The Michigan Daily Wednesday, February 17, 1982 Pages
* Ben Cross as Olympic hopeful Harold Abrahams and Ian Holm as his trainer Sam Mussabini star
in 'Chariots of Fire.'
Tire visua e ecti ve,
but native is unclear
B'A dam Knee
('1 HARIOTS OF FIRE, is a visually
and aurally enthralling film based
on the experiences of two British run-
ners in the 1924 Olympics. It is a work/
full of. stunning scenes and impressive
performances, and yet, on a broad
thematic track,, it stumbles before it
reaches its finish.
SColin Welland's screenplay
examines with reasonable historical
accuracy", the .training and lives of
Harold Abrahams, a Jewish Cambridge
student, and Eric Liddel, a Scottish
missionary. Welland effectively con-
trasts these two characters-in their
approaches to racing and in their ap-
preaclhes to life. Abrahams, we see,
needs running to protect himself from.
antisemitism. in a Christian Anglo-~
Saxon country, while Liddell runs for-
he glory of God, his beliefs so strong
thatfie would rather forfeit a race than
run on a Sunday.
The opening credit sequence-a
striking view of an early morning run
along the sea, the film's major charac-
ters in white uniforms, set against dark
waters and grey skies with the accom-
paniment of the theme from Vangelis
Papathanassiou's haunting score-sets
the technical pace for the entire film.
Cinematographer David Watkin's
camera is versatile enough to solemnly
track along the table at a formal dinner
or casually amble through a gathering
of students, to capture 'sweeping
natural landscapes or bestow a similar
grandeur on the study of a college
headmaster, to glance over an enor-
mous crowd of spectators or to isolate
one or tow faces in that crowd. The
lighting is implemented with skill, as is
evidenced by a marvelous shot of
Abraham's subjective view of the
*track, in which his path is subtly lit
brighter than the others. s
As much care is taken with the sound
as with the visuals. In tense moments of
races, crowd. noises are slowly faded
out and we are left with electronically
amplified and slowed sounds of the
runner's heavy breathing and
groaning. In Abrahams' daydreams.
such sounds are combined with real
sounds (a track attendant folding chairs,
for example,: in' syncopation with
Vangelis's score, itself an off beat mix
of conventional and synthesized music.
Yet, while each individual scene runs
smoothly and skillfully, the film, as a
whole, fails to effectively relay a sense
of purpose. Symptomatic of this is the
over-use of slow motion for race
sequences. While slow motion works, at
first, to heighten the drama of each in-
dividual race, all of the races even-
tually blend into one big, slow-moving
mass, in which any overall sense of
dramatic climax is obscured.
The main ideas behind the narrative
opposition of Abrahams and Liddell are
clear enough. Abrahams defines self in
terms of a country he is not actually
part of and does not, deep down, believe
in. As a result, he feels empty after his
athletic and social victories. Liddell, on
the other hand, defines self in terms of
God, in terms of something that is real
for him. Correspondingly, his (and
God's) victories provide him with true
Chariots of Fire, however, does not
simply examine matters of identity.
The film actually concurs with Liddell's
highly moral and religious perspective.
In this perspective, he triumphs not
simply because he has an identity, but
specifically because this identity
merges with God. When he gives a ser-
mon on a rainy day, the rain stops as
though by way of diyine intervention,
and the sun shines down through the
clouds. Moreover, director Hugh Hud-
son chooses to depict runners as though
-they experience a hellish agony in
racing, their groans unearthly, their
faces twisted in pain.
The facts of history, as selected by
Welland, do not comply with such a
strictly moral perspective. We learn
that Liddell, despite his devoutness,
dies young, while the empty Abrahams
lives a successful life to an old age. In-
deed, not all of the incidents Welland
chooses to portray even relates to his
own central theme of identity.
Thus, we get a sense not of a clear
double perspective, but of confused
perspectives. Issues of nationalism are
often touched upon, but not fully
elaborated. The competition between
Abrahams and Liddell appears, at first,
to be a key subject, but it ultimately
proves to be of little significance. One
major character, fellow runner Aubrey
Montague, serves. no real dramatic
function at all. Few\ personal relation-
ships are sufficiently fleshed out.
