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October 01, 1980 - Image 7

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-10-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

'MY BRILLIANT CAREER,' 'WISE BLOOD'
No, I didn't see the movie

The Michigan Daily-Wednesday, October 1 1980-Page 7
the ann arbor film cooperative,

0 0 0

TONIGHT

Presents

TONIGHT

By DENNIS HARVEY
There's something vaguely.
dissatisfying about most films based,
firmly around pieces of respectable
literature. They may appeal to our finer
instincts, but they don't necessarily
give us what we generally go to movies
for. Respectability and good taste
(whatever that is) can count for much
when a movie has other, more alive
things going for it, but when they're all
it has, you walk out a little par-
ched-appreciative, but aware that
some spark has been missing
The Australian My Brilliant Career
has been greeted with near-
rapture by most critics and sur-
prisingly large audiences, making it
probably the biggest stateside foreign
hit since 1976's Cousin, Cousine. They
have a similar, fuzzily liberal-romantic
appeal, even if My Brilliant Career isn't
any closer to the best works of the
current Austrailian film renaissance
than Cousin, Cousine is to the finest of
French cinema in recent years.
BASED ON A novel written by a
young Aussie girl in 1902, the story is
the usual women's-liberation fairy tale,
filmed with solemn import and
reasonable competence by Gillian Ar-
mstrong. Sybilla (Judy Davis), the
eldest daughter of a very poor back-
woods family, dreams determinedly of
escaping her parents' poverty to a life

of culture and sophistication anywhere
else. She's saved from working as a
general servant by an invitation to stay
with her grandmother at a splendid
estate far away.
Sybilla's mixture of rural vulgarity,
wild ambition and fierce intelligence
provoke the expected range of
comically shocked reactions. She also
beguiles the local Prince Charming,
Harry Beacham (Sam Neill), who
finally offers her everything-with one
crucial exception. After some rather
overextended if understated conflicts,
the film ends on a familiar note of
defiant hopefulness.
My Brilliant Career has charm
enough, though little style or substance.
Armstrong handles the cast and some
small revelatory moments well, and the
local scenery .lends the film a sun-lit,
picturesque feel; but aside from one en-
tertainly staged set-piece-an amorous
pillow-fight war-she functions on a
routine, PBS-level of pretty, slightly
stuffy competence. The characters and
their big bits never rise above the old-
hat level, so the film becomes an overly
literal-minded Cinderella story-which
is probably what makes it such a hit.
Like the similarly toned (but quirkier)
An Unmarried Woman, Career coddles
the audience with glossy romance,
allowing its heroine just enough suf-
fering so we can be deluded into
thinking, "Ah, such is life!"

SAM NEILL, however, has the
Arrow-collar-ad handsomeness of
Terence Stamp, and his first good-bye
scene with Sybilla is a quiet gem. Judy
Davis is obviously intended to drum up
memories of the early Hepburn (and
the film is just the latest 'Alice
Adams/Christopher Strong rewrite,
anyway), though the filmmakers un-
dermine her efforts through the up-to-
date "realism" of emphasizing her lack
of conventional attractiveness and
Sybilla's brittle veneer. Sybilla isn't
given enough of a raison d'etre-we
have to assume she just caught her ar-
tistic bent and success drives from the
wind, like a cold. Davis isn't a star, yet.
She has fine, detailed moments, though
her dependency on exposed willfulness
(probably at the director's insistence)
is a far cry from Hepburn's natural
radiance. She's good in a rather or-
dinary way-which is about the most
and least that can be said for My
Brilliant Career.
John Huston's adaptation of Wise
Blood may be comprehensible, and
perhaps even entertaining, to those who
have read the Flannery O'Connor novel
it's based on. Huston is probably the
oldest American director to continue
making offbeat, independent, commer-
cially nervy projects-unlike the latter-
day Hitchcock, he hasn't gotten plainly
disinterested and lax. But the qualities
that distinguish him at his best (and of-

This controversial film won top honors at Cannes, only to be
banned by the Spanish Censors. An ex-nun's attempts to fol-
low the teachings of Christ lead to chaos and debauchery.
Spanish with subtitles.

Paul Simon: A one-trick phony?

