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March 29, 1981 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1981-03-29

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ARTS
Sunday, March 29, 1981

The Michigan Daily

Page 5

'Altered States'

overcomes Chayefsky

By DENNIS HARVEY
If you're unashamed to admit membership in the
Me Generation, (or whatever it is), and want
maximal stimulation now, the next best thing to
,something else is Altered States. It's almost as much
un as drugs and sex, both of which it emulates (it's
all hallucinatory climaxes). It may not be the
Ultimate Trip (only the latest), but it does have a
fiendishly good time trying.
This is a film that should, by any right, have been a
stilted disaster, pitting as it does director Ken Russell
against writer Paddy Chayefsky - mad chi-chi sen-
sibility meets the prose-ridden Everyman intellec-
tual. Russell won, and his own work has, in some
ways, never been better, never been this focused.
ALTERED STATES has enough holes to pass as a
sponge, yet it stays miraculously afloat. The flaws
*ren't really worth mulling over too long - it's a hit-
and-run film, best served by letting it daze and sur-
prise you without bothering to think about it much af-
terwards.
ALAS, THANKS TO Chayefsky, at times there's all
too much to think about. His dialogue keeps the
characters blathering truths and questions, big ones.
Typically, his figures talk incessantly in generalities
abput the state of the world, even as they behave
otherwise like beyoodeeful people in an Arthur Hailey
novel - chic, gorgeous, committed, moving through
all the nicest modern settings. (Sex is always
fireworks for these folks: a roll in the hay for the
leads here causes them to generate a Decathlon-
worthy amount of sweat.)
Russell buries Chayefsky, though, in the most ex-
pedient manner possible. He plays the verbal arias at
78 rpm, hurling the characters and camera about, so
we can be amused by all the talktalktalk without ever
actually listening to more than a word or two of it.
Credit is due to Chayefsky for realizing the potential
in the central idea - a movie about mind-expansion

experiments is a terrifically legitimate excuse for
pure visual stimulus - but thank God the author's
ranting pretentiousness wasn't allowed to make this
fun concept a Network of the cosmos.
The principal excuse for fireworks is Dr. Eddie
Jessup (William Hurt), a researcher obsessed with
mind expansion who has his first hallucinatory ex-
perience while submerged in a tank of body-
temperature salt water in 1967.
ASSISTED BY milquetoast Dr. Rosenberg (Bob
Balaban) and denounced as a fanatic by Dr. Parrish
(Charles Haid), Jessup continues with increasingly
dangerous experiments on his own mind. Travelling
to Central America, he joins a tribe in partaking of a
sacred mushroom mixture, then takes a jar of the
stuff back home to couple its effect with that of the
think tank.
The results take him back to a primal state in one
fiendishly well-orchestrated episode, terrify his still-
enraptured ex-wife Emily (Blair Brown), and even-
tually cause Jessup to "get it off with God" - an
event that, though it finally segues into hum-
drum 16mm-fest psychedelics, has a buildup nearly
as exhilarating as Close Encounters' big light show.
Altered States may ultimately seem a cheat, but
only if you take it seriously. Tank research and out-
of-body scientific experiments certainly are
legitimate and fascinating territory for examination,
but the movie's flirtation with the subject is strictly
classy horror-flickish-imaginative thrills laced with
schmaltz.
THE ENDING, in particular, is wildly sentimental
tripe (why do all movie Ultimate Statements add up
to "all you need is love"?), insufficiently masked by
a lot of noise, makeup and laser effects. The film
should end ten minutes earlier with Dr. Jessup's big
bang, although the subsequent excess baggage does
allow a funny bit of verbal warfare between Rosen-
berg and Parrish.

