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September 04, 1980 - Image 112

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-09-04

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Page 2-E-Thursday, September 4, 1980-The Michigan Daily

The great escape:A guide to A2 film

(We asked cinema buff Dennis Harvey,
who doubles as the Daily's Arts Co-Edi-
tor, to write a "brief" review of local
movie houses. He graciously accepted
and submitted this exhaustive, grueling
analysis instead. Thank you, Dennis.)
For the average movie fanatic, arriving in Ann
Arbor for the first year of school is an experience
both ecstatic and frustrating. After drooling over the
new semester's film schedules and figuring out
ingenious ways to fit more than two movies into one
evening, the grim realization may occur: "Uh,
doesn't going to college involve some kind of
Well my friend, one must set up priorities. And if it
comes down (as it often does) to a painful choice bet-
ween cramming for that crucial test and seeing yet
another movie you've-always-wanted-to-see-but-
never-got-the-chance, it can only be advised to stop
pretending to be sensible and have a good time.
(Alternative answers can be provided by most paren-
ts and faculty membersj) After all, when will you get
Another opportunity to gee the Monkees in Head, for
instance, or a feature-fantasy history of evolution by
Czechanimator Karel Zeman? Not every day back in
Peoria, folks.
WATCHING FILMS in A' is a unique experience.
As the sweet smell of chemical illegalities wafts
through each campus theater, loud clanking is

in commercial, foreign and avant-garde films. You
can image such impressive feats as learning more or
less everything there is to know about Truffaut in jusf
one or two terms at Angell Hall.
As previously mentioned, campus movies provide
endless opportunities for avoiding homework, and for
those who like to gloss over their guilt by having a
"reason" for all those nights at the flicks, taking a
film course is the most convenient excuse. But it's
also a good deal more than this.
THE CO-OPS and regular theaters provide enough
space to allow you to take moviegoing as seriously as
you wish. You can go the dull route and see some big-
name piece of entertainment on the weekends, or
take full advantage of the possibilites. If you've ever
wondered just where auteurism means anything to
any significant number of people (outside N.Y.C.),
it's here-the films of, say, David Croenburg (Rabid,
It Came From Within) are screened with the same
respect, if not quite the same hushed solemnity, as
those of such traditional art-house heavies as
Bergman and (groan) Fellini.
All those haloed "masterpieces" you've heard
about are here on a regular basis, and if you happen
to find that at least half of them turn out to be major
disappointments, then-well, you're already well on
the road to becoming another born-and-bred master
of coffee-house film criticism. Everyone makes fun of
the sanctimonious intellectual chit-chat that goes on
around here, even as they indulge in it themselves.
And why shouldn't they? Contrary to popular belief, a
surprising number of people actually know what
they're talking about, even though you may be un-

