 1929-1979
When attending a concert or play, CAFETERIA HOURS,
Plan to dine at the League on the way. 7:15-4:00
The good food, without doubt, 5:00-7:15
Will enhance your night out- Snack Bar Closed
And they'/l/clear the dishes away. for Summer
T ih* a PH Send your League Limerick to:
TMy ch a -' 'H' Manager, Michigan League
227 South Ingalls
--u- leNext to Hill Auditorium Youwill receive 2 free dinner
Located in the heart of the campus. tickets if your limerick is used in
it is the heart of the campus . one of our ads.

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