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April 02, 1981 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 1981-04-02

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#.
6
d

ARTS

The Michigan Daily

Thursday, April 2, 1981

Page 7

s'Post
By CHRISTOPHER POTTER
The Postman Always Rings Twice
was a movie waiting to be born. It
languished so many years that by the
time it became censorially permissible,
",the notorious urgency which drove it
had receded into bucolic nostalgia.
James M. Cain's scorching, once-
banned Depression novel of lust and
* murder has gradually evolved into a
memory-play, its once-scandalous in-
nards have been softened, both by
America's slow psycho-sexual
nmaturation and by our tempered
thbugh now illusory economic solidity.
Cain's people were raw, ingenuous,
desperate - their needs geared by
deprivation and want, their passions
:fired by guileless instinct. Modern
society's pain differs-it clasps the
crebral, mollified by gadgets, leisure
tifhe and the analyst's couch.
-Properity has afforded us the
privilege of indulging our own hangups
- something Cain's characters
;wouldn't even understand, much less
hunger for. Postman's primal exigency
eitomized poor white America of the
35; today its cultural psyche largely
Sparallels the tribulations of our
rhinorities, whom Cain's novel so
i~nically debunks. To the upper middle
bass, his tortured protagonists now
;belong only to the movies.
- WHICH IS HOW director Rafelson
has filmed his Postman - as a steamy,
poignant time trip to an age when life
was rough and passions rougher. He
has remained far more faithful to the
novel's bare-bones motif than did a
series of previous, pallid film adap-
tations; Rafelson rigorously sticks to
Cain's'bare-bones structuring even as
he expands the story visually; yet the
hazy strictures of nostalgia persistently
impede his attempts to forge a contem-
porary classic.
Cain's original narration was sparse,
terse and raunchy; D. H. Lawrence
might write more graphically, but
nobody could make sex throb like Cain.
The plotting for Postman is elemental:
Frank Chambers, a young, shiftless
drifter, arrives at the doorstep of the
Twin Oaks Cafe, a drab restaurant-gas
station in the countryside of Southern
California. Owner Nick Papadakis, a
burly Greek immigrant, hires him as a
handyman. Frank eyes Nick's gorgeous
t young wife, Coraand it's mutual lust at
first sight. Soon the two of them are
Codrescu sa
By CAROL WIERZBICKI
Reading his poetry at Benzinger
Library Tuesday night, Andrei
Codrescu, Rumanianwpoet and fiction
rwriter, performed with a curious kind
of grace. His thick accent blended with
the hip language of the poems to
produce a powerful statement on what
it means to be an immigrant in this
highly institutionalized, bureaucratic
* Land called America.
'erhaps the most impressive quality
of Codrescu's poetry is his use of
allegory to define emotional states of
being. He snapped out images with the
' agility of a squirrel traveling from tree
to-tree. Many of the poems from his
newest collection, Diapers in the Snow,
expressed anger at the capitalist
'system and business ethics. His
language is often the language of the
pijSpressed, as is demonstrated in "a
thing," from License to Carry a Gun:
.there is only one thing which
keeps me
from loving this jail,
f'hat is don quixote

when he comes to my window
rrjd brings me postcards of ugly
*4 spanish girls"
EXISTENTIALISM and surrealism
are also functioning elements in
odrescu's work, and one poem he read
- awvs a kind of kinky inventory, in which
the poet seeks to "eroticize the world"
°arnd "change everything into objects of
desire" via a series of humorous jux-
tapositions.

nan'

