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January 11, 1981 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1981-01-11

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Sunday, January11, 1981

y .

The Michigan Daily



Can Neil Diamond act? Can monkeys
talk? Yes-and in exactly the same,
slightly unreal, reciting-sounds way. On
his album covers, he's a well-oiled
lounge lizard, some sad middle-aged
fantasy of a Prince Charming: eyes
watery from the strains of sensitivity,
Holiday Inn Bar prowling attire intact
(silk shirt unbuttoned to reveal that
boldly hairy chest, with medallion
dangling sensually), all of it in melty
soft-focus, promising meaningful sex.
The music is more of the same, Tom
Jones stuff with Hallmark-card
Heaviness, sung in that rugged
It is almost impossible to imagine
this presence as a walking-talking
human being, and The Jazz Singer
doesn't make it any easier. The scene in
which Neil sings at a bar in blackface is
already notorious among connoisseurs
of epic bad taste, but that and every
other horrendously misconceived
sequence are ridiculous for reasons
that go beyond the movie's ludicrous
circa-1935 level of narrative sophistry.
THEY'RE GIVEN an added edge of
absurdity because Diamond magically,
manages to seem out-of-place in any
situation, in any locale. Playing he-man
in a wildly-contrived barroom brawl,
pulling a role-reversal not-now-honey-I-
have-a-headache bit on his cloying wife
(Catlin Adams) in bed, doing anything,
he's a void trying very, very hard, to
absolutely no effect. The secret behind
the mind-buggering N.D. misty-eyed-
gaucho persona has at last been
)evealed, through both his not-all-there
screen presence and the simply ghastly
judgment in his decision to remake the
eternally hokey if historic Jazz
Singer-the man must be a complete
It's fitting that this babe in filmland
should have innocently decided he must
have The Very Best Around as a silver
screen sparring partner. Ergo, the
patented world's greatest actor, Sir
Laurence Olivier, is cast as an elderly
cantor saddled with a geegolly-gosh
son, Yussel Rabinovich (38-year-old
Neil), who is going through a somewhat
overdue adolescent identity crisis.
Their scenes together are hilarious:
Olivier runs gleefully cruel rings
around Diamond's awe-Pops dead-
weight sincerity with his outrageous
ethnic cartoonery, complete with a
dense mittle-European accent and an
air of stuffed-furniture dignity. Sure,
it's something of a scaiidal for Olivier to
keep wasting his talent on these high-
priced roles in trash films, but he does
usually give us an astute parody of bad
acting along the way, and never more
so than here.
between Richard Fleischer (director of
those corporate classics The Boston
Strangler, Che!, Mandingo, and Tora!
'Tora! Tora!) and Jewish culture, which
he observes roughly the same way the
big studios observed blacks in the
'30s-with cutesy condescension and
outrageous simplification. The movie
isn't as visually appalling as one might
expect (no further compliments are
called for, though), and the com-
bination of complete plot inanity and
Fleisher's stunhing-cardboard ap-
proach saves it from being the usual
dull bad film. It's a scream.
The story begins with the sort of mon-
tage of American-cultural-meltpot
faces that haven't been seen in years,
thank God, while on the soundtrack
Neil's usual bomp-bomp-bomp tune ex-
citedly yelps out, "Got a dream they've
got to share/They . Come to
America ... TODAY!" Such a nice
As Yussel, Neil sings with his

synagogue's choir, but sneaks his True
Creative Yearnings in on the side by

don' walk to this terrible movie!

