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January 27, 1981 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily, 1981-01-27

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A

ARTS
Tuesday, January 27, 1981

The Michigan Daily

SEE PEOPLE GO BOOM!

6l

More yoks than yecchs in 'Scanners'

By DENNIS HARVEY
Hopefully Scanners will once and for
all shut up all those persistent and ab-
surd rumors that David Cronenburg is
some sort of horror genre whiz kid. On
the basis of having seen two of his
earlier poker-faced shlockfests, Rabid
and The Brood (missing, alas the sup-
posed gore peak They Came From
Within), it's hard to see this Canadian
auteur as anything but a passable hack
whose baroque ideas are usually flat-
itened out by a dour, humorless ap-
proach.
It was something of a shock to turn
the pages of a puffily prestigious
cinema (NEVER "movie") magazine
last year and find a large article begin-
ning with the bald, factual statement
that The Brood was unquestionably -
THE hor:ror masterpiece of the last
decade-or was it of all time? That film
had enough outrageous bad taste in its
plotting to be fun, but as happens too of-
ten with grade-B thrillers now, the
unimaginative nasty direction
neutralized the potential for nonsen-
se. Thus the spectacle of seeing rich,
fruity sexual neurotic Samantha Eggar
letting out her frustrations on sweet old
grandmothers, emotionally comatose
children and pretty young
schoolteachers through giving nightly
birth to murderous midgets provoked
simple yecchs rather than howls of
glee.
Similarly, Rabid had a strain of wild-
ness in ex-Ivory Snow girl/porn queen
Marilyn Chambers carrying a
mysterious disease that drove her to
poke people with what appeared to be a
large red popsicle that emerged
hungrily and periodically from her un-

possibilities presented by John
Cassavetes' with-a-bang exit at the end
of DePalma's film. Once again we're
faced with random individuals gif-
ted/cursed with "a derangement of the
synapses we call telepathy." There
are good ones and bad ones; some
Mysterious Government Agency is af-
ter both, in order to exploit their
powers, although'it turns out (as usual)
that the government forces are as
corrupt as the worst of the mean freaks.
These folks can "scan" the thoughts of
others, and when provoked, can set
rudely gossiping society matrons and
unwanted policemen to quivering and
jumping until they literally go boom.
CRONENBURG remains a rather
poor storyteller; the first half of Scan-
ners is tepid stuff, with scenes set up for
contrived visual/aural effects that
don't go anywhere, and a combination
of bad dialogue, acting and staging that
is kept from seeming as laughable as it
is only by the smoothing-over effect of
rumbling electronic soundtrack. There
are passably fun if dourly observed bits
of foolery-various convulsion
festivals, an early mind-blowing in-
cident (take that phrase at face value),
and a side trip to the studio of a crazed
Scanner sculptor who is acted with an
overripe awfulness to match the
Serious Art badness of his tormented
Night Gallery works.
But the movie really gets going with a
wild pileup of incidents that begin with
a mass scan-in (yeah, it is something
like a love-in) and ends with a van
careening through the walls of a record
store. The big final duel between the
central Good Scanner (Michael Lack)
and Bad Scanner (Michael Ironside)
comes after a half-dozen other frilly
crescendoes, but it's a shabbily anti-
climatic literalization of the final
Looney Tune flourish of The Fury, too
brazenly funny and phony-bright red

blood, leaden pacing-to be anything
but farcial.
THE PERFORMANCES cluik
around, either camping about in the
upper emotional registers or trying
dully and seriously hard. As the nice
heroine-true to Cronenburg's usual at-
titude toward women, this character s
rewarded for being sympathetic by
being rendered totally un-
necessary-Jennifer O'Neill is still
stuck with that particular vacuously
groomed model's expression of
thespian strain in any situation. She
keeps changing her outfits in the dam-
ndest circumstances.
Stephen Lack is rather awful, though
he's kept on his feet enough that you
may not notice. Michael Ironside chews
up the scenery in "an insane crusade to.
destroy the society that created him,"
begging Lack to join him in "bringing
the world of normals to their knees,"
then greeting his refusal with a
diabolical, "I'm gonna suck your brain
DRY!" The actor pulls a leering Ming
the Merciless act under Cronenburg's
obliviously terrified gaze. Patrick
MacGoohan is trapped playing another
version of Donald Pleasance's
Halloween role as the concerned out-
sider glumly forecasting ludicrous
doom, as if the world was a 1935
Republic thriller. Playing a
.psychopharmacist," whatever THAT
is, he at least manages to keep his
dignity-until a shamlessly silly men-
tal-breakdown scene, that is.
Scanners inadventently reaches what
has eluded David Cronenburg's films
and made them something of a 'drag so
far-giddiness. It's harmlessly bad,
and amid so many ugly, pedestrian
horror cheapies, that does count for
something. Any consideration of this
elaborate junk as quality cinema,
however, tends to explode into nothing
ness within 20 seconds.

Villian Michael Ironside literally blows somebody's mind in this production
still from the explosive new horror film 'Scanners.' This sequence actually
isn't in the film, but it's fairly representative.

derarm. Victims went woof, and sent
Toronto into a mouth-foaming panic.
There were some amusing scenes of
snarling civilians creating hysteria in
subway cars and shopping malls, but
once again Cronenberg's boorish.
seriousness toward his silly gore-laden
ideas drained their fun.
THE MIXTURE of pretentiousness
and psychobabble that sets Cronenburg
a bit apart from his contemporaries in
drive-in horror seems to be deluding a
substantial critical faction into
believing that this man is an artiste. He
certainly takes himself as one, in an
endless strpam of irritatingly self-
patronizing interviews on the State of

the Genre. But he's no DePalma or Hit-
chcock or Romero-he doesn't so much
as transcend the current lameness of
the genre as take those weaknesses
more seriously than anyone else.
Scanners is probably his best
film-it's dumb, clumsy, incredible,
but after the plodding first 45 minutes
the director unexpectedly begins to
heap so many absurd climaxes on top of
each other that the cumulative-hysteria
effect becomes rather entertaining. In
other words, Cronenburig has achieved
silliness in spite of himself, and it's a
relief.
The plot is a direct swipe from The
Fury, with particular emphasis on the

woo

A2 CHAMBER ORCHESTRA:
Mozart at its most magnificent

< '.
.

