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September 12, 1980 - Image 6

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-09-12

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4

ARTS
Page 6 Friday, September 12, 1980 The Michigan Daily

Antiwar film returns,

By DENNIS HARVEY
In 1971, Georgia governor Jimmy
Carter requested a private screening of
the antiwar film Johnny Got His Gun.
After sitting through the movie with
wife Rosalyn, producer Bruce Cam-
pbell relates that Carter said: "Johnny
Got His Gun should be shown to
everyone in the government, the
military, and the United Nations as
required viewing."
Nine years later, the ex-governor is in
something of a better position to make
that statement come true,*and Johnny's
producer is thumping the film around
the country in an attempt to revive the
President's memory. Campbell is
currently re-launching the movie for
limited showings in the U.S., and is
sending promotional kits to everyone of
some influence in D.C.-particularly in
the vicinity of the White House.
Johnny Got His Gun will make an
area appearance today at the Michigan
Theatre, with showings at 4:00,7:00 and
9:00. Based on Dalton Trumbo's famed
novel, the film has had a chequered
career from conception, to the screen
and into oblivion, and now back into the
limelight again.
THE MOVIE'S storyline centers on
young WWI veteran Joe Bonham
(Timothy Bottoms, making his debut)
who has been mutilated beyond
recognition by his combat experien-
ce-all of his limbs are gone, and his
hideous facial condition renders any
communication with the outside world
impossible. The film tracks Joe's
thoughts through various fantasy
sequences, toward the gradual
realization on the part of his keepers
that his mind still functions. Through
all of this, the pervasive theme is of the
utter uselessness and horror of using
the young as pawns in the wars of the
old. Jason Robards, Kathy Fields,
The Ann Arbor Film Cooperative
Presents
at MLB 3:
GENE WILDER and
ZERO MOSTEL in
The Producers
at 7 & 10:20
and
Rhinoceros
at 8:40
Tomorrow: Alfred Hitchcock s FRENZY and
FAMILY PLOT at MLB. Admission: $2.00

Diane Varsi and an intriguingly cast
Donald Sutherland appear as figures in
Joe's past and imagination.
Trumbo published the book in
1939-derided by Hitler, it won the
National Book Award and has since
become standard reading in thousands
of classrooms. The author took up
screenwriting, and a decade later won
further, somewhat less laudatory fame
as one of the blacklisted Hollywood
Ten. Barred from work, Trumbo went
to Mexico in self-imposed exile. While
there, he met the legendary director
Luis Bunuel-their acquaintance
resulted in plans for a Bunuel film of
Johnny Got His Gun, but financial
backing fell through and the project
was shelved. In 1959, Trumbo was
finally the first to "break the blacklist"
stigma when Otto Preminger allowed
Trumbo, sans pseudonyms, to claim his
own screenplay on the credits of
Exodus.
SEVERAL YEARS LATER, enter
Bruce Campbell, with only one major
previous credit-Picasso Summer, a
Ray Bradbury script-based European

romance and a quiet flop. He met
Trumbo in 1968; the film took three
years to be realized,, with the author
eventually directing it himself and a
fair number of the cast and crew mem-
bers working without pay, out of
dedication to the project. Campbell was
able to raise a scant $600,000 from the
studio, and resorted to drumming up an
additional $300,000 from "old lefties."
He personally "put a half million into it,
lost it all and went bankrupt," though
not before the film had garnered
general rave reviews and set a record
by becoming the first movie to win
three major awards at Cannes. That
was in 1971, however, and in the depths
of the Vietnam era no one particularly
wanted to sit through this antiwar
depressant.
Campbell has since produced one
film-a half hour comedy-travelogue
called "The Funnier Side of Ancient
Canada" with Steve Martin. Unfor-
tunately, that was in 1974, and no one
wanted to see Martin either, yet. After
that further failure, the producer went
into a hospital-"raving lunatic I