Nevertheless, no film with character-
izations as realistic and deep as those
found in Chariots of Fire can feel com-
pletely meaningless. Among many
newcomers to the screen in this work
are stars'Ben'Cross and Ian Charleson,
who play Abrahams and Liddell,
respectively. Both performances -are
fully believeable and engrossing,
despite the unfamiliarity of their
characters' perspectives. Even the
many characters who appear briefly
are hard to forget, though only a few
can be mentioned here. Sir John Gielgud
is both amusing and loathsome as the
Master of Trinity, while Dennis
Christopher is truly chilling in his
cameo role as glory-obsessed runner
Charles Paddock. David Yelland
reveals a remarkable understanding of
character in his brief appearance as the
Prince of Wales.
The thematic confusion of Chariots of
Fire is an undeniable disappointment.
The film comes to a satisfying finish,
however, because of its brilliant
technical work and exceptional acting.
These make Chariots haunting and
moving, despite its flaws.
Shalamar-'Go For It'
A lot of artists take the stand that on-
ce you've got a sound down, you don't
mess with it. Few can make as strong
an argument for that attitude as
The task for Shalamar on this outing
was to equal the monster hits that made
side two of summer's Three for Love so
irresistible. Unfortunately, they
haven't quite achieved that, although
"Talk to Me" is a respectable attempt
to duplicate the immediacy of "Make
But even when they don't quite get it
perfect, Shalamar never goes wrong.
WASHINGTON (UPI) - Arguing the
United States has "no business" in war-
torn El Salvador, a group of actors led
by Edward Asner will try to raise $1
million for the health-care system of
rebel forces in the Central American
In direct opposition to U.S. policy, the
actors and filmmakers Monday presen-
ted a check for $25,000 to a Los Angeles
based group that provides medical
relief to the Democratic Revolutionary
Front in El Salvador. .
The money was collected from about
8,000 contributors. Asner, television's
"Lou Grant," said the rebels were
chosen as recipients because they are
the .only ones with delivery systems to
the rural citizens who need the care.
"If we want to deliver medical
assistance, frankly we must do it
through the rebel forces," he said.
"We've learned to recognize a war
we've got no business being part of," he
told a news conference. "We are
determined, each in our own way, to
stop American involvement in,this war,
so help us God."
Joining Asner were actress Lee
Grant; Howard Hessman, who plays
Dr. Johnny Fever on "WKIP in Cin-
cinnati;" Penny Marshall, Laverne of
"Laverne and Shirley;" Ralph Waite,
Pa Walton of "The Waltons," and
Academy Award-winning filmmaker.
Dr. Gloria Torres, a member of the
board of the Los Angeles group,
Medical Aid to El Salvador, said the
donations will be sent to a group of
physicians in Mexico City who will buy
the supplies and have them shipped
directly to the rebels.
The ticket information for the
Chinese Magic Circus of Tai-
wan which appeared Tuesday,
Feb. 16 in the Michigan Daily,
Tickets go on sale Thurs-
day, Feb. 18, at the Michi-
gan Union Box Office, Hud-
sons, and all CTC outlets.r
Mentor Leon Sylvers knows how to
squeeze every melt-in-your-mouth
nuance out of their harmonies, piling
them high and luscious on top of
melodies every bit as featherweight as
That sort of play-it-safe perfec-
tionism plays a surprisingly small part
on this album, though. Fully half of Go'
For It has been turned over to
Shalamar member Jeffrey Daniels'
production and songwriting work.
Although Daniels reaps as many misses
as hits along the way, he also displays
i ANN ARBO0R
5th Ave at liberty 761-97(0
0 Richard Dreyfuss
Daily-7:30, 9:40 (PG)
WED--12:50, 3:00, 5:20, 7:30, 9:40
0With This Entire Ad One
Tick e 150 Mon, Wed,
S-INCL BEST PICTURE
" A CLASSIC LOVE STORY"
j Warren Beatty-
SAT., SUN.-1:00,5, 1:8
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DIAL "M"1 3:15
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an unexpected ability to, explore and
deliver in areas one would have thought
beyond Shalamar's grasp. With the
budding of this creative talent within.
Shalamar, it seems that perhaps their
best may yet be ahead.
;Thanks to Schoolkids' Records
for the use of some of the albums'
revie wed in our records column.
if or. 3 PM Sat-Sun
He found a line
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A a o
Gateway to a great way of life.
What magnificent sound is that frdm the Versailles
Versailles Chamber Orchestra
Aubert: Suite of Symphonies
Rameau: Concerto No. 1
Bach: Violin Concerto in E major
Mozart: Divertimento in C, K. 157
Thursday Feb.18 at $30
Tickets at $5.50, $7.00, $8.50
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