By JANE CARL
The tiny Ann Arbor Chamber Or-
chestra, under the direction of Carl
Daehler, seemed to have no trouble
filling the awesome Michigan Theatre
with sound during their January 24'con-
cert. One was amazed by the
remarkable professionalism with
which the performers approached their
craft. There were no noticeably weak
sections or players in this group, a rare
phenomenon indeed. Exhibiting ad-
mirable ensemble sensitivity and
precision, they gave very justifiable in-
terpretations of Mozart's works.
The first work of the all-Mozart
program, the blockbuster Overture to
"La Clemenza di Tito," K. 621, was the
most successful work of the evening.
This familiar piece was presented in
properly Mozartion style, alternating
light, wistful phrases with frenzied
vivacity.
THE SECOND WORK of the evening,
the "Concerto in C Major for Piano and
Orchestra," K. 467, was also the
weakest. Pianist Martha Naset is ob-
viously a very accomplished perfor-
mer. She exhibits much talent and
facility, but her Saturday night perfor-
mance was too tense to be called a

triumph. The orchestral accom-
paniment was properly secondary, in
fact, often too much so. In their solo
sections without the piano they lacked
the power necessary to make a strong
individual statement. At one climactic
point in the first movement, the pianist
must have suffered a short lapse of
memory, which furthered the tension in
her playing..
The Andante, the famous second
movement which later became the
theme from Elvira Madigan, (isn't it
wonderful what Hollywood can do?),
lacked a hint of the drama which is
prevalent in the first half of the piece,
but the lyrical second half was quite ef-
fective. By the third movement, Naset
had obviously regained her composure
and ended the piece very well. It is
regretful that this relaxation could not
have occurred earlier.
During the intermission, music was
performed on the steps leading to the
balcony by members of the orchestra
and the orchestra's resident woodwind
quintet, aptly entitled the Intrada Quin-
tet. This was basically a good idea. The
musicians-Nancy Waring, flutist; Jay
deVriees, clarinetist; and Erik Haugen,
bassoonist-are all very accomplished
and played some nice, light background
music to munch by. Unfortunately, this
went awry in two respects: the chat-
tering by the audience was so loud that
it obscured most of their playing. And,
considering all the music one would
hear in the evening, one's ears could
use a brief rest at intermission.
THE SECOND HALF of the concert
began with "Twelve German Dances,"
K. 586, a charming group of dances with
an absence of any serious or brooding
qualities. Viennese in flavor, these
waltz-like works were short, uplifted

pieces. The orchestra gave a
superlative performance of these more
inconsequential works, the only flaw
being a fluctuation of intonation in the
violins.
The last work was the "Symphony
No. 35 in D Major," K. 385, also known
as the "Haffner Symphony." One of
Mozart's best works, it originally began
as a serenade to honor the ennoblement
of Sigmund Haffner, the son of a for-
mer Burgomaster. One year after its
composition, Mozart requested its
.return to Vienna for a concert perfor-
mance and had this to say about it in a
letter to his father: "My new Haffner
symphony has positively amazed me,
for I had forgotten- every note of it. It
must surely produce a good effect."
The Allegro con spirito beginning as
performed by the Ann Arbor Chamber
Orchestra was a bit slow, sacrificing
fire for precision. However, the violin
runs were very precise and the
movement had a nice definition to its
character. The Andante was
stylistically perfect, enhanced by the
always smooth low string pulsations
and a glorious bassoon sound that
floated over the top of the orchestra for
a very satisfying effect. The Menuetto
had a nice, steady tempo that was not
rushed, as many minuets are. Once
again, the Finale: Presto was a bit too
restrained in tempo; and although the
execution was quite good, it lacked a
little excitement.
For an encore, the orchestra perfor-
med another Mozart piece, the opening
movement to Mozart's "Symphony No.
1," written in London in 1764 when
Mozart was only eight years old. Ob-
viously inspired by the works of C.P.E.
Bach, this must have been Mozart's an-'
swer to cops and robbers. Is this what

Jury
convicts
Abscam's

child prodigy pianists do when they are
bored? A simple work, perhaps, but
Mozart's sense of style, quite prevalent
even at eight, carried it through. It was
very cleanly executed by the Ann Arbor
Chamber Orchestra and provided a fit-
ting ending to a most enjoyable concert.

0

Kelly.
WASHINGTON (AP) - Former Rep.
Richard Kelly, the only Republican
member of Congress charged in the
FBI's Abscam undercover operations'
was convicted yesterday, along with,
two co-defendants, of taking part in 6
$25,000 bribery conspiracy.
The jury of seven women and five
men deliberated for just over 61% hours
before finding the trio guilty on three
charges that carried maximum prison
terms of 25 years for each defendant.
KELLY IMMEDIATELY vowed to
appeal the verdict, saying, "The war
goes on.
Kelly, 56, a Florida Republican who
was defeated for re-election in a
primary last year, was convicted of ac-
cepting a $25,000 bribe from an FBI
agent posing as an aide to two Arab'
sheiks. Kelly, who was videotaped ac-
cepting the money attastWashingto
townhouse Jan. 8, 1980, testified that he
took the payoff only to conduct his own
investigation of men he said he regar-
ded as shady characters.

a

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