Arthur Penn was originally engaged to direct, and
fortunately Russell kept Penn's hand-picked cast of
relative unknowns rather than using his own stock
company of hysterics. William Hurt is, to my mind,
the most extraordinary presence to debut on the
screen since Christopher Reeve, and his limitations
are likely to be far fewer.
He makes Jessup's abstract obsessions fearfully
real - you can feel the precarious force that drives
him past all normal considerations in search of the
infinite. Most actors would use the usual wild-eyes
passion-and-sincerity inflections to convey genius;
Hurt's wracked tension seems to be dredged up from
personal demons. He's even more appealing in the
new Eyewitness, and if his choice of vehicles stays
shrewd, the next movie decade's prospects look about
200 watts brighter.
THERE'S LESS indication of why Penn chose
Blair Brown for the thankless role of Emily. She's
pretty in a round, conventional way that looks dull
alongside Hurt's gangling sensuality. Her ser-
viceable performance can't offset the fact that.
Emily's function is strictly of the "Oh, Bob, STOP!
Think of the kids!" school of patient suffering.
Ken Russell's work has never been this confident
before, not even in Women in Love-which was, not at
all coincidentally, the only other project in which he's
had considerably less than complete control. Much
credit is probably due to John Corigliano's fine
score, Bran Ferran's visual effects, Jordan Cronen-
weth's photography and Eric Jenkin's editing
(especially since Russell still refuses to look at shot
footage, leaving the editing completely to others).
But the fact remains that Russell must have un-
dergone some sort of transformation, if only tem-
porary. Uniquely insane and amusing as Russell has
always been, the thinness of his rants is, generally,
See 'ALTERED', Page 7

William Hurt stars in Ken Russell's "Altered States," about a college
professor's Leary-esque experiments with mind-altering drugs. The script
was written by Paddy Chayefsky, but that turns out not to be much of a vir-
tue.

I

1

April 4th
at
MORE THAN A BOOKSTORE

a

*Acting not too hot in 'Orpheus in Hades'

L'

I

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G 1.JVFJ ITV. MI !'If A I PZiJF'-'rvc~t

r

By WALTER SHWAYDER
Gee this is fun; are we ever going to
take off?
Friday night's performance of Or-
pheus in Hades by the University of
Michigan School of Music Opera
Theatre was a very stylized production.
It was humorous, it was played with
Slots of energy and it didn't go
anywhere, except sideways.
The singing was well done, while the
acting was poor-not so much because
these singers didn't innately know how
to act (which they didn't) but because it
was apparent that they had spent more
time getting their vocal lines down than
they had working on their acting, put-
ting their sung lines into the character.
THIS IS THE bane of college opera;
the singer is usually more concerned
~abut what their voice is doing than
their body. Therefore, it is necessary
for.a stage director to instruct the ac-
tors on what he wants them to do, when
and where. What I saw last night
closely resembled (from what I've
read) 18th and 19th century opera ac-
ting. The singer comes stage center,
plants his or her feet and belts out a
tunfe. When the song is finished, they
return to the action and the scene. Such
antics would generally summarize the
acting style of Friday's performan-
ce.
Special performances worth noting
were those of John Styx, a fallen king in
Hades (Hell) and the gods Jupiter and
Mercury. John Styx was the cell guar-
dian of Eurydice (the lovely heroine)
when she is locked up in Hades. His per-
MANN THEATRES
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formance was effective opera, connec-
ting the sung line with role. When he
sang, his actions and expressions were
inappropriate to what he was saying.
Unfortunately, he appeared to have
lead in his feet, not shifting around
while singing, but focusing instead on
something in the direction in which he
was singing, making it apparent why he
was focused in that direction.
THE SAME WAS true for Jupiter,
played by Thomas Scholten. At first, he
showed the restraint, control and
elderly calm befitting the head god. Un-.
fortunately, he changed later by adop
ing some Steve Martinesque traits.
Mercury's "flying" entrance. was
delightful, and it seemed as if he did
have wings on his feet. Mercury, (well
played by Bill Anderson), was ob-
viously enjoying what he was doing,
making his performance the theatrical
high point of the opera.
Overall, the singing of the opera was
well done. Some voices were more
sparkling than others, but it certainly
was a good show of vocal
agility - especially the coloratura

