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March 15, 1981 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 1981-03-15

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The Michigan Daily

Sunday, March 15, 1981

Page 7

oriental food to take out
1232 PACKARD 994-3151
open Mon-Sal, 11-9 Sun,3-9

. .S
Make no mistake about it. Tess has
ail the hallmarks of an epic motion pic-
ture: splendor, elegance, and an inor-
dinately long running time. Like its
predecessors in latter-day epic genre,
Barry Lyndon and Days of Heaven, it
goes on and on (3 hours, ap-
proximately), but it's so gorgeous one
barely notices the time passing.
The film's sourcebook is Thomas
Hardy's late 19th century novel, Tess of
the D'Urbervilles. Director-co-author
Roman Polanski painstakingly
recreated the lush green meadows and
well-scrubbed farmhouses of Wessex (a
mythical English county used by Hardy
in numerous novels, including Tess).
*The result, photographed by Ghislain
Cloquet and the late Geoffry Unsworth,
is breathtaking, a soft focus, pastel-
tinged, nostalgic ode to Victorian coun-
try life.
THEMATICALLY, though, Tess is
not a very pretty picture.
In a literary sense, Polanski's Tess is
a little removed from Hardy's Bucoloc,
earthy Wessex tales. It is reminiscent
of one of those romantic ballads by
*William Wordsworth in which some
wildeyed lass is always roaming the
moors, clutching a decomposing baby
ad muttering, "Sleep, my pretty one
the world won't find us here."
Like Wordsworth, Polanski loves to
vweep over the woman-as-victim-of-
men, but it's a double bind; in order to
sympathize with her he must first
regard her as helpless and impotent,
like the terrified, psychotic in
Repulsion, or the haunted, doomed
specter of Simone Choule in The Tenant
(two of Polanski's earlier films).
Tess Durbeyfield (Nastassia Kinski) is
a poor but beautiful farm girl who en-
ters unwillingly into a brief affair with
Stokes (Leigh Lawson), a rich, aging
libertine. She escapes from Stokes,
whose only power over her is his
money - but not before he impregnates
her. Stokes' child dies in infancy, and
Tess, shattered and guilty, goes to work
at a dairy farm.
THERE, SHE falls in love with
another wealthy man, an idealistic,
saintly young Marxist named Angel
Clare (Peter Firth). Angel marries her,
then abandons her in disgust when she
confesses her past to him. Tess even-
tually returns to Stokes;,Angel returns
to beg her forgiveness, and she mur-
ders her lover and runs away with
"What is this strange temptation
misery holds for you?" a frustrated
Stokes asks Tess at one point.

deflates Polanski' s 'Tess'

ders herself to the authorities, at last,
without a struggle, blandly accepting
her long-anticipated punishment, just
as she unthinkingly accepted Stokes'
gifts after the rape.
Nastassia Kinski does, as numerous
critics have noted, look a lot like a very
young Ingrid Bergman, almost
frighteningly so, but there the resem-
blance ends. Bergman was, and is, a
striking film presence, not so much for
her beauty (compared to a lot of other
actresses at the time, she was fairly
plain and coarse-looking) but for her
fresh, graceful liveliness, and that in-
credible, lowing voice of hers.
In comparison, Kinski comes across
here as just a vaguely pretty little girl.
Polanski wants us to view Tess as a
silent, suffering goddess of Virtue
Wronged, and Kinski obliges by
remaining virtually static before his
camera, barely speaking, eyes per-
petually downcast, a vacant, sullen ex-
pression on her face.'This is a mistake.
No actress, no matter how cute she is,
can fascinate an audience for 31/2 hours
by impersonating a whipped puppy.
IN CONTRAST, Peter Firth makes a
superlative, androgynous Angel, in-
finitely more loveable, for all his
faults, than Kinski'$ stony Tess. Firth's
Angel does have an ethereal quality, all
blond delicate curls and soft, poetic
voice. His courtship of Tess is so pure,
so lyrical that it comes as a dreadful
shock when he rejects her, spouting
inane Marxist rhetorilc about the
degenerate aristocracy. Tess, by the
way, is the descendant of a fallen race
of British nobility, which is why she
handles herself with such warped
Phillipe Sardi's music for Tess is,
regrettably, bad-schmaltzy, plod-
ding, and completely out of place in this
subtle, delicate film. At one point, Tess'
mother croons a pretty, singsongy
lullaby to one of her children. Sardi
pounces on this gentle melody with
elephantine glee, and incorporates it in-
to his score as a recurring theme for
Lost Innocence. Thus, when Tess buries
her illegitimate baby in a lonely wood,
a dissonate cluster of church bells
bangs deafeningly over the soundtrack,
while a phalanx of horns and st'rings
blares a reprise of the lullaby.
Whether or not Tess is a great film, or
even one of Polanski's more important
works, remains to be seen. For the
moment, it is an intriguing, lovely film
which, despite glaring flaws, (i.e., Kin-
ski and Sardi), cannot be shrugged off

The U-M Professional Theatre Program Michigan Ensemble heatre

Ann Arbor's Own
Professional Theatre Company


Henrik Ibsen's
A Do//House
March 25- 29, 8 pm Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre
Sunday at 2pm and 8pm
Special Half-Price Preview March 24, 8pm

Tickets at PTP

Call 764-0450

Nastassia Kinski plays the title role in Roman Polanski's 'Tess,' based on
the novel by Thomas Hardy. The film attempts the epic proportions of
'Barry Lyndon,' but is hampered by a wooden performance by Kinski and a
dreary musical score. Still, Polanski's loving treatment has wrought a
breathtakingly beautiful film that has earned six Academy Award

