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January 13, 1982 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1982-01-13

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ARTS

The Michigan Daily

Wednesday, January 13, 1982

Page 5

_ _ _ _

Morrow's 'Violence'

By Stephen Miller
AMES MORROW'S latest effort,
The Wine of Violence, is his first
work of science fiction, though not his
first book. James Morrow's writing is
definitely that of a professional, with
clever dialogue and imaginative
descriptions. But in his latest work, his

The Wine of Violence
James Morrow
Holt, Rinehart & Winston; 324 pages

S James cagney
'Ragtime' scores with
!tenuous syncopation

first attempt at science fiction, he han-
dles the mechanics of the genre clum-
sily.
His characters seem to act out of
fashion, and the plot often takes turns
designed for maximum annoyance to
ithe reader. Explanations get glossed
over quickly for the sake of moving
things along. Humor mixes with the
most tragic and ugly violence for little
or no reason.
By the end of the story, Morrow's
clever and imaginative style no longer
supports the plot. The reader can only
wonder, "Why did it have to be this
way?" An answer is hard to find.
The Wine of Violence follows the ad-
ventures of the crew of the spaceship
Darwin, forced to crash on the semi-
mythical planet Carlotta. The events
leading up to this are badly muddled,
but it hardly matters, because the story
focuses on the action after the crash.
Once down, the four crewmembers
must locate fuel to replenish their
cells-their ship wasn't damaged much
in the crash. In true Star Trek form,
they manage to spot a deposit of this
"pollucite" on the sensors.
They set out in a magnecar-a

machine along the lines of a James
Bond car with treads-ready to face
any adventure lying between them and
the pollucite.
Here the story is in transition.
Through the crew, the culture of Nearth
("New Earth," get it?), the crew's
home planet, is about to encounter an
alien culture. While on one level the
story follows the particular adventures
of a handful of characters, on another
it exolores the interaction between two
radically different societies.
Along their journey through a desert
on Carlotta, they discover another
wreck-a huge old space ark. It turns
out to be one of the two that had brought
humans from Earth itself, long ago.
Carlotta and Nearth are in the same
solar system. The people of the two
planets are of the same stock.
But the Earth descendents on Carlot-
ta have split into two different groups
during the course of the centuries since
the original landing. Darwin's crew
finds one of these in the desert, and in it
discovers the dangers of the planet.
The first group is the Neurovores, a
band of savage, degenerate
braineaters. While stopped at an oasis,
a hundred, of the Neurovores swarm
from the trees and attack the crew.
Three members escape, but the only
woman in the crew can't escape in
time. She dies gruesomely, and the
previously light-hearted atmosphere
shifts abruptly.
The three remaining crewmembers
soon locate the second society
inhabiting Carlotta. Their magnecar
stops before a moat surrounding an
enormous walled city, extending as far
as they can see on either side.
Morrow's imagination works at its
best here. He invents an interesting sort
of utopian Paradise, complete with ser-
pents.
Morrow bases his Utopia on the an-
cient tribe of Tolmec Indians, charac-
terized by their non-violence. The
names he uses all have a sort of Indian
flavor to them, with lots of x, y, and z
sounds. Beyond that, and some
philosophical banter about non-

violence, the resemblan
After losing another
Captain Burne Newman
physicist) and Francis L
entymologist) enter the
gets down to the real bu
effect of a pair of pe
aggressively commerci
dog-eat-dog type of
religiously pacifistic con
Newman wants action
it fast. His ship needsj
and Lostwax can go ho
the way he wants to
Neurovores. But the
people of the city-car
because they are incap
anything.
Lostwax, on the other
happier where he is. H
love with Tez Yon, his be
Soon after, Newman
discover the dreaded sec
found Utopia. It has to do
river outside the wall, a
some bizarre bio-crysta
that dissolves anything i
More fanciful than ti
Alien, the stuff is called
hate. It comes from th
Lutans when, during th
ceremonies, they su
violentemotions and no

