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April 20, 1980 - Image 16

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The Michigan Daily, 1980-04-20
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Page 2-Sunday, 4ril 20, 1980-The Michigan Daily

I like moties
Dispatches from thea



By Owen

Never forgetting Kate
as one with her violin,
crescent on the stage
with fingers pressed to strings,
eyes like lamps and her sonata
and the glint of moon on her brow
in the black dress crouched
over eve, that image of Selene,
phantom draped in sable,
the serene cameo of him,
also pale, eyes like his,
only truly, tethered to the tide,
in and out, in time with
the lunar pulse,
Kate in the night:
woman of him
behind in the boat
on the river
ripples gliding to sea
evolving that no one can stop,
-can halt, can ever enter;
he first, always first,
I between the two,
he and me and the
woman of him
with black curls,
as we on the wall watched
the flux, current ebbing out
and away, until he faded,
only you and Isat,
the man forever
eclipsed by the luninescense of woman
with her violin in the boat;
I confess, I hated,
knowing he always desired you,
naturally craving his sister-
to enter her blood
become her
in the womb of moonlight,

when the void neared
I alone
never forgetting Kate,
her violin upon the river
and the pain came,
hunters thrashed-
all circles and pangs and
rough ropes that
only fullness releases;
it was you that approached
drifted as he never could
and never will,
hair longer,
eyes touched by some recent hurt
you closed in
woman of him
in your face
in your form
that sameness of origin
but bringing music,
and you glowing
with changes,
you whispered
stroked my arm
with your bow,
both he and you touched,
four lips against my heart,
and I thought I loved him,
it was him
I thought
but all along
the woman
in the shadows
with her violin
never forgetting Kate-
it was she
I loved.

READING ONE OF Pauline Kael's
movie reviews is like flipping
through an encyclopedia of sen-
sations-her jet-propelled prose can
bring a film rushing back to your sen-
ses. Kael has been our premier critic
for so long that one's tempted simply to
take her extraordinary gifts for gran-
ted. But she isn't just better than her
peers. Even as the fallout from the film-
generation explosion has crystallized
into a heap of cinema schools, film
journals, and street-corner pundits,
Kael remains the only critic who brings
her writing a little bit of magic. She
makes you believe in the romance of
the movies, long after you'd have
thought it squelched by the rancid
politics of show-biz commercialism.
Last spring, when Kael left her post
at The New Yorker for a short-lived
stint as production assistant for Warren
Beatty, most of her fans had mixed
feelings, at best. It was great to
imagine her in Hollywood, battling with
the moneymen, giving talented young
filmmakers the chance they might
otherwise never have gotten, trying to
affect some of the changes for which
she'd argued so vigorously in her
criticism. But it seemed questionable
whether Kael could influence things
behind the camera with the same
dynamic authority she'd had in the
screening room. Perhaps she just got
too fed up with the network of com-
promises that had spelled business in
Hollywood since the days of D. W. Grif-
But Kael, who's still working in
Hollywood and unsure of her future
plans, hasn't left the game yet-she's
just stepped out for a breather-and
When The Lights Go. DoWn, her new
collection of reviews, is a bravura per-
formance by a critic at the peak of her
powers. The book isn't as immediately
appealing as Reeling, her last collec-
tion, only because that book was a cor-
nucopia of movie talent that covered
three of the ripest years in American
film history. But Kael's achievement
here is, if anything, even more im-
pressive. These pieces, covering the
movies released every winter from
1975-79 (including a remarkably rich
and in-depth profile of Cary Grant's
career), are so laden with pungent
aesthetic and social insight, they com-
prise a body of work that makes that of
most other film critics look like a batch
of sterile yes-or-no judgments.
O NE OF THE biggest challenges
facing critics in the popular arts
is how to harmonize gut-level response
with measured evaluation-with
"criticism." A reviewer who can't
analyze is useless. But immediacy is
the zingy essence of pop, and critics
who think they're lending movies or pop
music "respectability" by drowning
their responses in a goo of academic
hyperbole are a pretentious drag.
Daily columnist Owen Gleiberman
says Pauline Kael actually does, in
true New Yorker tradition, frequent
-,the Hotet Agonquin, ...

Rolling Stone music critic Paul Nelson
writes record reviews as if he were
doing footnotes to Finnegan's Wake;
true-believers may not mind this ap-
proach (they'll go out and buy the
records anyway), but for more casual
fans it makes listening to the latest Neil
Young release sound like the most
foreboding chore since your term paper
in poly-sci.
Kael's approach is so visceral that
she breezes right by the academic
blues. Yet she's frighteningly smart,
and she can toss off insights about a
movie's themes, messages, or general
social significance the way most critics
do plot summation by treating ideas as
integral to the viewing experience. For
instance, here's Kael on Jaws and the
macho myth:
The fool on board the little boat
isn't the chief of police who doesn't
know one end of a boat from the
other, or the bookman, either. It's
(Robert) Shaw, the obsessively
masculine fisherman, who thinks
he's got to prove himself by fighting
the shark practically single-handed.
Shaw personalizes the shark, turns
him into a fourth character-the
enemy. This fisherman is such a
macho pain that it's harrowingly
funny when he's gobbled up; a
flamboyant actor like Robert Shaw,
who wears a proscenium arch
around him, has to be kidded.
Kael knows that a movie like Jaws
isn't out to make grand pronouncemen-
ts on the state of the American male
ego. But pop culture, by necessity, em-
bodies a society's obsessions and fads
Though Kael sprinkles her pieces
with deliriously funny wisecracks
("Thieves is a turkey that falls over

without being shot;" "Watching An-
thony Hopkins perform as the star of
Magic is maybe about as close as one
can get to watching the formation of a
geological statum"), she's not a
cynical put-down artist. In fact, what
continually makes her such a per-
suasive critic is that she insists on
dealing with even the most mindless,
lowest-common-denominator, fake-jive
trash on its own terms. She's not out to
condemn Network, Looking For Mr.
Goodbar, Valentino, or The Turning
Point, but to explore where they
fail-and to examine the attitudes they
pander to.
This 'generous equanimity is even
more rewarding when the movies are
worthwhile. Most reviews of Bertrand
Blier's Get Out Your Handkerchiefs
glibly branded the movie a piece of
"sexist" slop, and left it at that. Kael's
piece illuminates the wit and buoyant
integrity of the movie s male
cosmology. She explores the peculiar
character of Blier 's "sexism" and poin-
ts out that his "is an art of
exaggeration: he takes emotions and
blows them up so big that we can see
the things people don't speak
about-and laugh at them."
K AEL'S OVERALL emphasis on
sexuality is refreshing, not only
in light of other critics' lackluster ideas
about such matters, but because of the
various puritanical strains that still in-
fect movies themselves. It's clearer
now why Kael championed Last Tango
In Paris so fervently: With so few
movies even attempting to deal with
sexuality and its centrality in our lives,
Bertolucci's film must have seemed
like an undreamt-of gift. Kael deepens
a film's meaning and intensity for her
readers by exploring her own intensely

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-Amy Ronner


Amy Ronner is a teaching fellow in
creative writing at the University.
She is completing her doctorate in
English Literature.

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