tonighf
was"-emerged, bought the complete
rights to Johnny Got His Gun at an auc-
tion for the ludicrous price of a grand
$2500, and has since been devoting him-
self to the film's revival. To that end, he
has equipped himself with a 51-foot
tractor-trailer truck, plastered with
Johnny stills and Carter's quote, and
has been taking the whole show on the
road around northern California.
Claiming the film is more timely than
ever, "now that we're on the edge of the
apocalypse," Campbell thinks "it could
be a huge, huge success-if I could af-
ford the promotion."
Campbell married Trumbo's
daughter, but he says "my only child is
the motion picture. It's about the quin-
tessance of life, whether man shoots
himself or commits mass genocide."
As for Carter, he says "I expect him to
say something sooner or
later"-though how the President will
be able to reconcile his nine-year-old
remark with his current defense
policies is a question depressingly wor-
thy of Johnny Got His Gun's own
ironies.

Taj Mahal: Learning to love the blues

-4

By MARK COLEMAN
Mention folk music to most people
and they think of white folk music, the
English tradition that travelled to
America with the earliest colonists and
grew along with the new country. After
a surviving spurt of mass popularity in
the early sixties, this music is preser-
ved today in historically-minded
musical establishments like the Ark
here in Ann Arbor.
But what of the black folk music
tradition? The electrified forms of
black traditional music (RandB, blues)
have been incorporated into main-
stream (white) music and hence are
familiar to a wider audience than the
accoustic, or "country blues" that
fathered them.
THAT'S WHERE Taj Mahal comes
in. He is something of a one-man ar-
chive of black traditional. Best known
for his text book-accurate renditions of
country blues, he performed two shows
at Rick's Wednesday night accom-
panying himself on an amplified ac-
coustic guitar, then switching to piano
and finally banjo.
Opening his first set on guitar, Taj

4
4

Daily Photo by MAUREEN OMALLEY
Noted blues and reggae singer Taj Mahal performed two solo concerts Wed-'
nesday night to a packed Rick's American Cafe.

TONIGHT Clint Eastwood is the
HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER
A ghost rider shoots up the gunfighters who threaten a town
with destruction. Clint at his best as a fast shooting, strong,
silent type who kills with smile and never loses control. Plus
BETTY BOOP. 7:00 $ 9:05.
Saturday: TREE OF WOODEN CLOGS
Sunday: IPHEGENIA (at Lorch Hall)
and Sunday: KING OF HEARTS (Mich. Theatre)
CIN M OLD A&D (to us)
CINEMA GU ILD LORCH HALL (to U of M)

performed his most familiar works
(country blues like "Ain't nobody's
business" and everybody's favorite
"Fishin' Blues." He captures the lazy
backwoods ambience of this material
perfectly, his raspily rich voice ex-
pressing not just the dialect and inflec-
tion but the feeling on the blues with
convincing accuracy.
Taj uses the solo space well, calling
for audience participation frequently
without a note of pandering. The
audience loved hearing the songs Taj
Mahal is readily associated with, but
teacher that he is, Taj didn't miss the
opportunity to acquaint the crowd with
a number of musical styles. On the
familiar blues "Paint My Mailbox
Blue," for example, he grafted a
singalong doo-wop chorus to the con-
clusion without a note of incongruity.

Continuing the "instruction" i
musical roots, Taj played "Rockin'
Pneumonia and Boogie-Woogie Flu"
over a real boogie woogie piano figure,
then a wild barrelhouse piano rendition
of "Statesboro Blues" that both-
thoroughly confused and delighted thm
audience. The evening's only disap-
pointment was the omittance of Taj's'
later Carribean-flavored work, some of
which would have lent itself beautifully
to an a cappella rendition.

I

Taj said before the show, "I play
black folk music. There's white music
for white people and black music for
black people." So it's ironic that Taj
Mahal played in front of an all-white
audience in Ann Arbor but it's impor-
tant, too. It's a rare talent that can
enlighten as well as entertain.

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