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April 01, 1980 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-04-01

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The Michigan Daily-Tuesday, April 1, 1980-Page 5


.Tames Caan's Hide in Plain Sight is
the kind of skin-tight, bare-bones
motion picture which inspires adjec-
tives like "gutsy," "sincere," "no-
nonsense" and other pseudo-homely
accolades. Such knee-jerk tributes
exude with a kind of seasonal regularity
(last year it was Norma Rae) from the
collective pens of the New York-LA
media axis, whose nimprs seem to-
build up an anryaIguilt complex over a
steady cinemnatic diet of jaded
Beautiful,4'eople neuroses. Hide in
Plai. fght provides the requisite un-
ied middle-class panacea to the
kness of chic decadence, and though
the film does indeed manage a low-key
compellingness, its determined salt-of-
the-earth motif ultimately leaves too
many moral ambiguities and too few
artistic ones.
Starring and directed by Caan, Plain
Sight is based on a true story of a Buf-
falo , N.Y. man who in 1967 was sum-
marily wrenched out of his daily life
and plunged into a nightmare of gover-
ental secrecy and evasion. Thomas
Hacklin is an easy-going, divorced far-
tory worker with once-a-week custody.
of his two small children. Much to
(Hacklin's concern, his ex-wife has lat-
ched onto a small-time Mafioso boy
friend. '
EVENTS MOVE swiftly from simple

e love those working-class heroes

"Keepin tench"
My permanent mailing address:

James Caan plays a blue-collar
worker finally reunited with his
chilren (Heather Bicknell and An-
drew Fenwick) after months of for-
ced separation in Hide in Plain Sight,
which marks Caan's debut as a
domestic melodrama into a diabolical
power struggle between legality and
morality. The boyfriend pulls an armed
robbery and is fingered for the crime.
On his local godfather's advice, he
marries Hacklin's ex (she thus won't be
able to testify against him). Once
jailed, he is offered an option by loyal
FBI agents: testify against his bosses
(who have brusquely left him to the
wolves) and the government will
protect him through its "new" witness
relocation program-i.e., a new name,
a new city. total anonymity from Mafia

vengence. (Just how "original" is this
program? 1947's classic crimer Kiss of
,Death contained the exact same plan
and plot).
The next time Hacklin comes to
collect his kids, he finds their house
empty and deserted. Bewildered, he
contacts the police, the bureau of
missing persons, every government
agency he can think of, only to run into a
stone wall of official "no comments."
He is the helpless, innocent bystander
in a clandestine process he doesn't even
understand, arbitrarily cut off from his
children without the slightest warning
or explanation why.
Life goes on; Hacklin marries a
second time, yet remains obsessed with
finding his kids. Eventually gleaning
the relocation program's existence but
not the geographical location of his
former family, he humbly, pan-
stakingly utilizes every legal means to
try to find out their whereabouts. But
when the government he has always
believed in continues to frustrate him at
every turn, he finally decides to take
the law into his own hands. Spurning
caution and legalities, he launches into
a cross-country search whose ending
preaches not so much that the end
justifies the means but, more simply,
that love conquers all.
TO CAAN'S credit, Hide in Plain
Sight lapses neither into icy-slick con-
spiratorial trendiness on the one hand
nor sentimentalized Lassie-come-home
schlock on the other. Caan plays his un-
settling plotline absolutely straight,
patiently building his story's blocks of
labarynthian evasion until you cas feel
Hacklin's spiraling frustration like a
dagger's edge. Though Plain Sight is
visually unmemorable, its close-

