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January 25, 1980 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-01-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

'1941': 1
Steven Spielberg doesn't direct
ovies, he directs carnivals. 1941 is so
shiny and bouncy that it's like a child's
vision of Heaven-a trip to the biggest,
most expensive toy store in the world.
The script is a blunt farce about post-
Pearl Harbor hysteria in Los Angeles,
crammed with stale jokes and wacky
characters, and the movie might well
have turned into an overblown flop had
it been made by some run-of-the-mill
studio hack. But Spielberg stages
early every scene as if it were the
final, show-stopping set-piece. He's a
visionary craftsman who makes
gleaming, sugar-coated poetry out of
the t'echnology of the movies, and his
visual imagination is so seductive that
he almost brings this manic techno-
circos 'off. 1941 is Spielberg's It's a Mad,
Mad, Mad, Mad World, alright, but
unlike Stanley Kramer's, this one
delivers. Though the basic material is
dross, there's enough magical inven-
zion and brazen low comedy to keep the
film hopping for two hours.
WHAT'S ALWAYS been astonishing
about Spie bergs work is the sense of
wonder and fun he's able to bring to his
cinematic virtuosity. Spielberg isn't an
icy ┬░mechanical master, like Stanley
Kubrick. He finds beauty in technology
(as in the end of Close Encounters, or
the lovely streams of flashing squad
cars in The Sugarland Express , and
then suffuses a film with an aura of
,.weetness and innocence that extends
t..o the characters. Unlike fellow visual
innovator Brian De Palma; Spielberg is
a whiz with actors, and he can lend
touching resonance to, a' bare-bones
script. The trio of shark-hunters in
Jaws were as memorable as the
moments that knocked you out of your
chair; the characters anchored the
movie to the ground, kept it from tur-
ning into a cold exercise in audience
0 1941 is the first Spielberg film that
fails to tie technique to anything of
emotional substance. Spielberg should
be doing romantic comedy, not wacked-
out farce, and this script gives him
nothing to work with. i the two
quasi-romantic leads ($6by DiCicco
and Dianne Kay) are hardly compelling
enough to hold our interest daring their
relatively brief time onscreen. But
there's an almost palpable joy in the
energy and ingeniousness of the
*taging, and in the complexity of the
visual details. You can feel the kick
Spielberg must have gotten from
making the movie, and injecting it with
quotes from Jaws, Close Encounters,
The Graduate, Casablanca, Star Wars,
The Wizard of Oz, and, no doubt, a few
The characters are ties together in a
loose, American Graffiti-style
narrative that chronicles the events in a
mingle night, roughly a week after the
earl Harbor attack, There evidently
was some genuine paranoia in Southern
California about a possible mainland
attack, and a stray Japanese sub-

marine was actually cruising off the
coast. 1941 punches fact into farce. The
sub is a smokey, mock-ominous craft,
populated by an inept crew and led by
Toshiro Mifune (looking Inscrutably
Evil) and by Christopher Lee, as an
allied Nazi. The Japanese decide they
an poke a hole in American morale by
aaunching a full-scale attack ;on
Hollywood. (In one of the funniest bits
in the film, a crew member points up to
a jiggling nude swimmer clinging to the
sub's periscope and shouts "Ha-ee-
woooood!", his face plastered with
wide-eyed, Japanese joy),. Needless to
say, they never reach their target:
THE AMERCAN side is essentially a
ollection of lunatics, war-mongers,
Get it

The Michigan Daily-Friday, January 25, 1980-Page 5
[he poetry of technology



tlW Gourt


. e. pN E




and nerds. Among them are an airforce
secretary (Nany Allen) who can only
make love airborn ; a general (Robert
Stack) whom D:isney's Dumbo-
reduces to a blubbering softie; a
scowling, granite-faced marine (Treat
Williams) with a manic fear of eggs;
and Wild Bill Kelso (John Belushi), a
renegade air force sergeant whose
plane is painted to look like a shark. Un-
fortunately, 1941 rarely manages to live
up to its enormous scale in the humor
department. The movie has been billed
as a "comedy spectacular," but the
comedy and spectacle rarely fuse;
rather, they co-exist, and the jokes
themselves are numbingly ordinary.
Belushi's bits include forever chomping
on the stub of a cigar and smashing

open a Coke bottle when he can't find an
opener. In other words, this is Bluto on
wings, and it wears thin fast.
The spectacle is another story.
Spielberg gives this sitcom script
everything he has. as if trying to outdo
Close Encounters without any help
from an alien world. There's a tank that
barrels through a paint factory, turning
the screen into a volcano of color, and a
Ferris Wheel that rolls right out of an
amusement park. And the pliysical
comedy is unparalleled. Spielberg does
with slapstick what Milos Forman did
with dancing in Hair, by piecing
together Twyla Tarpe's choregraphy
through editing instead of simply
staging the numbers and letting the
camera rojl. The physical comedy in

1941 has been conceived as cinematic
comedy. The camera zooms, pans, and
dollies like it's on fire, and the bits are
spliced together into hyperbolic slap-
stick ballets. There's nothing especially
clever about an early scene with two
cafeteria cooks throwing plates at each
other as they jitterbug, but there's such
gleeful, breakneck vitality in the
filming that it's like you're watching
slapstick for the first time.
BEST OF ALL is Spielberg's jeweled-
showpiece, an electrical dance-hall
fight sequence with people sliding on
floors and chasing each other up walls,
like Fred Astaire in Singin' In the Rain.
At the climax, when Treat Williams
delivers the knock-out punch to the
dancing-fool hero, a neon American
flag flashing behind him, the sequence
has been built to such an exquisite fren-
zy that it's like the final, breath-taking
surge in a Mahler symphony.
None of which seems to mean
anything to critics everywhere, who've
branded 1941 a "failure." perhaps
because they expected Spiel berg's first
comedy to be the funniest movie ever
made and wouldn't settle zr anything
less. 1941 may even be disappoin-
tment to Spielberg fans, because it's
lacking the human dimensions of his
other films and because parts are
bogged down by the infant wackiness of
the conception.
One wants more out of Spielberg,
perhaps, since he's already established
himself as our most dazzling enter-
tainer. But 1941 is nothing to scoff at.
Despite its Claws, it must be the most
entertaining failure I've seen .in
Federal expenditures for Vietnam
era veterans have totalled more than
$40 billion. This includes some $25
billion for GI Bill education and
training assistance and more than $3
billion for VA hospital and medical

t0Gou th
1140 South University





Closing our Ann Arbor Store Very Soon!
Fabrics! Apparel! China! Glassware! Store Fixtures!
A Rare Opportunity. HURRY!

* orthogonaly
on the park
330 E. Liberty at Division, Ann Arbor-662-2600

Bobby DiCicco and Diane Kay find love on a tank in Steven Spielberg's

Benefits for veterans and their
families and how to get them are
described in a booklet, "Federal
Benefits for Veterans and Dependen-
ts." It can be obtained by sending a
check for $L50 to Superintendent of
Documents, U.S. Government Printing
Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.


The Intel Notebook

Careers and Technology at Intel

The Microelectronics Revolution-
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We have career opportunities available
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If you want to be part of the emerging
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