A scorching

anachronism

engaged in wild, brawling lovemaking,
undetected by the egotistical but bum-
pkinish Nick.
Frank begs Cora to go away with
him. She refuses - she's been burned
enough by the Depression, and Nick, if
nothing else, symbolizes financial
security. The two lovers reluctantly
plot to murder Nick. Their first attempt
fails, their second succeeds. They are
arrested and arraigned for murder, and
a wheeler-dealer lawyer gets them off.
Frank and Cora go free, but their
relationship, always sado-masochistic,
is now clouded by guilt and mutual
suspicion that each might turn the other
in for the crime.
Cain's hard-boiled style is decep-
tively simple, camouflaging his view of
an existential world coldly hurling his
protagonist's actions back in their
faces. Frank and Cora's overwhelming
passion is pure, perhaps even noble -
but it drives them to deception and
murder. Cain's lovers ultimately
become mere ciphers in a fatalist .
tableau, not bright or sensitive enough
to be worthy of their own grand
emotions. Cora senses this, and at one
point (in the novel) tells Frank: "We're just
two punks, Frank.. . We had all that
love, and we just cracked up under it.
It's a big airplane engine, that takes
you through the sky, right up to the top
of the mountain. But when you put it in
a Ford, it just shakes to pieces. That's
what we are, Frank, a couple of Fords.
God is up there laughing at us." In the
dark spectrum of the universe, Frank
and Cora are just figures in a lan-
dscape.
WOULD THAT THEIR torment had
been faithfully filmed forty years ago.
Splendid as it is, Rafelson's film is
unavoidably a period piece - ab-
sorbing, often brilliant, yet detached by
a requisite distancing. This Postman
falls victim of a time warp - it's hot,
it's fevered, but rarely seems relevant
to the present. Rafelson reaches for
philosophical universalities, but his
film is nothing more than a lovely,
slightly remote historical icon.
But what a gorgeous icon Postman is.
Rafelson, screenwriter David Mamet
and cinematographer Sven Nykvist
have conjured up a wonderfully
evocative atmosphere of Depression-
ridden America - cold, claustrophobic,
seething. Nykvist's work doesn't match

murdered body, and the already-
blurred dichotomy between sex and
violence vanishes entirely.
SAD TO SAY, Lange is less than per-
fectly complimented by Jack
Nicholson, who gives what amounts to
one of the strangest performances in
movie history. Postman's early scenes
beguile us with the old Nicholson - the
laconic cockiness, the charm, the killer
smile. Moments into the film, his Frank
first slickers Nick (John Colicos) into a
free meal, then makes eye contact with
Cora in such immodest fashion as to
leave no doubt over future encounters.
Yet soon the grin has vanished into
Dorian Gray ambiguity. As Postman
progresses, Frank seems to change and
wither before our eyes: His face grows
pinched and haggard, his jowls sag, his
eyes glaze into lifelessness. It's as
though Nicholson the actor had decided
to consciously shed every vestige of his
charisma and vitality; by film's end he
has become a seedy, middle-aged man,
silent and inner-directed. He turns so
opaque he no longer seems worthy of
Cora's lust.
It's anyone's guess whether this tran-
sformation was a deliberate and ex-
traordinary act of self-deprecation, or
simply a sign of the encroaching years
(Nicholson's 44 now). Either way, this
electric performer's inevitable conver-
sion into a sly character actor is ob-
viously going to be a painful experience
for any connoisseur of Nicholson's
earlier films.
CUSTOMERS BAITED by Postman's
advertising blitz into expecting a high-
class porn movie will likely be disap-
pointed. The film contains almost no
nudity, and the majority of its bedroom
sequences seem abruptly clipped, as
though they had once run on much
longer (Postman was originally
rumored to be headed for an X rating).
Playwright David Mamet's unflin-
ching screenplay embraces the racist
xenophobia of the author's characters:

His Nick remains the drunken, pom-
pous embodiment of the trusting im-
migrant suckered by the equally scuzzy
natives. In Cain's world, no one sides
with the angels.
Rafelson, normally a studied,
notoriously deliberate filmmaker,
pushes Postman at an uncharac-
teristically brisk pace. If anything, he,
errs on the side of overt melodrama:
When Frank and Cora dispatch Nick,
the camera sinisterly underlights their
faces in a rolling-eyeball panorama
straight out of Dracula. Such excess
pizzazz seemsin a way oddly fitting for
a story which appeals to our yesterdays,
not to today. Postman stands as a
radiant retrospective; a contemporary
classic is's not.

One Performance Only
April6 1981 8 p.m.

Jack Nicholson is Frank, a sleezy handyman who kills for love in 'The Post-
man Always Rings Twice.'

