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October 15, 1980 - Image 7

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-10-15

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ARTS_

The Michigan Daily

Wednesday, October 15, 1980

Page I

THE UNDEFINED MISS M

I

Bette' s usual 'Divine Madness'

Play opens at Loft
The Extra Crunchy Theatre is presenting Italian playwright Daio Fo's
play We Can't Pay, We Won't Pay this Thursday through Sunday, October
16-19. Performances will be at the Canterbury Loft, upstairs at 332 S. State,
nightly at 8:00 p.m., with a Sunday 2:00 matinee.
The play is a seriocomic protest dealing with "consumers who just won't
take it anymore."
Tickets are on sale at the door only, on a first-come, first-serve basis; a $3
admission donation is requested, but, as always at the Loft, any contribution
is left to be decided by the visitor.

By DENNIS HARVEY
Bette Midler may yet turn out to be
the screen queen of the '80's, and one
keeps waiting anxiously for some proof
of it. Divine Madness isn't that sort of
occasion-it's more like a stalling tac-
tic.
After a startling performance as The
Rose last year, Midler almost seems to
be regressing by following it up with
this filmed document of her stage show.
Divine Madness is an extraordinarily
well-made concert film-craft has
never before been the keynote of a
Michael Ritchie (Smile, Semi-Tough,
The Candidate) movie, but it's daz-
zlingly forefront here-and it has
almost enough of the inspired camp
knowingness that makes Bette Midler
one of the most entertaining stage
presences in the world.
BUT ALL OF its pleasures seem,
finally, fleeting-ripe and amply
equipped for taking new risks on the
screen, Midler seems to be burning out
the ultimate-drag-queen appeal she's
been riding on for nearly ten years.
Divine Madness is, however, a model
of how concert films should be filmed
and inexplicably never are. It's even
more visually alive than The Last
Waltz, the only other recent major ex-
ception to the general rule of head-on
non-technique. After the dismaying
amateur disaster of No Nukes, with its
grainy procession of rigidly viewed
facial sections, Ritchie's lithe, gliding
camera work is a relief.. At last,
someone who knows where to look at a
0 performer and how to develop a num-
ber's visual drama, rather than the
usual any-view-that-can-be-grabbed
approach. The deft editing and
movement during a ghostly prelude to
"Leader of the Pack" (with The Harlet-
tes, Bette's amusingly used-looking
backups, bizarrely done up as
Bowiesque androgenous punks) has a
spectral grace that totally transcends
the theatre-on-film genre-it gives you
a visual charge that even a. front-row-
center seat for the actual event couldn't
have rivalled.
THE MAJOR disappointment of
Divine Madness is its material. It's Bet-
te's earlier, more sharply funny and
tightly conceived shows watered down
and condensed, with a greatest-hits
lineup indifferently subplanted by (no
longer integrated with) anything-for-a-
yock vulgarity. The latter goods have
lost most of the pungency they had at
* the time of the star's Home Box Office
c6ncert spedial four years ago (clunkily
filmed, but in every other way a
superior performance-the real "Time
capsule" Midler record). They now ride
mostly on good will. One jokey in-
terlude involving Hitler's farting is so
mirthlessly "dirty" that it belongs in

the repertoire of a lounge-circuit stand-
up comic.
The "South Seas Adventure"
segment, featuring "Delores DeLago,
the Toast of Chicago," satirizes just
that sort of middle-American
tawdriness, but it's an unfocused and
fragmented pasting-together of new
material and bits from a near-brilliant
old routine-The Vickie Edie Show,
"Around the world in 80 Ways."

self-indulgence and hammy (if hear-.
tfelt) excesses. The tightrope is effec-
tively walked throughout The Rose and
in a few of her recorded ballads
(especially John Prine's uncliched
tearjerker "Hello in There"), but she
can too easily become slightly in em-
barrassing in her display, like the lat-
ter-day Judy Garland or a real sap like
Vickie Carr. She exists on some uneasy
perch between Las Vegas and the rock

hourglass figure waddles around in
outrageous beyond-Joey Heatherton
outfits, as campy as Carmen Miranda.
HER VERSION of "You Can't
Always Get What You Want" 0) is, at
least, over before you quite have a
chance to scream in pain-her glitzy
treatments of real rock songs have
always been a fright. All the expected
1950's/60's top-ten standards ("Chapel
of Love") and big-band hits ("In the
Mood") are acceptably revved-up. An
excess of broad comic gestures does in
Tom Waits' touching "Shiver Me Tim-
bers," but "The Rose" is a small
revelation. A wrong final note of pop
triteness at the end of the movie, over-
played on the radio-not really much of
a song, no matter what the Acadmey
says-it's awfully charming here, and
Midler has the wit to be flippant about
it.
Midler's debut in The Rose was
possibly the most startling and assured
in movie history-one wild, schizoid
solo flight up and down the emotional
ladder, from self-protective vulgarity
to crushed pathos, always on the edge
of destruction. If such a Star Is Falling
role would have drained the resources
of most actors and actresses, it was
perfectly tailored to Midler's, to the
anxiousness to please that has always
lent her professionalism an undertow of
appealling vulnerability. As with
Streisand's debut in Funny Girl, shticks
into something more pliable, or at least
different, and by this time her patented
quirks and brassy manufactured
charm (which is getting to be as stony
as Joan Crawford's) are about as pain-
fully familiar as Lucille Ball's double-
takes-and unlike Ball, Streisand has
not yet been saved by officially passing
into a state of Nostalgia. Bette Midler is
a warmer, funkier, less strident per-
former, and even if Divine Madness is
far from the definite Divine Miss M
concert film it claims to be, it's a good
deal more essentially trashy and
bearable than a similar Streisand ven-
ture could be-there's no hostessy
graciousness, and the big heartbreak
numbers lack great-lady condescen-
sion.
Still at the flash-of-unlimited-
potential stage, Midler is-as yet-far
clear of being stuck in a self-coddling
rut like Streisand. Divine Madness per-
forms the unnecessary, if enjoyable,
service of introducing to her new mass
audience the camp variety-show-
mistress her (predominently gay)
following has loved for years. The iner-
tia that creeps into some of this per-
formance indicates she's ready to shed
that particular guise and take up some
more challenging ones. Hopefully,
Divine Madness will be a last delay
before the plunge.

