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May 18, 1977 - Image 5

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1977-05-18

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Wednesday, May 18, 1977

Arts

I

THE MICHIGAN DAILY P
'Anastasia' opens

age Five

Stor ms commi'
Storm de Hirsch . (right),
whose intense look mirrors the z
ritualistic mysticism of her
poetry and underground films,°
will speak and show her films
Thursday at 8 in the Old Archi-
tecture Auditorium.y
de Hirsch has been awarded
23 international honors for her
innovative filmmaking, which
includes techniques involving
hand painted and scratched
frames of film and dual pro-
jections.>
Among the brilliantly coloredj
rhythmic, and symbolic films
scheduledhare Third Eye But
terfly, The Tattooed Man, and
Geometries of the Kaballah.
Admission is $1.50. de Hirsch
Strip-mining history

By RICHARD LEWIS
F YOU THINK you know your history - if
you share the generally accepted belief that
the entire family of Russia's Nicholas II was
executed by a Bolshevik firing squad in 1918-
perhaps Marcelle Mauret's Anastasia will make
you think again.
The play, which opens tonight at Lydia Men-
delssohn Theatre, toys with the possibility that
Nicholas' youngest daughter, Anastasia, may have
survived the gunfire that slaughtered the rest of
her immediate family.
The plot concerns an exiled Russian Prince's
attempts to convince the remaining Romanovs
that this is not merely a possibility, but a fact.'
With an eye on the immense inheritance due to
the "resurrected" princess, he contrives to de-
fraud the royal family and forces an ex-mental
patient named Anna Broun to pose as Anastasia.
The forthcoming Ann Arbor Civil Theatre pro-
duction of the play is an English adaptation by
Guy Bolton, who reports that his "Anna Broun"
was suggested by a real life claimant to the
Russian legacy. In a New York Times article writ-
ten shortly before the play's Broadway opening
in 1954, Bolton said the "Grand Duchess Anas-
tasia" was first pointed out to him at a party
in 1928.
CURIOSITY LED THE dramatist to read sev-
eral accounts of "Anastasia's miraculous reap-
pearance. Some supported the claim, others did
not. One of the most supportive was The Real
Romanovs, written in 1931 by Gleb Botkin, son
of the Romanov family doctor and Anastasia's
childhood friend.
"After reading most of what has been writ-
ten in English and French," writes Bolton, "I
am prepared to stick my neck out on the side

of the believers." Bolton and author Mauret
even reportedly gave "Anastasia" a portion of
their play's royalties.
These royalties have no doubt proven con-
siderable, as Anastasia was one of the biggest
hits of the 1954 55 Broadway season. A success-
ful film version was made a few years later
starring Yul Brenner, Helen Hayes and Ingrid
Bergman in the title role.
Incidentally, the "Anastasia" who inspired
the Mauret-Bolton play has recently become the
subject of another book, The File on the Tsar,
by Anthony Summers and Tom Mangold. Though
this book offers long-lost police reports in sup-
port of her claim, "Anastasia" derides the au-
thors' efforts.
"PEOPLE WILL BE trying to make money
off the, Tsar and his family forever, and I re-
sent it," she said in a People magazine article
of last November.
"Anastasia" is now the wife of a retired po-
litical science professor named John Manahan.
The couple lives comfortably and quietly in Char-
lottesville, Virginia, but "Anastasia" is still re-
solute in her claim to the Romanov fortune de-
spite the fact that the struggle, she says, "has
cost me everything."
The story of a woman's struggle - against
exploitation, insanity and loneliness is the sub-
ject of Anastasia. Surely this is a subject which
should provide opportunities for strong, suspense-
ful drama, and any devoted theatre-goer will
probably be eager to see what the Ann Arbor
Civic Theatre can make of it.
Performances are scheduled tonight through
Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. For
information regarding ticket prices and reserva-
tions stop by the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre
box office or call 763-1085.