annoying
ce stops. Newman and Lostwax discover
crewmember, another secret, as well. When injected
(an aggressive with a dilute solution of noctus, the
,ostwax (a mild Lutans are able to kill. Newman forms
e city. Morrow his army from the more adventurous
siness now: the natives, and sets off to rescue his ship
eople from an and destroy the Neurovore menace.
al, capitalistic, Lostwas refuses to take part in the
society on a expedition. He wants to stay with Tez
mmunity. Yon, and convince her to return with
, and he wants him to Nearth. But a sinister idea oc-
refueling so he curs to him when he realizes such a non-
)me, and along aggressive person would never survive
wipe out the on his home planet.
Lutans-the He injects Tex Yon with the noctus, to
nnot help him, make her personality more suitable to
able of killing Nearth. It is an ugly twist, and the story
gets grim from then on to the end.
hand, is a little Tez Yon is a beautiful creation;
e even falls in probably the most enjoyable person in
autiful doctor. the book. But, like the first female
and Lostwax crewmember, Morrow builds her up
cret of the new- only to knock her down. Like the
o with a strange magnecar, she exists as a tool, to drum
riverformed of up needless action and emotions.
Aline substance Morrow is a good writer, and he
t touches. doesn't need to be second-guessed with
he blood of the a bunch of should-haves. But he clouds
I noctus-liquid the most important themes with sen-
e brains of the sationalism, and summarily axes his
heir mysterious most interesting characters. The prose
blimate their lacks economy, seriously damaging the
ctus drips out. final products.

Grammy nomnations

By Adam Knee
M ILOS FORMAN'S Ragtime, cur-
rently screening at the Campus
Theatre, is a faithful and cinematically
sophisticated, yet not entirely cap-
tivating adaptation of E. L. Doctorow's
novel of American life in the early
1900's.
Michael Weller's screenplay shies
from Doctorow's emphasis on
histdrical figures; Harry Houdini and
J P. Morgan, both major characters in
the novel, have minimal appearances
in the film,- and Emma Goldman is
"dropped altogether. What remains in-
tact from the novel is the central in-
teraction among a large and
prosperous white New Rochelle family,
* persecuted black musician's family,
and a poverty-stricken Jewish family.
Forman has an eye for faces which
helps bring his characters to life, and it
certainly is not lacking in Ragtime.
Sharp-featured, wide-eyed Brad Dourif
is wonderfully cast as the high-strung,
brooding Younger Brother, obsessed
with notorious chorus girl Evelyn
Nesbit (a plump-faced, puckering
Elizabeth McGovern). Even the minor
characters have unforgettable faces:
bony, long-visaged cops; seedy
showmen; oafish lawyers.
Although Ragtime is a visually-
stylized period film, a departure for
Forman, he nevertheless manages to
direct his performers in the natural ac-
ting style evident in all of his films.
Dramatic exchanges have a distinct
frankness and intimacy, and, largely
because of this, the film manages to
convey a sense of America's past more
vividly than most prose can. Par-
-oicularly striking is James Cagney's
chilling portrayal of a guileful racist
police chief.
The director also manages to keep
'the period alive through his dynamic
compositions and swift, skillful editing.
He has a visual sense well suited to
today's enormously wide screens-the
i.expanse of which he electrifies with
carefully-positioned actors in active
visual relationships with each other and
with objects of the day crammed in
around them. The chests of two large
white policemen dominate a frame
shared only with the face of a small,
confused black woman. Evelyn's bare
breasts fight for screen space with a
packet of cash placed in front of
her-cash clearly much more impor-
tant to her than any sexual rapport with
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Younger Brother.
Forman's use of abrupt cuts between
disparate scenes dramatically
heightens the cruel causality of events in
this world and helps illuminate his
vision of the way history works. In one
scene, musician Coalhouse Walker Jr.
(Howard E. Rollins) sits by the bed of
his young fiance, as she suffers from
serious injuries received at the hands of
police, and describes in glowing terms
their planned wedding. There is an im-
mediate cut to white lace and a church,
and the camera coldly tilts down to the
woman's corpse on display in a coffin.
Action in one scene appears to continue
on into the next.
Yet Forman's emphasis on the
causality of events is not intended to
teach us about history so much as it is
intended to make a statement about the
way different people and forces are
related in society. He differs con-
siderably in this from Doctorow, who
concentrates on the searches of a few
men for order in the universe and
meaning in life, and who suggests that
perhaps experience is meaning, an or-
dered view of history irrelevant except
insofar as it affects experience.
Forman has every right to design his
own thematic framework; he is, after
all, creating a distinct work of art. But
a problem arises because he remains
caught in Doctorow's narrative
framework. His characteristic concer-
ns in social matters move on a different
plane than that of the plot of Ragtime.
The result of this is that about two-
thirds of the way into the film, things
start to drag. Technical skill never
lacks in distinct moments, yet these
distinct moments begin to lose a sense
of direction. We find ourselves getting
bored.
Nevertheless, direction and energy
do pick up considerably in the film's
final sequences, and we do not leave the
theatre dissatisfied. Despite its flaws,
Ragtime clearly demonstrates For-
man's prowess as a director and his
distinctive traits as an auteur. For
these reasons, it is well worth
examining.