By MARTIN LEDERMAN
If there's anything more depressing
than an old '60's icon slowly fading into
oblivion, it's that same ancient star at-
tempting to re-establish himself by
trying to contrive a creative renaissan-
ce. Such is the case with Paul Simon.
For all his flaws back in the good 'ol
days, he did have some redeeming
qualities, notably, his ability to ac-
curately convey loneliness in a quaint,
'heartfelt,' folk idiom. Even if he were
still able to do that, however, it would
come off quite lame, and his alternative
mode of expression nowadays is hardly
an improvement.
In attempting to be a "rock & roll
star," Paul Simon is reaching far
beyond his limited bounds as a credible
artist. This was blatantly obvious right
from the start of his show at Joe Louis
Arena Friday night. Simon was vir-
tually dwarfed by the enormity of the
sparsely filled arena. The fact that
perhaps. only half of the tickets were
sold is revealing in that it exposes the
utter misconceptionstSimon has about
his stature as an artist, in terms of both
style and popularity. That absurd $12.50
ticket price didn't help, either.
His brand new One Trick Pony con-
cept-the lonely rock & roll star bat-
tling the elements in order to find him-
self-simple doesn't hold water. His
band consists of balding, middle-aged
precisionists who sit around (there
were chairs for the guitarists) perfor-
ming their required dirge-like bits.
They resembled, and sounded like, one
of those despicable bands that play bar-
mitzvahs and weddings. But what's
worse is that, like those same schlock
bands, they insist they're playing rock
S& roll. Real "with it," you know? Like
the banquet room bands who prove
their fashionability with the inevitable
rendition of "Proud Mary," one can
imagine Simon addressing his band in
concert, "All right, let's blow 'em away
now! 'Kodachrome' on four. One,
two, three ..."
Of course, the audience soaks it up.
Come to think of it, they looked awfully
like Simon's band. Leisure suits and
cashmere seemed to be the typical
mode of attire, and it was obvious that
these were perpetual '60's "mellow"
addicts. You know, the type that thinks
Kahlil Gibran is a good poet, and Tom
Robbins a good novelist. Yes, this is the
actual "wine and cheese" crowd that
you've heard so much about. All these
people are content simply to under-
stand "important" songs, such as "The
Boxer," without ever having to actually
experience anything. And Paul Simon,
becausp he explains everything with
the "concerned but confused" eyes of a
complete outsider, is just the artist to
satiate the shallow needs of this
audience. And the major difference
between he and, say, Jimmy Buffett, is
that Simon's followers actually believe
they're gaining insight, while Buffett's,
shallow as they may be, look at their
srstd a ln
is preserved on
00mmNn0 flAfL Ni

performer as merely an unsubstantial
entertainer. They have to develop the
conceit that enables Simon's fans to be
so easily deceived.
Perhaps this is a bit harsh, but I think
it's no coincidence that the largest
ovation of the evening came in the mid-
st of Simon's informal audience
presidential poll, when he asked about
John Anderson. Anderson is the virtual
political equivalent of Simon. Both use
a pseudo-spectacular image to disguise
the relative insignificance of anything
they are saying. They are the epitome
of being all form and no substance.
Where John Anderson pretends to be a
liberal, Paul Simon masquerades as a
rock star. And their audience accepts it
all without hesitation. The response to
insipid political phrases like "new
coalition of Americans" is equivalent to
the response elicited by familiar yet
weak musical performances, such as a
gospel tinged "Bridge Over Troubled
Water." These impotent icons are sim-
ply scratching where their audience it-

ches, without bothering to remedy the
underlying ailment.
In the end, however, I feel sorrier for
Paul Simon than I do for the misguided
fools that listen to him with reverence.
For while his audience goes home at
night feeling quite assured, I can't help
but think that Paul Simon must be
really hurting inside. He knows that
songs about "blowing down the house
by turning up my amp" (or something
to that effect) are mere illusions. He is
also aware that he is most effective
when he performs a solo "Sounds of
Silence," for it is only in this song that
he faces up to the reality of his incon-
sequentiality and helplessness. It is this
pony's only trick, and it isn't even that
magical anymore. The crux of the
problen lies in the fact that "Sounds of
Silence" was written fifteen years ago,
and Paul Simon has yet to successfully
absolve himself of its implications. In-
stead, he has attempted to deny them,
but it is painfully obvious that he can't
do so, for he has nowhere else to go.

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A hilarious, highly erotic political comedy which quite ser-
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Wed., Oct. 1 Aud. A, Angell Hall 7:00 & 9:00
Shane
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AaInL dnA tnrs as a cowboy drifter in this classic Western

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