By ANDREA BROWN
AIIDST a barrage of confus-
ing images, filmmaker
Barbara Kopple manages to
evoke a moving statement on
the plight of coal mine workers
in Harlan County, U.S.A. And
it's not difficult to figure out
whose side she takes in this
filtn, which documents the Unit-
ed Mine Worlers' (UMW)
strikes in Harlan County, Ken-
tucky between 1972 and 1975.
Documentaries on controver-
sial subjects often demand that
the viewer take a stand on an
issue given only the largely
one - sided view presented. This
is especially true with the film
medium, as many people con-
sider motion pictures a mirror
of reality - unaware of the
fact that the images and sounds
can be manipulated as much as
any written document.,
Yet Kopple avoids present-
ing her film under the guise of
objectivity, she clearly sympa-
thizes with the strikers.
The meetings of the UMW
and their wives are filmed as
if the camera crews were par-
ticipating. The mining company
execs are depicted through in-
terviews and press conferences
from the viewpoint of any strik-
ing worker who might gain ac-
cess to the management.
MANY wonderful moments
are caught as a result of this
intimacy, among the most
memorable are the meetings
with the wives of the miners.
It seems as if- Kopple had a
special affinity for the women
involved, which -surfaces in
their emergence as a driving
force which kept the strike
alive during its leaner periods.,
These moments carry the -
film, which, on the whole, lacks
a clear focus. There is old
footage of an historic, bloody
strike at the same mine during
the 34s intercut with the pres-
ent day strikers in the process
of organization, and tantilizing
clues are given concerning sev-
eral side issues relating to the
strike. But the reason why
these moments belong in the
film, aside from the peripheral
interest, is never made clear.
MORE IMPORTANT to the
central subject of the film, but
not well tied into its generally
hazy focus, are the actual is-
sues of the strike. Instead of
emphasizing t h e s e is-
sues, which may not be imme-
diately clear to the casual
viewer, Kopple opts for empha-
sizing the solidarity of the strik-
ers. Excepting an extended se-

quence on black lung disease,
the inevitable death of count-
less miners, and a few descrip-
tions by miners' wives on past
mine disasters, crucial issues
are only mentioned in passing.
The, film was shot in a very
straightforward documentary
style and has all the problems
and advantages of such a meth-
od. The presence of the camera
provides ample acting space
for certain individuals who un-
avoidably become the de facto
"stars" of the film. Likewise,
certain incidents seem to be
swayed by the fact that cam-
era crews were shooting.
Yet the camera operators
were often able to capture
some riveting footage in spite
of it all. The crews were able
to catch a dawn attack on the
strikers by hired gunmen as
well as catching the company
men involved in several other
irregular situations,
SUSPENSE AND DRAMA
saturated several terrifying
scenes of men hiding their
guns in their pockets awaiting
any provocation by the strik-
ers, and the death of one of the
strikers which results in the
ratification of a new contract
is both excellent reportage and
an effective use of the often
obtrusive camera crews.
The musical background of
the film consisted of-traditional
ballads and songs written by
the strikers and their families.
Most of the music aided the
emotional impact of the film,
though in several places banal
lyrics elicited a cheap senti-
mentality that marred some
truly effective scenes.
There is no question that
Harlan County, U. S. A. packs
an incredible punch, though
Kopple does little more than
string explosive situations to-
gether. It is not the most mon-
umental task to depict the
hardships of one of the bleak-
est existences in American life,
and the film's saving grace-
is that despit its lack of a co-
hesive vision, it presents many
fascinating and informative in-
sights into the miners' way of
life.
D o c u m e n t a r i e s, un-
fortunately, rarely hit paydirt
at the box - office, and al-
though Harlan County, U.S.A.
netted an Academy Award, its
Ann Arbor run lasted only one
paltry week. But luckily, it will
return in late August at Cine-
ma II and the film, despite its
flaws, should be seen for the
rare view that many of us will
ever have into an alien world.

'Calcutta': Erotic relic',.