the parched, sepia tones John Alonzo
created for Polanski's Chinatown; yet
his dark Bargmanesque hues take on a
psychological intimacy that becomes
unnerving. He sinisterly transforms
Twin Oaks into a black, silent prison,
strangling Frank and Cora's once-un-
bridled passion.
Their violent - lust - a searing
metaphor for Depression-era
frustration and rage - provides a
dream showcase for stars Jack
Nicholson and Jessica Lange. Entrusted
with some of the steamiest interplay in
any American film, they respond
memorably - yet they make a strange
couple. Lange, belatedly given the
chance to be the actress one always
suspected she was, is a powerhouse of
gut sensuality: she snarls, shouts,
(most hisses at the camera, yet never
sinks ,into hyperbolic parody. Her Cora

is a creature at war with herself - her
fevered lust for Frank clashing with her
compulsive quest for financial safety.
In the lovers' first grappling -
sprawled out on the kitchen table -
Cora grasps a knife behind her, and for
a moment you think she's about to
plunge it into Frank's body; finally she
flings it away and lies back, muttering
"OK, come on, come on!" as though chal-
lenging her partner to a fistfight-an accu-
rate description of their lovemaking. Later
on the two copulate near Nick's jgst-

ys death to capitalism

ALl ABBAR KHAN
In Concert, Rackham Aud., April 5, 8:00 p.m.
"Without in any way diminishing the stature of the better known Ravi Shanker. Ali Abbar Khan stands
apart toda a one of tie most powerful, moving. and technically accomplished musicians in either the
Eastern or Western Wor d."--West Australian
"An absolute genius ... the greatest musician in the world'"--yehudi Menuhin
"Khan's sarodalways astounds.Khn himself is the most sensitive, intuitively masterful musician of
the age."-San Francisco Chronicle
Accompanied by Zaker Hussain on tablas (drums) has ap-
peared with George Harrison, The Grateful Dead, Van Mor-
rison, The New Orleans Symphony, The London String Quar-
tet, John McLanghlin and Ravi Shanker.
TICKETS: $6.50, $5.00, $3.50
ALL SEATS RESERVED AVAILABLE THROUGH FRI., APRIL 3.
In Ann Arbor-UAC Ticket Central in the Michigan Union, Discount Records,
Liberty Music & Hudsons.
In Lansing, Detroit, Flint, and Toledo-All Hudson Stores & other CTC Ticket
Outlets. Remaining tickets on sale at the door starting 7 p.m.
Presented by: THE RUDI FOUNDATION

i' i '
INDIVIDUAL THEATRESi
2 5t,.Ave..at brty7.1.970.
ENDS TONIGHT!
PRIVATE BENJAMIN 8:05
a GREAT SANTINi-6:00, 1Q:00
STARTS TOMORROW!
{R)
NATASSIA "TESS" KINSKI
"A TRULY SEXY MOVIE!"
-Bruce Wlliamrson. PLAYBOY

Codrescu's poetry frequently has an
urban tone, and in one incredible poem
- performed rather than read -
Codrescu imitated the sounds of cars
vibrating erotically at stoplights and
then zooming across intersections
growling, "Really, really, really."
Still other poems pan across in-
dustrial wastelands and abandoned fac-
tories that once produced "things that
people didn't know what to do with."
IN THE FIRST poem of the evening,
Codrescu mused on the death of John
Lennon, and read in a hilarious mock-
heroic voice an elaborate string of facts
pertaining to the incidents of the day
leading up to the moment he heard
about Lennon's death. More unsettling
contrasts emerge in poems depicting a
depersonalized society; his smirking
humor turns into a rage at the destruc-
tive influences of institutions and
organizations on individuals.
Even though Codrescu's more recent
poems do not possess the shocking
NOON LUNCHEON
Soup and Sandwich 75¢
FRIDAY, APRIL 3
CORA WEISS,
Dir., Riverside Church
Disarmament Program, N.Y. City:
"Peace and Disarmament"
GUILD HOUSE
802 MOONROE
(662-5189)

schizophrenic attitudes toward sex,
violence, and war that his Vietnam-era
poetry did in License to Carry a Gun;
they still have that restless energy and
violent evolution of imagery also found
in Fay Kicknosway's work. Codrescu's
harsh, potent methods of dealing with
the reality of street life seem to echo the
Surrealist idea that madness leads to
discovery and truth.

I

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NtPONDEROSA March 20 thru April 17
AlU-You-
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and Salad Bar

FRI-7:15, 9:05

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UtLLAGE 4
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Daily Discount Matinees
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WITH THIS ENTIRE AD -
one admission $2.00 any film
Good Mon. thtu Thurs. Eves.
valid thru 4/2/81 "M"
ENDS TONIGHTI
SUNDAY LOVERS AT 7:25, 9:40
STARTS TOMORROW!!
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UAC MUSKET

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presents
GREASE

As timely today
as the day it
was written.1
A Ca.uMBIA
l.I PICTURES RELEASE/

3

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I April 2. 3. 4-8 a.m.

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THE HENDRIX EXPERIENCE

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