LOS ANGELES (AP)-Quincy Jones
and Lionel Richie gathered the most
nominations Tuesday for the 24th an-
nual Grammy Awards, and the late
John Lennon also won mention among
top nominees.
Jonesmheaded the list with eight
nominations, including album of the
year, producer of the-year, best pop in-
strumental performance, best rhythm:
and blues performance by a vocal
group for his LP for "The Dude."

Richie followed with six nominations,
most of them for his duet with Diana
Ross, "Endless Love," and Lennon
came up with three nominations for the
"Double Fantasy" album released just
before he was murdered in December
1981.
The National Academy of Recording
Arts and Sciences awards, to be presen-
ted in a Feb. 24 CBS telecast, cover
records released in the year ending
Sept. 30, 1981.

EmMYS, buoy- 'Blues'

LOS ANGELES (AP)-Last Septem-
ber, when "Hill Street Blues" won an
unprecedented eight Emmy awards for
a regular series, the hope was . ex-
pressed that all the fuss would improve
the show's anemic ratings.
It did, which probably set another
precedent. The Emmys rarely, if ever,
have had any impact on the fate of a
television series. When the Emmys and
critical acclaim are matched against
the ratings, the ratings usually win.
Fred Silverman, then president of
NBC, renewed "Hill Street Blues" last
year despite poor ratings, and then, af-
ter the Emmys, it began to gain new
viewers. By the middle of December it
made it to the Top 10, grabbing ninth
place. Then it dropped back to 31st
place for two weeks.
"Hill Street Blues" is a show that
does take getting used to. It has a grimy
look because it's a police drama set in a
precinct in a rundown area of an un-
named Midwestern city.aIt has a large
cast, many of them as grimy as the
neighborhood, and they're all running
off in different directions pursuing dif-
ferent stories that last for weeks on end.
There are no neatly wrapped endings
each week, and that, plus its down-at-
the-mouth look, kept many viewers
spinning the dial past it looking for
something more pleasant. It's as dif-
ficult to get into as a soap opera, but

those who do usually are hooked.
"The show's ratings did make a
dramatic turnabout," says Steven
Bochco, the executive producer, who
created the unique police drama with
Michael Kozoll. Kozoll remains with the
series as creative consultant and works
on all the stories with Bochco.
"But a lot of stuff went on last year
that I think conspired to finally turn our
fortunes. The Emmys obviously were a
big boost. But for five or six months
every one of our actors hit the road to
promote the show around the country.
Usually at their own expense. Everyone
went out and sold the show, and I think
that had an inpact."
Kozoll says, "The show's style and
format is different, but it's still a very,
very commercial show. We didn't set
out to create a failure. Once the public
got used to what we were doing and was
no longer alarmed that it didn't look
like 'Magnum, P.1.,' they found it
enormously entertaining. I think that's
why Fred Silverman stuck with us."
The shoe came about when Silverman
suggested Bochco and Kozoll, both with
an extensive background in police
dramas, collaborate on a series about
an inner-city precinct.
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MARCELLO MASTROIANNI
IN..
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Part Burlesque, part Sat-
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and All Cinema.
DAILY-7:00, 9:30 (R)
WED-1:50 4:30. 7:00, 930
150 WITH THIS ENTIRE AD
ONE TICKET $1.50 MON,
WED. THURS EVE.
GOOD THRU 1/14/82 "EXCEPT REDS"
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