By CHRISTOPHER POTTER
IT SHOULD be noted for pos-
terity that a touring com-
pany performance of Oh! Cal-
cutta! passed in and out of
Ann Arbor last week with
scarcely a ripple. That is a fact
much more remarkable than
the show itself; six or seven
years ago the event would
doubtless have elicited court
injunctions, mass protests, and
certainly a barrage of Letters
to the Editor.
No more, 'my friends. The
Sexual Revolution is the one
revolution from the recent Age
of Turbulence that seems to
have stuck; it's now almost es-
tablishment, if not in deed then
certainly in image - we may
not have done it all but by
now we have surely seen it all.
And the collective community
yawn wfhich greeted this post-
dated debut of Kenneth Tyn-
an's famed all-sex, often nude
review indicates less an ac-
ceptance than a collectively be-
nign boredom.
CALCUTTA'S SWORD has
been blunted, not by resistance
but by absorbtion. Sex and The
Arts have become overdue but
immensely compatable bedfel-
lows in a remarkably short
time span; in 1967 controversyt
and censorship threats raged
nationwide over Molly Bloom's
one-time usage of the word
"fuck" in an otherwise tepid
film version of Ulyscses. Bare-
ly five years later, Marlon
Brando's torrent of obscenities
in Last Tango in Paris would
earn him lavish critical (and
financial) tribute, and at worst
a few tolerant tut-tuts.
Our deep throat - molded
generation would find hard to
believe the 1968 Ann Arbor Po-
lice raid on the Fifth Forum
Theatre to confiscate a copy
a copy of I Am Curious, Yellow,
or the Union Ballroom raid the
following year during a per-
formance of the experimental
Dionysius in '69, a then-daring

theatrical happening. Locally at
least, such incidents seem as
dead as The Edsel.
THUS the metamorphosis of
Oh! Calcutta! Whereas its
stormy New York debut drew
gasps, protests and mass titila-
tion, it now draws a few be-
mused chuckles, more than a
few stifled yawns, and certain-
ly no need for large black rain-
coats.
The New Sophistication was
readily evident among the au-
dience that half filled the Mich-
igan Theater last Thursday
night. While a typical New
York Calcutta audience was so
male-oriented that it often look-
ed like a crows at a stag film,
Ann Arbor's gathering was split
virtually 50-50 on a sex ratio
and seemed relaxed and cas-
ual as opposed to nervously
self - conscious ("Gee, I hope
my wife doesn't know I'm
here"). -
CONTRASTING the
former nervous giggles and
guarded whispers during inter-
mission were about a half-doz-
en rather lengthy and not at
all quiet customer commentar-
ies testifying to the fact that.
such a nouveau-bland exhibi-
tion was hardly worth $7.50 a
shot.
Their sentiments were accur-
ate. The automatic notoriety
which accompanied Calcutta
everywhere it went its first few
years succeeded to an optimum
degree in the illusion of equat-
ing shock effect -with enter-
tainment. Now that the shock
seems buried for good, the
show's always threadbare struc-
ture is now doubly and embar-
rassingly apparent.
Even in its heyday Calcutta
suffered from an impoverish-
ment of dramatic, if not the-
matic( unification. The show
consists entirely of a series of
unrelated revue-style skits in-
terspaced with several musical
production numbers interlocked
only in their basic carnal orien-
tation.

DESPITE Calcutta's impres-
sive list of authors ranging
from Jules Feiffer to Samuel
Beckett to John Lennon, the
skits -rarely rise above TV-level
competence and often fall a
good deal below that.
A major problem is that al-
most without exception each
segment tries very hard to be
funny, to ironically satirize the
very subject it purports to lib-
erate and uplift, creating such
a heavyhanded burlesque of the
erotic that it comes close to
desexualizing it entirely. The
dance numbers, although some-
what better and also the major
in-the-buff offerings of the
show, are still rather ordinary
in execution.
The current touring company
brings a number of changes to
the original production, mostly
for the worse. Several acts
have been dropped, including a
John Lennon skit that was one
of the few truly humorous seg-
ments and the most lyrically
sensual of the dances is also
mysteriously absent.
REPLACING THEM were a
small turgid group of non-nude,
non-mobile rock and country
songs apparently inserted for
the purpose of shoiwng off the
dubious talents of a noisily me-
diocre rock combo which ob-
trusively filled nearly half the
Michigan's stage throughout the
long evening.
A very young - looking cast
radiates a level of competence
barely above the level of a
soph show, both in elocution
and anatomical agility. One
might have hoped that their
very youthfulness would make
up in exuberance what they-
and the show-lacked in talent,
but even as they went through
the motions they seemed to ex-
ude a projected resignation to
approaching senility, to the
knowledge that a few more nak-
ed bodies skittering innocently
around a stage now looks about
as erotic as a game of volley-
ball at a nudist camp. Whips
and chains, anyone?

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