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December 02, 1980 - Image 6

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-12-02

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Page 6

Tuesday, December 2, 1980

Sleight-of-hand movie



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Join the Daily News Staff,

In description, Richard Rush's The
Stunt Man sounds like another oh-those-
wacky-Hollywood-daredevils comedy
in the fizzed-out tradition of
Hooper-and the canned cheeriness of
Dominic Frontier's lousy TV-adventure
score tries dutifully to reduce it to that
level of mediocrity-but it turns out to
be a fantastic toy. jerry-built on a pile
of melodramatic absurdities and, at
least for a while. exhilerating unlike
any other movie.
The story is complicated and
thoroughly incredible, with a
quixotically blurred line between
reality and the fantasy of
moviemaking. Rush can get away with
his missing pieces and adruptly an-
nounced-then-yanked metaphors
because he works in a kind of cinematic
shorthand that, if it doesn't explain the
lack of conventional clarity, makes its
inclusion unnecessary. He's created
an enigmatic comedy-a work in the
mind-game territory of Antonioni and
Roeg, without the sonority of serious
art. It's all play. (At least the good par-
The Stunt Man may have gotten too
big for its writer/director-he's been
developing the idea and trying to find
backing since the early 1970's-and it
loses its eclectic charge two-thirds of
the way. It has the sloppy overflow of
visionary near-genius; there are so
many ideas and sleight-of-hand tricks
crowding each scene that a fair amount
fail, and some of the others are just baf-
fling. But the messiness is, for a while,
a kind of high-and when the movie
begins to go downhill, it's because it
starts getting too clean.
THE PLOTTINGS are a whirlwind
of climaxes and ambigious moments of
intimacy, beginning with an epic chase
in whichBurt (Steve Railsback) is cor-
nered and handcuffed by police in a
seedy rural diner. He crashes out and
runs through a North by Northwestern
series of perils, finally eluding his pur-
"An cirtis tic
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WED-2:00, 4:25, 7:00, 9:25
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WED-1:30, 3:20, 5:20,
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M.D. 12/4/80
* With this entire ad -
one admission $1.50 any film
* Good Mon. thru Thurs.
This coupon valid thru
* * * m m e m m m" m m m .

Steve Railsback, as The Stupt Man, is swept off his feet by ace director Peter
O'Toole in Richard Rush's adventure/comedy/romance. The other love
story in the film is between Railsback and film star Barbara Hershey.


<0 0e
O 1

suers on a lonely country
bridge-where he's suddenly faced with
a screechingly hurried car and a
helicopter. The car plummets off the
bridge, sinking its hapless driver for
good in the lake. The helicopter lands
menacingly-and Eli Cross (Peter
O'Toole), a major-league film director,
gets out to yell "Cut!"
The major surprise in all of this is
that it's the only spectacular action scene
in the movie that doesn't turn out to
have been (entirely) some kind of
fakery. Burt is indeed on the run from
the cops, forreasons much later ex-
plained, and the (stunt) driver was ac-
cidentally killed. Impressed at Burt's
survival tactics, Eli offer§ him asylum
- in the dead man's identity and job on
the WWI adventure that he's filming.
Burt is soon involved in a rocky
relationship with Nina Franklin (Bar-
bara Hershey), the war movie's leading
lady, but the major love-hate terror in
his life is working with Eli, the crazed
auteur. "I can't take my eyes off him!"
he says fearfully. "It's just a crush," a
fellow stunter assures him.
Eli, bastard though he is, is regarded
as a god. Burt and Nina must
tremulously sneak around under his
omnipresent gaze, trying to elude that
grandiose snarl of disapproval, but
when Burt bitches back at Eli, Nina is
outraged-"What is going on in that
dim little brain of yours?" Eli is not a
warm human being. He's something of
more difficult and rarefied; his crew
regards him with terrified and/or un-
derstanding awe. - _
O'Toole, the audience becomes .a fer-
vent disciple. O'Toole strikes sparks
with each lacerating flick of an epithet.
Flying about on a camera crane like a

mad bacchanal sprite, barking out the
script's almost-witty lines in a hoarse
croak that's as unerringly pungent as
Maggie Smith's musical drawl, he's a
marvelous jaded monster-too
exhausted to bother with nonsense and
too intelligent to believe in even his own
cynicism. Eli's loyalties are ambigious,
but they exist., You can feel the mixture
of distaste and pleasure he feels in
trying to inject some art and life into his
trash genre ventures. "Who cares?,"
someone asks in exasperation, to which
he replies "I care!" The questioner
ounters, "$ullshit!," and Eli shrugs,
"True." before moving on to his next
Macheavellian insanity. O'Toole has
always been a richly enjoyable actor,
and he's probably never had a screen
role so perfectly tailored to his ability to
simultaneously carry on and sar-
castically deride the tradition of paten-
ted Great Acting as this one.
Aging-hard, like Richard Burton-has
merely sharpened his sting, made his
once marketably androgenous matinee-
idol face even more striking.
Eli is like the latter-day John
Barrymore, self-mocking. and bitter,
but still more alive than anyone else. A
genius in a world of hucksters, he's had
his grandly theatrical revenge in
becoming the biggest and best.
huckster of them all. He amuses him-
self mainly by keeping Burt (who has
clearly never even imagined anyone
like this before) in a state of total con-
fusion, toying with how far he can be
pushed before there's an 'explosion.
These two are so comically foreign to
each other that they seem to have
sprung not just from "different worlds"
but from different mgvies.
ten, surprisingly repellant-because he

