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October 15, 1981 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1981-10-15

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ARTS
Thursday, October 15, 1981

I

The Michigan Daily

Page 5

'Paternity' cruelly aborts comedy

By Adam Knee
W ITH THE new Burt Reynolds
vehicle Paternity, Hollywood
sends another essentially worthless
comedy our way. It almost appears that
American film producers want to
destroy comedy as a viable film
genre-and are succeeding in doing so.
Paternity is totally misguided from
its conception; surrogate motherhood
is not an appropriate subject matter for
any film attempting to be a light
romantic comedy. Pregnancy is in it-
self no joking matter, and it is offensive
to anyone's sense of the female ex-
perience to see it dealt with as it is here.
The film stars Reynolds as Buddy
Evans, a middle-aged bachelor who
seeks to obtain a child because he wants
an heir and because he relates well to
children-perhaps a reflection on his
mentality. Buddy's problem is that
despite being considered one of the
country's ten most eligible bachelors,
he is unable to deal with relationships
with other adult human beings, and,
hence, an involved relationship with the
mother would be out of the question.
With this in mind he embarks on a
search for someone who is willing to

have his baby for a fee. He wants a
business-like transaction, no emotion
involved. After interviewing several
prospective mothers-one of whom he
sadistically showers with verbal abuse
in an enigmatic scene with disturbing
implications-he is no closer to
fatherhood.
One day, as fate would have it, while
he pursues an interviewee fleeing from
his office, he just happens to bump
into Maggie (Beverly D'Angelo), a
waitress at a local luncheonette, who
just happens to have been accepted to
study trumpet in Europe and who just
happens to need money to get over-
seas-and, well, things work out from
there.
Maggie's decision is hard for us to
believe as, indeed, are characters' ac-
tions throughout this clumsily-scripted
film. Even more difficult to accept
(though it is the obvious turn for events
to take) is her falling in love with Bud-
dy, who goes through little emotional
maturation during the course of the
film, aside from falling in love with
Maggie.
In the audacious conclusion, an ab-
solutely calm and comfortable Maggie
marries Buddy-while being wheeled
down a hospital corridor to a delivery
room. Again, the filmmakers seriously

misjudge audience sensitivity concer-
ning women when they use such a
scene.
Although Paternity does not con-
sistently depict women in an unrealistic
or derogatory light, it does condone a
negative attitude towards women
through the persona of its ostensible
hero. Buddy clearly sees women as
nothing more than meat, and there is
little evidence of any real sensitivity
toward them below his coarse surface.
It is rather disconcerting that in studio-
issued publicity, Reynolds en-
thusiastically notes similarities bet-
ween the character and himself.
In this context, the film's romantic

interest simply cannot work. We are not
moved to admire Buddy when he ex-
plains his need for a child during a quiet
stroll with Maggie, although the scrip-
twriter clearly expects us to. We cannot
feel any tenderness during a slow and
clumsy sequence of flashbacks of their
moments together. There is simply no
reason to empathize with Buddy.
Yet none of these flaws overshadow
the underlying problem, which is that,
Paternity is not funny--sure death for
any comedy. Absurd situations are just
not absurd enough, and Reynold's lines
consistently fall flat. One can only
quietly watch and wait for the film to
end.

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Burt Reynolds and Beverly D'Angelo in Paternity.

Apartheid tightens up the knot

By Gail Negbaur
AN A PLAY that deals with racial
discrimination and the system of
apartheid in South Africa be enjoyable
and interesting in performance? In the
case of Athol Fugard's The Blood Knot,
the answer is yes.
Fugard explores the relationship of
two brothers of "mixed color" in the
segregated environment of South
Africa. The physical and cultural dif-
ferences between the two is so great,
however, that the text must constantly
remind the viewer that they are
brthers.
Morris is of fair complexion,
educated, and a dreamer while
Zachariah is dark, illiterate, and
bemoaning a lack of women and
alcohol. The contrast between the
brothers becomes symbolic 'of the dif-
ferences between the two races and out
of this Fugard creates a compelling
relationship.
Despite their differences, the two are
tied together in a "blood knot" as
brothers. They reside in a small, one-
room shack with Morris caring for Zach
like a wife or mother and Zach finan-
cially supporting Morris. They must
deal with each other in ways that black
and white people rarely do in the South
African environment.
To make them symbolic of their
races, Fugard has them playing the
roles of "the white man" and "the
black man" in their own childish
games. Although this has an interesting
effect, it unnecessarily emphasizes
their conflict. The rest of the play,
especially when Zach illegally, but
ignorantly, corresponds with a white
female pen-pal; sufficiently points out
the problems of segregation and
prejudice.

The text of The Blood Knot is very
long and quite verbose. To handle this
problem extensive cutting has been
done for the Michigan Ensemble
Theater's production at the Men-
delssohn Theater. Overall this is very
helpful, although inevitably some in-
teresting details are omitted. Yet the
MET version is a very good one.
One of the most exciting factors is
that Zakes Mokae has returned to
recreate the role of Zach which he
originated in 1961 playing opposite
Fugard himself as Morris. Mokae is a
vibrant actor with a terrific smile and a

dynamic stage presence. It is obvious
that through the years he has gained
perfect control of this role. Like Fugard
and both of the characters in the play,
Mokae is from South Africa. This fact
has certainly helped him to identify
with Zach, but it also makes him unin-
telligible at times. His accent is strong
and some of the words, are different
from what an American is used to
hearing. Regardless, it is absolutely
worth making the effort to understand
him because it is an outstanding per-
formance.
See BLOOD, Page 6

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