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January 07, 1982 - Image 7

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1982-01-07

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14

ARTS

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The Michigan Daily

_ n _ag .7-

Thursday, January 7, 1982

. Page 7 ;

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Recorc
Joan Armatrading-'Walk Under
Ladders' (A&M)

To assume that Joan Armatrading
has bowed to commercial pressures
simply because this is her most-
produced album yet would be to fun-
damentally misunderstand ,Walk Un-
der Ladders. Asking Sly Dunbar and
Robbie Shakespeare (the reggae wun-
derkin responsible for the progressive
funk of Grace Jones and numerous
Jamacian hits), Dick Cuthell and Rico
Rodriguez of The Specials, and Andy
Partridge of XTC to guest your album
is not what you could call a sell-out. It
was, in fact, quite a risk-but one that
seems to have paid off.
Undoubtedly, though, it is
a step that is bound to raise
some suspicion. Armatrading's
fans were quick to sniff out compromise
on her last album, I Me Mine, done in
collaboration with '50s producer
Richard Gottehrer. And the fans of her
new conspirators have always spurned
Armatrading as little more than a
tough Janis Ian-bitchy folk, you could
say.
What makes this album even more
difficult to immediately digest is the
fact that it encompasses such a variety
of song styles that it seems
schizophrenic at times. The major
case in point is the latter half of the
second side, which jumps from the
languid reggae of "I Can't Lie to Myself"
to the supercharged pop-ska of "Eating
the Bear" and on to the sombrely
Enoseque "Only One." Often, this sort
of genre-hopping indicates an artist
clutching at straws, besieged by a
desperate lack of direction faced when
one has played out one sound but is un-
certain where to turn next.
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Is
That said, I should point out very
closely that that is not the case with this
album. The content and tone of Walk
Under Ladders is always essential Joan
Armatrading. Her experimentation in
song styles is undertaken not out of
desperation, but adventurousness. If
the unlikely trio of genres mentioned
above seems unreconcilable, you have
to hear Joan Armatrading use them to
her own advantage to know that it can
work.
Above all alse, this is still a Joan Ar-
'matrading record. Her chief asset has
always been her intelligence, expressed

m

I 4

equally in telling lyrical ambiguities
and her vocal ability to explore those
ambiguities.
In that way, this slicker, rockier
sound may be just what the doctor or-
dered. No longer is Joan forced to
always play Gibraltar against the soft-
spoken subtleties of her accom-
paniment. This time arond the music
gives her some stiff competition, and
for my money, Joan seems to benefit
from it. It's this kind of force that gives
her scalpel of insight the force to reach
right to the heart of the matter..
-Mark Dighton

II

TYPEWRITERS

Paul Newman and Sally Field in 'Absence of Malice'

Ll.

Quality absent in 'Malice'

" . .

By Richard Campbell
*CERTAIN MOVIES, whether good
,.or bad, are unforgettable.
Casablanca, Heaven's Gate, I Changed
My Sex, and Star Wars are all fixed into
our irreplaceable memories. There is
another class of films that, however,
are immediately forgotten. No matter
how well made these movies are, they
just don't work. Absence of Malice is
one of these forgettable kinds of
movies.
It has to be stated, up front, that Ab-
sence is a good movie. It is well made,
well acted, etc. which I will get to later.
It is just that it is somewhat pointless.
After seeing the film you can ignore it.
There is nothing in the film that)
demands the viewers attention. This is
any film's grevious fault. If a movie
doesn't captivate an audience there is
no need for it to be made.
Sydney Pollack aimlessly directed
this tale of a man who is unfortunately'
linked to the recent disappearance of a
Jimmy Hoffa-like teamster official. It's
all because of this over-ambitious,
reporter who writes her story based

on unnamed sources. Some
newspaper wrtiers have cried foul at
this film for its tempered portrayal of
the news biz. But this is a fictional
movie, so anyone stupid enough to ac-
cept these events without question is
stupid enough to misjudge any film.
As the social aspects of Absence go,
they are very simple and straightfor-
ward. Sometimes reporters and special
investigators get carried away, says
the movie. This is not what I would call
a particularly deep or penetrating in-
sight into life. Kurt Luedtke, a former
editor at the Detroit Free Press, wrote
the movie, but there is little in the film
that couldn't have been imagined by
any hack-Hollywood writer. Luedtke
has made the movie so bankable with
obligatory romances and convenient
plot twists that he has completely
removed it from.any association with
the real world.
Pollack has made this movie with
precision. With the addition of cliched,
incidential music from Dave Grusin,
Absence has all the ingredients of a
great film, but none of the punch. Paul
Newman plays the beleaguered liquor
distributor who is named in a news

story as being involved with the team-
ster disappearance. Newman doesn't
do too much in the acting department,
he simply presents the image of an
upright, indignant citizen vainly trying
to protect his rights.
The acting in Absence is better in the
supporting cast than in either starring
role. Sally Field is an airhead as the
easily excitable reporter; she doesn't
act much better than her cute daysson
"The Flying Nun." Melinda Dillon's ac-
ting is on a level so much better, and so
subtle compared to the others, that she
seems to be working in another movie.
However, everyone in the cast is over-
shadowed by Wilford Brimley, who
steals the show as the soft-speaking
country-smart attorney who clears the
whole mess up.
If you are the type of person who likes
to go out and see new movies, then you
should definitely make plans to see Ab-
sence of Malice. It is a lot better than a
lot of drivel being passed off for good
filmmaking this season. But if you only
go to see a couple of films a year, there
is no reason for you to make the effort.
Take it or leave it, it really doesn't mat-
ter.

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TV

actor Conried dead

HOLLYWOOD (UPI)-Comedian
Hans Conried, who appeared in more
than 100 movies and Broadway shows
and hosted the "Fractured Flickers"
television series, died Tuesday of a
heart attack at St. Joseph Medical Cen-
ter. He was 64.
Conried, who John Barrymore once
called "one of the most versatile actors
I've ever seen," also was well known
for his role as Uncle Tonoose on "The
Donny Thomas Show" and his starring
role in "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T."
Besides "Fractured Flickers," a
parody of movies, he also hosted the
"Pantomime Quiz" television series
and was a panelist on "What's It For"
arid "Take A Guess" quiz shows.
Hospital spokeswoman Rhoda Weiss

said Conried entered the hospital Sun-
day after suffering an acute heart at-
tack. She said the actor, who had a
history of heart problems and suffered
a stroke during a dinner theater per-
formance in 1974, first felt the new
chest pains while performing in a play a
month ago.
He suffered a second massive heart
attack Monday night and died a few
minutes before noon Tuesday. His wife
of 40 years, Margaret, and several
other family members were at his bed-
side.
The actor, a founding member of the
American Federation of Television and
Radio Actors, had completed a cable
television version of "Barefoot in the
Park" just last month.

Conried, born April 15, 1917, in
Baltimore, attended Columbia Univer-
sity where he played in a wide variety
of Shakespearian roles.
He moved to Los Angeles in 1937 and
launched a career as a radio actor,
using his ear for the sound and rhythms
of languages to win many dialect parts.
He was heard regularly on the CBS-
Radio Network as Professor Kroptkin
on "My Friend Irma," as Schultz on
"Life with Luigi" and in several roles
on the Edgar Bergen-Charlie McCarthy
Show."
He once said of the radio business,
"Whatever you aren't, you play. The
older I get, the younger the roles I por-
tray."

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