Feminists may well recoil at this, but
it's a historically accurate concept.
Tess is a consummate masochist, the
ultimate in pristine Victorian heroines.
She performs the sexual act out of duty
or forced compliance, not for any
reason remotely resembling physical
desire. The film chronicles Stokes' en-
tire affair yith Tess in three brief,
jarring sequences.
First, Stokes seduces Tess (or, more
accurately, rapes her) vith no more
provocation than an innocent kiss. We
then see Stokes giving an uncertain-s
looking Tess a new hat, and finally,

there is Stokes rowing a punt, with a
resentful Tess in the bow, pouting and
sulking away in her new finery.
THE SUFFERING that Tess imposes
on herself for the affair - ruining her
marriage with Angel, the caroming
back and forth between these two cruel,
thoughtless men, destroying all chan-
ces for happiness in the process - is all
out'of proportion to her actual guilt in
the matter. Tess is not a particularly
moral character. She is, rather, a
stodgy, witless, anhedonic zero. She
didn't have to kill Stokes, and she never
regrets the murder itself. She surren-

ThZUnvesiy ofMch1a
Colee f itrauS cine ndteAt
Proessr.C-de-. Cob

Films reflect economic, political realities

Does the Laffer Curve apply to non-
Hollywood films? In the past few
weeks there have been written analyses
btrying to make connections between A)
fThe Reagan rule B) the new mood of
conservatism hissing across the coun-
try C) the crummy economy and A)
late-night television B) new wave
music C) clothing styles D) board
games. Deep thinkers on both sides of
the fence have been poking about ob-
sessively in all areas of American life,
looking for signs that the Reagan epoch
is already influencing everything.
It's a rather dirty business, trying to
hook up falling soybean futures or the
popularity of Carl Sagan with cbntem-
porary political events. And yet, it feels
so apt to make certain comparisons in
regard to this year's Ann Arbor Film
Festival. Friday evening three shows
offered a handful of signals that the
economy is indeed affecting the making
of such films, and that the right wing
atmosphere is being felt by a notable
number of filmmakers. Dan Dinello's
off-hand, zany Rock Lobster had a sub=
theme of oil crisis, anti-Arab paranoia,
and the quick Economicomideration-
sman had an up-to-the-minute, all-in-a-
minute outlook on the twilight of
TWO FILMS among the most well-
received were ones which seemed af-
fected by current events in a different
fashion. Leon "Peck" Clark: Basket-
maker, by Bill Ferris and Judy Peiser
and Jeffrey Pohn's Parting Shot were
both made with an enormous staff and,
*it would seem, a strong eye toward
future television.
There's nothing wrong with being oh

the tube - God knows, Basketmaker is
a far better documentary than last
year's Elvin Jones: A Different
Drummer, which has since popped up
on public television on several oc-
casions. But who says you have to be so
plain, so formulaic, to be noticed by a
mass audience? Is this an ambition
spawned by the need to recoup from
losses incurred in the making of a film?
It raises the question of how the
economy affects palatability .
Parting Shot was so pat and shiny it
stuck out ludicrously from everything
else on the bill. The nugget at the center
of the story was pure fun: a filmmaker
from Hollywood's glory days gets into
an auto accident and is confined to a
wheelchair, where age helps him
become a barely-anchored cyclone of
delerious schemes.
But the film rapidly becomes pure
sitcom. All the characters - the direc-
tor, his nice guy son, his Japanese
caretaker, his son's girlfriend - are
painted with oh-so-loveable strokes.
The tale unfolds into a conventional,
mild-mannered yarn about a youth
trying to break away from home and
his father. At forty nine minutes, it left
me wondering about its compatability
with television (add the usual eleven
minutes of commercials, and instant
hour-long special!).
docket seemed to refer to the im-
mediate political climate. Perhaps the
best thing of the evening, Stan Vander-
beek's Curious Phenomena, was
another of his computer animation
works, this one far more satisfying than
his entry last year. Curious Phenomena
came up with a handful of fascinating

forms created on a computer screen,
which rotated slowly to reveal not only
other sides but also unfolded tran-
smutations of the original form.
Also worth noting is Paul Winkler's
Urban Spaces, which played with per-
ceptions of foreground and background
by juxtaposing strips showing human
and automotive traffic with fascinating
abstractions of the sides of tall
But time and again, the nature of the
times kept surfacing. And was that
some kind of longing for the 60s I
noticed in the psychedelic discoveries

of the body and employment of that
ultra-60s flickering, in Eric Seibert's
Umbra, unabashed anti-consumerism
of Bill Farley's Made For Television?
It's impossible to imagine any loosely-
linked group of filmmakers agreeing on
the nature of our age, and how to
respond to it. The ones in this year's
film festival clearly do not. But many of.
them seem keen to respond in some
way to things that are going on
politically - trends and events which
were initiated long befqre Reagan was
voted into office.

The kinds of sound colorations which this
orchestra produces easily and yet precisely
border on the unimaginable."
- Wiesbadener Tagblatt, Frankfurt


Andre Previn, Conductor
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Haydn: Symphony No. 83 in G minor ("La Poule")
Ravel: Rapsodie Espagnole
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5, Op. 100
Thursday March19 at 8:30
Hili Auditorium
Tickets at: $12.50, $10.50, $9.00, j ,~$7.00 and $5.00.

Have you been thinking
about concentrating in

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