MANN THEATRES
( I DAILY DISCOUNT MATINEES
flLL GE TAll seats $2.00 til 5:30
375MAPLE Mon-Sat, 'til 2:00 on Sundays
DOUBLE FEATURE
1IICoast to Coast (PG)
BENJAMIN 3:30 7:15
1:15 3:15 5:15 Caddysha (R)
7:30 9:45 1:45 5:15 9:00
DOUBLE FEATURE Why Would
Honeysuckle Rose (PG) li (PG)
1:45 7:00
Willie & Phil (R) 1:30 5:30
4:00 9:15 3:3097:30

Bette Midler and her Harlettes (Jocelyn Brown, Ulas Hedwig, Diva Gray),
tastefully attired as usual, run through a somewhat glitzed-up version of
nothing less than Bruce Springsteen's "The E Street Shuffle" in 'Divine Mad-
ness,' Michael Ritchie's current filmed record of Bette's campy stage show.
The movie has its share of giddy vulgarity and fun, but it's basically the same
act Midler's been touring with for nearly a decade, and the wear and tear are
beginning to show.

Midler's willingness to deflate her
imposing starriness and assurance
keeps her out of real trouble during all
of the comedy-even when she resorts
to playing with her underarm flab-but
she comes much, dangerously closer at
times when her dramatic control goes
awry. The Roses' finale was stunning
because of the story's basic cumulative
power and the unerring performing
precision that lurked beneath the
character's drained desperation. The
suicidal one-last-effort-before dying
song, "Stay With Me," is shamelessly
reprised here-in poor, artifically
clogged voice, with a half-ton of end-of-
the-world gestures and grimaces. This,
emotional crescendo which had been
carefully built up to in The Rose is
hauled out by itself one-third of the way
through Divine Madness, and as a
result its theatrical pathos is
mechanical and vaguely distasteful.
MIDLER IS ON the thinnest ice when
waxing sentimental; it brings out her

stage, saved from gaudy disaster only
by having the talent and uniqueness to
(generally) hold together the
sometimes ill-matched pieces of her
heartfelt/joke/gay/MOR/dish image.
If she had been born ten years earlier,
her naturally funny quirks probably
would have been channelled into being
something as harmlessly "zany" as
another Carol Burnett. A terribly cute,
overextended pantomime skit here is a
direct rewrite of Burnett's maudline
charwoman routine, and it represents
Bette's worst Broadway-banal tenden-
cies.
For all of its faults, Divine Madness
still has a fair share of inspired momen-
ts. When she gets some halfway decent
lines (in strangely short supply here)
Midler is hilarious in that cracked-ice,
down-to-earth way that Joan Blondell
was. There's a priceless low-rent rap
about Queen Elizabeth: ". . . She's the
whitest woman in the world. She makes
us all look like the Third World." That

Couple recalls Kennedy speech

(Continued from Page 5)
bilingual education and racial
desegration programs.
WHILE THE momentum for
organizing the Peace Corps began at
the University, "it could have happened
in a lot of places," Judy Guskin said.
"(The University) has always been
relatively unique on student activism,"
Alan Guskin added. "It has always
been in the forefront and has had a
moderating influence" on campus ac-
tivism across the country. "There has
never been violence (here) in a
significant way," he said.
He said one reason for this is that
"faculty and students have always kept
connected with each other, radical
students can communicate with liberal
* faculty members."
JUDY GUSKIN said the input of
foreign students and faculty members
at the University with experience in
agriculture, medicine, and education
was an important factor in the Peace
Corps' formation. Alan Guskin added
the thrust for the establishment of the
Peace Corps was more likely to come
from the Midwest where "there was a
certain air of openness, idealism,
naivete, and not so much cynicism."
Although the Guskins had been on the
periphery of the civil rights movement,
the ann arbor
fim cooperative
TONIGHT presents TONIGHT
TRUFFAUT
DOUBLE FEATURE

they said, they had never been active in
political movements. But they left the
University in 1961 to work with the
newly-established Peace Corps in
Thailand.
ALAN GUSKIN, among other things,
assisted in the establishment of a
program in educational psychology and
research at Chulalongkorn University.
Judy Guskin primarily helped to train
English teachers at the university.
The Guskins lamented the drop in the
number of Peace Corps volunteers
during the last decade, from a high
point of 14,968 in 1967 to only 5,615 this
year.
Judy Guskin said while students still

have humanitarian concerns today, it is
difficult to mobilize these interests in a
meaningful way. This, they said, is par-
tially due to a lack of national leader-
ship which evokes student enthusiasm
and trust.
ALTHOUGH THE Peace Corps has,
changed to provide Third World nations
with more technical assistance, the
goals of the program and the benefits
received by participants remain the
same, Alan Guskin said.
"The most important aspects of the
Peace Corps," he said, "are the person-
to-person relationships formed, and the
knowledge, empathy, and insight which
volunteers take back home with them"

and leave behind.
The Peace Corps has had a lasting
impact on the Guskins' li.ves. "We had
an ideal," Alan Guskin said, "and in ac-
ting upon it successfully, we always
continue to search out how we can
make an impact, a difference. Once
you've done that, you can't go back to
being apethetic."

_.

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