cropped sense of pace is always on
target, nagging and grinding at you
with a subtlety most unexpected from a
novice film director.
Unfortunately, while the film's plot
machinations take on a frightening,
almost matter-of-fact believability, its -
principal characters do not. Evidently
equating reality with monosyllabic
inarticulation, screenwriter Spencer
Eastman has concocted an ensemble of
walking cliches, drably performed by
one of the more untalented casts in
recent movie memory.
Only Caan manages to bring his role
to life, rendering Hacklin's indignance
and helplessness achingly palpable. He
receives no comparable help from
Eastman's listless script or from his
fellow thespians: Barbaba Rae plays
Hacklin's ex-wife as your standard
blonde floozie, while her gangster-
husband (Robert Viharo) is a raving,
hyped-up composite of fifty years of
crime movies. Jill Eikenberry can
barely get out her lines as Hacklin's
heart-of-gold second wife, while Ken-
neth McMillin and Josef Somer are im-
possible grotesqueries of insensitivity
as the government agents who give our
hero the run-around. Though Eastman
might argue that his characters ap-
proximate their real-life counterparts,
I suspect his stick-figure simpletons
have about as much to do with reality
as the weekly "documentary" charac-
ters used to on The Untouchables.
Plain Sight strikes moral attitudes it
never sufficiently resolves. The film
takes pains to remind us Hacklin is a
person who "never demonstrdted,"
who "always supported the gover-
nment" until the system he trusted
betrayed him past the point of recon-
Eastman wants us to feel fury at his
protagonist's prolonged injustice, yet
Plain Sight's righteous outrage treads
through ambiguous shades of gray
Surely the FBI owed their informant
the debt of secrecy promised him; were
Hacklin eventually to track him down,
could Hafia hitmen be far behind (as
the film graphically concedes?) In-
deed, it is easy to view Hacklin's plight
less as a case of governmental vindic-
tiveness than as a horrifying
Kafkaesque deadlock, a case of
honorable intentions twisted into a
hideously unresolvable Catch-22.
Yet existential bleakness was ob-
viously not the name of Caan's and
Eastman's game. Their film is played
as the triumph of The Little Man, the
vindication of love, family and blue-
collar common sense. That it succeeds


uth University

even modestly to this end is a singular
tribute to Caan's sheer, driving per-
severence both behind and in front of
the camera. If nothing else, Fide in
Plain Sight may have triggered a new
career for this already talented artist;
if Caan could get so much mileage out
of this wan little movie strictly on his
own, it's exciting to ponder what he
might achieve next time should he
manage to find just a few able, creative
bodies to assist him.



REEFER MADNESS (Leo Gasnier 1936) 7 & 10:20 AUD A
Originally titled Tell Your Children this anti-marijuana propaganda film seen
today is a hilarious camp comedy. The weed is described as "the new drug which
is destroying the Youth of America." Plus short: THE MYSTERY OF THE LEAPING
FISH (John Emerson, 1916), the classic COCAINE COMEDY with Douglas Fair-
banks, Sr. as the detective Coke Ennyday-a parody of Sherlock Holmes. Sce-
nario by Tod Browning, supervised by D. W. Griffith.
Back by popular demand are Moe, Larry and Curly. Tonight we present more of
their finest, all uncut and typically outrageous.
Tomorrow: Alan Bates and Genevieve Bujold in THE KING OF HEARTS AT
Aud. A.

Do a Tree
a Favor:
Your Daily

Daily Photo by PAUL ENGSTROM
The Friars and Harmony Renaissance performed Saturday night at Rackham Auditorium. The Friars' 1st tenor Paul
Jones (right) and 2nd tenor Ed Aluk (left, back to camera) prepare for a good-bye hug during their "Breaking Up is
Hard to Do" number. Backing them up here are baritone Allan Brown, 2nd tenor Greg Nettor and 1st tenor Mike


The University Activities Center
The Michigan Union
Cordially Invite You To Attend
The Inaugural Ball
In Honor of Harold T.Shapiro
The Tenth President of The University of Michigan
Thursday, April 17th, 1980
9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Michigan Union Ballroom
Featuring Tommy Dorsey Orchestra
Students $10.00 per couple
$6.00 per person
Faculty, Staff and A tumnni $20. 00 per couple
$11.00 per person
Limited tickets available at Ticket Central
Michigan Union
Beginning Monday, March 24

Continues tonight with THE YOUNG LADIES OF WILKO, which is Andrzes
Wajda's latest film. 7:00 ONLY. And PARDON ME, DO THEY BEAT YOU
UP AROUND HERE, By Piwowsky. At 9:00.
Wednesday: Is Bloodsucking Double Feature Night with NOSFERATU
7:00 and Tod Browning's DRACULA at 9:05, starring Bela Lugosi. Both
shows are preceded by a Laurel and Hardy short feature.




U AC Musket
Watch for the
first light of spring
a musical based on the Gospel
according to St. Matthew
April 3, 4, 5,&6

For Information Call 763-1107




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