more interesting) movies than anyone else. As
always, it is housed in the auditorium of the old Ar-
chitecture & Design building (recently renamed Lor-
ch Hall, but don't expect anyone to recognize that
title yet). Not exactly the most comfortable of places
to view, with its stiff-backed, crumbling chairs and
strange penchant for technical breakdowns.
But the place has a certain traditional charm, and
the Guild's films usually override considerations of
mere comfort. The co-op shows a stead, worthy, and
respectable diet of relatively recent films, American
classics, and famed foreign works, along with some
enjoyable nickel-and-dime cinema. The Guild has a
substantial film library of its own which answers the
question of why they are always screening a few par-
ticular favorites, including a large number of great
silent-era works that are, unfortunately, screened a
good deal less often than they should be. An ad-
ditional pleasure in going to see their films is the fact
that short subjects, from experimental works to
animation and classic old comedy shorts, are
frequently paired with the features.
Even better, the Guild has long been responsible
for the city's one great annual contribution to the
world of film-the Ann Arbor Film Festival, which
for 18 years has provided a showcase for 16mm film-
makers from around the world. The week-long
festival is hardly a dive into amateurity; the films
screened are often dazzling in their imagination and
startling in their technical proficiency. Last year the
festival was, for the first time, not held in old A & D.
Moved to the huge but comfortably baroque Michigan
Theater downtown, it has lost none of the air of
crowded excitement from previous years. Held early
each spring, this is one local event well worth ex-
The Ann Arbor Film Co-op, like Cinema Guild,
screens about five.nights a week, and with rare ex-
ceptions for special showings, admission is alway
$1.50 for a single feature and $2.50 for a double. The
Ann Arbor Film Co-op, however, is considerably dif-
ferent in personality. Its choices are much more
eclectic and bizarre. Along with a solid program of
both famous and little-known films by major
domestic and foreign directors, and a fair number of
recent hits (Manhattan, Nosferatu, etc.), the co-op
screens a lot of fascinating oddities. They show minor
but interesting genre films, camp pieces (Invasion of
the Bee Girls, The Terror of Tiny Town, I Changed
My Sex, Reefer Madness), concert flicks, programs
of animation, trick, experimental and classic shorts,
along with an occasional 3-D film and other things.
About once every two weeks, a free program is of-
fered; the films screened at these times are usually
on the obscure side in American or foreign films,
unknown but often worth checking out. (Cinema
Guild and Cinema II have irregular free showings,
though their selections are generally less in-
The Ann Arbor Co-op also sponsors the annual
8mm Film Festival, which occurs a few weeks before
the larger and older 16mm festival. The 8mm
festival attracts lesser audiences and less attention,
but as film stock prices zoom and creativity in this
area continues to expand, it's becomig just as
striking a forum for experimentation as e arger
event. The co-op shows most of its regular schedule in
Modern Languages Building Auditoritifhs 3 nd
4-nice places for visibility (unless you're stuck at
the sides, which drastically distorts the image, or at
the back, which is just too far away), although other-
wise not particularly comfortable. The other usual
location is Auditorium A in Angell Hall, probably the
best of all campus movie locales.
Cinema II screens an average of three nights a
week, mostly in the same locations. They offer a
comparatively conservative schedule, with lots of
foreign, domestic classic and political films-the sort
of schedule that caters more to classroom viewing
than Saturday night moviegoing. Little garbage is
displayed (too bad), but most of what is shown is well
worth seeing; in particular, Cinema II brings a lot of
rarely-seen but worthwhile foreign works to the cam-
Mediatrics has been treated as the weak sister
among the co-ops since its relatively recent incep-
tion, due to a schedule that has always looked rather
commercial in comparison to those of the com-
petition. Fortunately, there's been a recent step up in
the quality of Mediatrics' films. And there certainly
isn't anything wrong with going to see a "popular"
movie over a move fashionably obscure one if the
film happens to be Close Encounters, Breaking Away
or The Life of Brian.
The only major thing wrong with Mediatrics is its
usual locations in the Natural Science Auditorium,
where the combination of bad sound and atrocious
See CAMPUS, Page 9

FOR ANN ARBOR RESIDENTS, the Michigan Theater (above) nearly becam
a fond memory last year as its long-time affiliation with the Butterfield Theater
Co. came to a swift end. With no buyers for the elaborate moviehouse, the
City of Ann Arbor came to the rescue and obtained the building, partially financed
bond sales to local citizens and businesses. The future looks bright again, as
Michigan Theater staffers promise an extensive, well-rounded schedule of events
for the months ahead.
The Michigan
Theater endures',

Daily Photo by MAUREEN O'MALLEY.

inevitably caused when someone accidentally kicks
over the can or bottle they probably weren't old
enough to purchase themselves.
These distractions-along with those irritating lit-
tle lighted pens used by students dutifully taking
notes for their film classes, and various other concen-
tration blowers-are just a few of the many peculiar
charms of going to movies on campus. As partial
compensation, one need never worry about having to
fume silently while a movie is being poorly projected.
Inevitable audieance screams of "Louder!,"
"Focus!" and/or "Frame it!" insure that, one way
or another, the projectionist will be driven crazy
enough to correct the error.
Ann Arbor offers what may possibly be, outside of a
few sacred metropolitan areas, the best place in the
country to gain both broad and specialized knowledge
in the art form's past while keeping up with the latest

pleasantly reminded of the scene in Annie Hall in
which Woody Allen is subjected to the unforgettable
horrors of standing behind a pretentious intellectual
twit in the ticket line.
THERE ARE FOUR major film co-ops currently
functioning on campus. Between them, they
generally come up with an average of two or three
films each weeknight, with at least twice the amount
available on Friday and Saturday nights. Each co-op
publishes semester schedules, which are available at
all screenings. Daily information on films can be ob-
tained from the Daily's "Happenings" column, or
through the University Record, which is distributed
all over campus each week, and can be picked up for
Cinema Guild leads the list as the oldest and most
influential of the film co-ops. Also, along with the Ann
Abor Film Co-op, it regularly screens more (and

The Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor's
ornate vaudeville house that dates back
to the late 1920's, might have been con-
verted into a mini-shopping mall if it
weren't for quick action on the part of
city council last year.
Instead, the theater will soon be
operating in its original capacity with
original decor.
ACCORDING TO theater manager
Ray Mesler, scheduling will begin to
pick up this fall with a new concert and
film series to supplement the con-
tinuing second Sunday series organ
concerts. Upcoming events will include
old movies, speakers, music groups,
orchestra concerts and performing ar-
'We have to form our own audience,"
Mesler said. "We'll go with things that
perhaps don't go on in other places such
as one-man shows, stand-up
comedians, silent movies, and big ban-
Last year the 52-year-old theater
hosted events such as conferences, jazz
bands, dance orchestras, the Ann Arbor
Film Festival, and movie, magic and
mime shows during the summertime
Ann Arbor Street Fair.
According to Mayor Louis Belcher,
the theater will be used in Ann Arbor's
first Summer Festival, a reperatory
event to begin next June.
Michigan haven't always been so rosy.
By March, 1979, the theater became too
expensive for Butterfield Theaters Inc.
to operate, so the company decided not
to renew its lease. A month earlier
council endorsed a proposal to form a
non-profit corporation to look for alter-
nate uses for the theater, but efforts to
save it through the private sector fell
through over the summer. City officials
stepped in and began negotiations with
the family of Angelo Poulos who built
the theater in 1928 and has owned it
ever since.
Last November, city council voted to
purchase the theater from the Poulos
family for $540,000, borrowing $162,000
from the city's general fund to finance
the down payment. The city had six
months to sell $540,000 in revenue bonds
to purchase the theater outright, but the
deal ran into trouble in April due to in-
flated interest rates. "When the prime
rate is at 20 per cent," Belcher ex-
plained, "our 8 per cent bonds didn't
look very good." I
In order to further entice buyers,
council agreed last April to hike the in-
terest rate from 8 to 10 per cent, but
only after Belcher had promised to
secure an interest-free loan from
private sources to pay back the general
fund. But the action proved un-
necessary when on June 4, City Ad-
ministrator Terry Sprenkel opened four
sealed bids and sold the bonds to Huron

Valley National Bank, the low bidder at
6.697 per cent.
"The city has never had a bond issue
go unsold," said Sprenkel. "I'm
tremendously pleased-this was
something that far surpassed what I
thought might happen."
the sale took the future of the theater
out of limbo and allowed the Michigan
Community Theater Foundation, the
non-profit group currently operating
the theater, to- go ahead with plans to
raise funds to restore the city lan-
dmark. Fund raisers are planning to
accumulate around $3 million to finan
ce and renovate the theater over the
next 15 years.
Mesler has been named director of
the foundation in charge of fund
raising, programming and renovation.
"Our goal is to restore itexactly the
way it was, in line with safety and code
requirements necessary to keep it fun-
etionable," he said.
THE THEATER has several dressing
rooms, a green room where performers
can wait before their shows, an or-
chestra pit, a large performing stage,
and a rare and valuable Barton pipe
organ restored in 1974.
Its grey and coral decor is represen-
tative of the style in the 1950's, said
Mesler, who was hired last May.
Originally, he said, the wall and ceiling
patterns were multi-colored and "very
picturesque." The foundation plans to
resotre the theater's exterior and front
foyer back to its original, more conser-
vative facade. Other changes include
redecorating the lobby, replacing three
large wall-length mirrors at the top of
the stairs and reinstating false
balconies beneath the organ grills
within the auditorium.
Mesler is no newcomer to the theater
restoration business. "I sort of came in
through the back door," he said. He was
the head of the Arts Council in Tampa,
Florida, when the city bought and
restored a 1400 seat Eberson theater.
"The theater was just one of my projec-
ts," he said. "I became so intrigued
with it that I eventually moved to Fort
Wayne (Indiana) to run one myself."
HE DESCRIBED the Tampa theater
as being built in the intricate
Mediterranian "theme" style. The
auditorium is decorated to resemble a
courtyard setting with fountains and
statues in wall portals-all beneath a
navy ceiling where the sun sets, stars
come out and the moon rises and sets atg
the end of the show.
Mesler explained that the Ann Arbor
theater bridges the ornate
Mediterranian style with the later and
more simplistic "Art Nouveau" style,
thus incorporting "one great big
flowing idea." "During the
depression," Mesler said, "people went
to movie palaces to escape from their
poor surroundings. But by the mid thir-
ties every piece of decor had to be
Although the Michigan theater is no
as ornate as some of its counterparts,
Mesler asserts that the theater "has a
lot of things going for it." As opposed to
the theaters he managed in Tampa and
Ft. Wayne, the Michigan is in the mid-
die of a busy downtown, not a dying in-
ner city. "Here, there are other places
nearby putting on similar events,"
Mesler said, "competition in this area
is kPnTh daei a r;.adv hee

trucked in 16 bails of hay and tactically
placed them around the entrance of
Angell Hall for her art history project.
O'Malley utilized light and movement to

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