singing, which was superbly executed
by Eurydice (played by Carla Con-
nors).
THE UNIVERSITY Philharmonia
accompanied the opera. Their fine per-
formance showed what they had
adequately rehearsed the show.
It is unfortunate that young singers'
voices are not strong enough to over-
come the sound produced by a 35-
member orchestra, as was sometimes
the case last night. Although it was ap-
parent that the orchestra hadn't
rehearsed enough with the singers,
Conductor, Gustav Meier did a com-
mendable- job coordinating the or-
-chestra andsingers in performance.
While watching this production of Or-
pheus in Hades, it is important to keep
in mind that this is a college produc-
tion. It will only be as good as the local
talent allows, since the performers are
also studying other subjects, and don't
have the time available to work on
developing all aspects of a theatrical
performance. In this production of Or-
pheus, because most of the performers
are opera students, they spent the

majority of their time honing their
singing ability. It is unfortunate that
more emphasis is not placed on the ac-
ting of the role and the visual setting of
the stage.
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1 ACADEMY
G AWARD
NOMINATIONS
ROBERT DUVALL
THE GREAT
3 CADEMY AWARD
£ NOMINATIONS

April 29,30, May 1 and 2 at 8:30
Hill Auditorium
The Philadelphia Orchestra
Eugene Ormandy, conductor laureate
Aldo Ceccato, guest conductor
Wednesday evening, April 29th
Eugene Ormandy, conductor
Judity Blegen, soprano
Barber: Second Essay
Mozart: Exultate, Jubilate
Rachmaninoff: Vocalise
Stravinsky: Pastorale
Ravel: Habanera
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5
Thursday evening, April 30th
Aldo Ceccato, conductor
Ani Kavafian, violinist
Rossini: Overture to "Semiramide"
Bruch: Violin Concerto in G minor
Dvoi'ak: Symphony No. 8
Friday evening, May 1st
Aldo Ceccato, conductor
The University Choral Union
Donald Bryant, director
Faye Robinson, soprano
Katherine Ciesinski, mezzo-soprano
John Gilmore, tenor
John Cheek, bass-baritone
Mozart: Symphony No. 41, "Jupiter"
Rossini: Stabat Mater
Saturday evening, May 2nd

FRI.-7:25, 9:40
SAT. SUN-5:00, 7:25, 9:40
WREE!
I AT AND SUN ONLY
ONE ADMISSION .....
FREE WITH f :;: x
THIS N
ENTIRE / --
AD:
EVERYONE ' ; <:;
WITHOUT '\ -... ;
THIS AD
$1.50 HUGOTHE HIPPO
AT: 1:30, 3:00
u , _

A CBS ThetncoiFeins PesRneo;,on -
A MARTIN RITT RONALD SHEDLO Prodcnon
SALLY FIELD TOMMY LEE JONES "BACK ROADS"
AsoSpoygDAVID KEITH wrylie,,by GARY OevOB
Mysc by HENRY MANCIN lyicsby ALANa od MARILYN BERGMAN
Derp8 of ogopby JO .iN A. ALONZOI. A sC
Piodued by RONALD S-'DlO Owered by MARTIN RITT
R- ; 1 1:15 3:15 5:15
7:30 9:30

As timely today
as tite day it
was written.
j~I A ,COLUM1tA
rPICTURES RELEASE

1:15
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EVERY FRI & SAT
ALL SEATS $2.00

Eugene Ormandy, conductor
Gyorgy Sandor,pianist
Harris: Symphony No. 3
Bart6k: Piano Concerto No. 3
Bart6k: Concerto for Orchestra
Single Concert Tickets
Available by mail, or counter sales.
$ 15 - Main floor, center sections $ 1 - First balcony, side sections

Nothing's going to
wond in your way. 1 "d

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