The Michigan Dai
is, for the first time I can recall, a
realistic version of that Hitchcockian
supposed "ordinary man in extraor-
dinary circumstances." The ar-
chtypical Hitchcock model was Cary
Grant-anything but ordinary, han-
dsome, witty, charming, resourceful.
Burt is resourceful .(though he sweats
it) and attractive in a less distinctive
way (blond and teeny-handsome, he
looks like Ken, of Barbie and. . .), but
he's basically your average asshole. A
Vietnam vet, he's righteous about it,
cocky, immature and uncomprehen-
ding, prone to statements like "Where I
was, we only raped gooks." We
sometimes fear for him and -can
usually sympathize with his bewilder-
ment (since-we share it), but we never
really like him. Eli's affection for him
is vague and appropriately bemused.
He says he's intrigued by the dumb
animal strength that Burt shares with
the movie-within-the-movie's'
protagonist, but Eli seems to be as
waxily sincere about this as he is about
blatant lies. The truth of the mat-
ter-the way the undercurrents
play-is that Eli has a crush on that
bronzed stud, though he's intelligent-
enough to be flippant about it and not
embarrass himself for an oaf. (When
Burt is told that Eli and Nina had a
failed affair a few years before, the
news rings unimaginably false.)
Though Railsback is OK (Burt's
grating qualities are supposed to be
there, I think, though there's an in-
clination to blame such things on the
actor) and Hershey is for the most part
a good deal more relaxed than she was 4
in her early-'70's ingenue days, Burt
and Nina make a rather uninteresting
and unconvincing pair. Once the plot
begins to center around this couple, the
approach gets more conventional and
the movie loses its steam. They make a
much less entertaining romantic com-
bination than Eli and Burt.
It's difficult to pin down exactly
what's so liberating about The Stunt
Man. Richard Rush has admirable
visual assurance for a first-time direc-
tor, and the big stunt set-pieces are
crazily elaborate. They don't take off on
their own, though; they're a rather tex-
tbookish fantasyland, conception of
filmmaking, a bit cute .about it, rather
like those day-in-the-life studio
"documentaries" from the vintage
years of Hollywood. What fires The
Stunt Man isn't its surface action, but
rather the giddy interplay of logic and
illogic lurking around its quirky edges.
Projects as longin-the-making as this
one are usually parched and thought-
out to the point of rigor mortis by the
time they reach the screen, but Rush
has, miraculously, stayed intoxicated'
with his possibilities, bursting with
almost too many ideas. He may turn out
to be the rarest and, in some ways, the
most exciting kind of movie whiz kid-a
pop-art magician with a happy visible

the ann arbor
film cooperative

December Calendar

~11ss iaft
Fr i., Sat.,Sun.
Dec. 5,6,7

One of Ann Arbor's most cherished
traditions is the University Choral
Union's performance of "The Mes-
siah." Once again, under the direction
of Donald Bryant, the 300-voice Choral
Union and soloists present Handel's
great oratorio to begin a joyous
Christmas season. Soloists are
Elizabeth Parcells, soprano; Victoria
Grof, contralto; Leonard Johnson,
tenor; Edward Pierson, bass; Bejun
Mehta, boy soprano. Fri. and Sat. at
8:30; Sun. at 2:30.
Hill. Auditorium




Bergman invents a new kind of film; proves to the world that questions about
the existence of God and man's place in the universe can be filmed, can be
dramatic, can be commercial. "Who are you?" "I am Death." "Have you come
for me?" "I have been walking by your side for a long time:" "That I know."
"Are you prepared?" "My body is frightened, but I am not." "Well,
There is no shame in that." 7:00 & 9:05 at Lorch Hall.
CINEM A G U LD Projecting the Human Spirit




For their Christmas 1980 recital pro-
gram in Ann Arbor, these eight re-
markably well-trained and versatile
singers will present traditional carols,
old favorites like Irving Berlin's
"White Christmas" and new arrange-
ments of some popular Jerome Kern
and Cole Porter nusic, as well as
works by Scarlatti, Debussy, Rimsky-
Korsakov, Benjamin Britten, their
unique singing of music by Bach, and
their own version of Mozart's "Ein
Kleine Nachtmusik." Friday, 8:00.
Power Center

Fiday, Dec.12

7:00 Aud. A
Uproarious Satire
of American
popular culture.
9:00 Aud. A
for Senator? A
satirical look at
American politics.

Read and Use Daily Classifieds!
Call 764-0557





Rudolf Serkin
Monday, Dec. 15

One of the most persistently admired,
beloved and influential musicians in
the world, Rudolf Serkin has received
critical praise for his solo recitals and
his performances with the world's
greatest orchestras. His recital this
season will be the eighteenth time
Musical Society concertgoers will have
the special opportunity to hear 'this
titan among pianists." Monday, 8:30.
Hill Auditorium

presents the
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 5, 1980-7:30 pm

$ 2Single Feature
$Double Feature
Can we
serve you


A delightful and memorable Christmas
ritual for Ann Arbor families and for
all who love beautiful music, shimmer-
ing costumes and graceful dancing.
The Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre pre-
sents the wonderment of Christmas
een thronuh the eves of a little girl.

The Films
"The Man Who Came to
"The Nutcracker" (1965,



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