." .
I , °".+.
: '.
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sunshine. Neil tells Dad the dismal
news, and Olivier's eyes pop open and
his lips blubber in a magnificent
moment of private satire. ". . . A dee-
VORCE??!!?!," he chokes out, then
leaves, wailing "I hef no son!" as if the
Pharoah had just announced doom on
the tribe.
Our hero is upset! He bangs his fist
against a wall! (When Diamond bangs
his fist against the wall, it's as effective
as if he had said, "Darn! Now that just
goes and ruins the whole durn thing!")
He blows his cool at a recording
session! (Whining, "What happened to
the groove? What happened to the
groore, guys?") Deeply troubled, he
impetuously drives out into the desert
(fast! mad!) and walks around pen-
sively. Growing a beard and becoming
a drifting Marlboro Man, he hitches
around the rugged West, smokes a lot of
cigarettes pensively (it's THAT kind of
movie), picturesquely slings a duffle
bag over his shoulder, gets a cowboy
hat and shoes, wears a leather jacket
(the Sears-Roebuck kind, for nice
people), and stares gloomily through
rain-pelted restaurant windows.
Getting His Head Together in this
mysterious way, he returns to L.A.,
where agent Molly hands him their
JAN. 12,13 7-11 PM
12 MEN-
from male children to grandparents
Auditions by appointment only
Sign up sheets by Room 1502. Frieze Bldg.
Actual auditions - Trueblood Theatre
Scripts available - PTP Office, Michigan League

darling newborn baby while the sun's
golden dying rays shine on the Pacific
behind them. (They have already nuz-
zled each other before a roaring fire at
this point.) Molly begs a producer to
give the guy another break. "His album
went gold!" she cries. "A year ago!"
the producer scoffs. Nevertheless, after
being soppily reconciled with Dad by
turning up to sing at the synagogue
(with the same I-mean-this-really-I-do
Pop inflections, gag) for Yom Kippur,
Yussel/Jess wows the crowd as the
opening act for some other comedian.

Lucie Arnaz acts like a real person
once in a while, when the script doesn't
render cardboard even her relative
naturalism. Aside from that, it's ail
priceless and unwitting insanity,
perhaps still not in a league with the
truly unbelievable Times Square, bUt
perversely entertaining in the way that
lifts particular disasters from the
common puddle of undistinctive losers.
Word has been circulating that The
Jazz Singer is a bad movie and should
be avoided at all costs. Nonsense! It's'a
terrible movie, and anyone with a sense
of humour-should see it.

Vicki Carr in drag? Amateur night at Swingo's Celebrity Motor Lodge? No,
it's that Hunk, Neil Diamond, in his very first "acting" role as 'The Jazz
Singer.' If you think the title is obnoxious ...

moonlighting as suave Jess Robbins,
singing with three slaphappily
stereotyped black pals. His
traditionally-minded father and wife
disapprove of his involvement in that
shameful thing, show biz, but this
spunky guy defies them and goes to
L.A. to audition for a big record com-
pany. In L.A., he expresses wonder-
ment upon seeing a palm tree and a
limo; shows up one of those punk
rockers by performing his terribly,
terribly sensitive ballad the right way;
and magically acquires fresh young
agent Molly Bell (Lucie Arnaz), who for
some ambigious reason finds him both
attractive and talented.

"You can become a legend in a mon-
th," Molly tells him, speaking conser-
vatively, and of course by his second
concert date he's playing in a huge,
vulgar Las Vegas-type club, enrap-
turing an at-first-hostile teenaged
crowd with the usual overorchestrated
pop banalities.
BUT ALL IS not well, since his prim
wife doesn't like this nasty fame
business'and demands his return. She
finally takes a plane to drag him back,
acts like a wallflower, nags, and stomps
off in a huff to N.Y.C. Oh, well, enough
of the bitch anyway, thinks Neil. Then,
just when things are looking up again,
Pop Cantor arrives, squinting at the


Dir. Karel Reisz. VANESSA REDGRAVE, JASON ROBARDS. The elaborately
constructed and innovative biography of Isadora Duncan, the high
priestess of modern dance with a thing for togas and scarves. When she was
on stage, she was transformed. She had a grace and fluidity that captured
anyone who saw her dance." The film opens with a young Isadora solemnly
lighting candles in a mystical ceremony dedicating her life to Art and Truth,
and ends bluntly with a Bugatti bringing down the curtain in both life and an
entire age of innocence. Redgrave received Oscar nomination and Best Ac-
tress at Cannes. 7:00 & 10:00 at LORCH
CINEMA GUILD Film Fun For You and Yours


30 Day defective exchange
ariod for new unit--same WITH THIS CUO

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