100%

Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options

Download this Issue

Share

Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

This collection, digitized in collaboration with the Michigan Daily and the Board for Student Publications, contains materials that are protected by copyright law. Access to these materials is provided for non-profit educational and research purposes. If you use an item from this collection, it is your responsibility to consider the work's copyright status and obtain any required permission.

February 04, 1983 - Image 7

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1983-02-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ARTS
The Michigan Daily Friday, February 4, 1983 Page 7

rExercising freed om of 'Choice'

By Malcolm Robinson
T IS PROBABLY best to be blunt and
state that I haven't yet read Sophie's
Choice, the novel from which Alan
Pakula (Kute, The Parallax View, All
e President's Men) has based his of-
en moving new film. More than that,
it's not at all clear that it should matter.
If a necessary experience for enjoying
or dealing with a film is that one must
be familiar with its source material,
then the work must be considered in-
complete and in many ways judged a
failure.
This is not to imply that Sophie's
Choice is an artistic failure for the
reason just mentioned; it is not. But for
11 its mystery and pain, for all its air of
significance, something closely akin to
a soul is absent from this motion pic-
ture.
The story takes place, for the most
part, in the beginning of the 1950s and
tells of a young, destined-to-be-great
author from the South who has
travelled to Brooklyn in order to write.
"Call me Stingo," the narrator
remarks, explaining that this is the
story of his rite of passage to an in-
imate knowledge of death. In a motion
picture obsessed with memories, these
are his.
As such, he is the film's most impor-
tant-though not its only point of view
character. For whereas Stingo and his
comments serve to frame the bulk of
the film, it is" Sophie, an enigmatic

Polish emigre and survivor of the Nazi
death camps, who actually occupies
most of its emotional and dramatic cen-
ter.
She lives with her lover, an unpredic-
table, seemingly jealous Jew named
Nathan, in the same rooming house as
Stingo does. As the plot slowly unfolds,
Stingo becomes good friends with the
pair, and soon finds himself a part of
their lives and an unwitting witness to
their histories. He learns of the past
each hides from the world and each
other and even, perhaps, would want to
hide from him or herself.
He learns of Nathan's past from the
man's brother and Sophie's from
Sophie herself. Or at least he thinks he
does. Not surprisingly, it is during
these moments that the film comes to
life-if you can call it that-and begins
to make sense on its own terms. Truly,
only here does the movie measure up to
the ambitions of its design.
The movie's major revelation ap-
pears as Sophie tells her story to
Stingo-not once but three times, each
time carefully stripping away the
deceptions of previous telling, coming
closer and closer to her objective truth.
The clever viewer could and should
spend some time afterwards matching
the elements from story one and story
two to the third and final tale.
As important as that may be to both
the film and its characters as a
manifestation of the guilt and shame
felt by Sophie, it all seems fairly
irrelevant in comparison with what

finally turns out to be Sophie's choice.
It simply would be improper to give
away the details of such an emotion-
filled climax so I shall remain as
oblique as the storytellers; because
what novelist William Styron and his
adapter Alan Pakula have fashioned
can only be described as an oblique
perspective on the Final Solution and
the possibility of evil.
Imagine red herrings liberally
spaced throughout the plot;
everywhere one looks, another clue
turns up to help the audience under-
stand the masochistic passivity of
Sophie ("The civilized are the first to
go," she ruminates early on. A doctor
in Auschwitz, who can only be imagined
since he could never have been
overheard, laments that his complicity
makes a mockery of his profession:
how can he explain to his father that he
saves lives by deciding who shall live
and who shall die?). Unlike red
herrings, however, these lead both
Sophie and the audience directly to the
gates of Auschwitz and her own
everlasting damnation.
This one single moment justifies the
existence of Sophie's Choice.
There is a difference, though, in
recognizing the ramifications of that
moment and accepting it as the
rationale for all that went before and all
that follows. Sophie's Choice makes the
singular mistake of distilling all of life
down not, as might have been guessed,
to that one moment at the gates, but to
the perception of the instant that

followed-thus the film's unyielding ob-
session with doom, guilt, and death,
though never their opposites.
If this is Sophie's only legacy from
her choice, then she lived her sweet
literary life in vain. Certainly, it is both
possible and expected that audiences
will shed tears for her and for our-
selves. But if that is so, it also ought to
be possible to wish her comfort even
though comfort-instead of the sex the
film glibly attempts to substitute for
it-is granted to none of the film's
characters. The web of time ensnares
all; almost never has a film with such a
purposefully shrunken vision of life
received such popular acclaim.
It's the performances people will be
attracted to, as well as the brilliant
cinematography of the great Nestor
Almendros (Days of Heaven, The Wild
Child, Kramer vs. Kramer). Kevin
Kline, as Nathan, does as best as can be
expected give the impossibilities of his
role. Peter MacNicol, on the other
hand, is dull, sometimes sincere, but
mostly unreflective in the key role of
Stingo. That he learns little from his
experience except of the desire to
obliterate memory is the major failure
of the film and the flaw in its construc-
tion. His character's point of view, the
most important in the film, simply
never develops.
The most impressive performance in
Sophie's Choice is Meryl Streep's as
Sophie, in what must be the best role of
her young career, easily surpassing her
work in The Deerhunter. All of the by

Dear Merchant.
Did you know
that Daily
readers spend
over $125
million on
items you
sell?____
GET YOUR AD!
CALL
764-0554

Meryl Streep gives a bravura perfor-
mance in 'Sophie's Choice'.
now familiar tricks of her trade are
evident; this, too, is yet another Meryl
Streep "performance," but here she
seems utterly right for the role-not
many actresses could have realized the
horror of the choice as she does here,
making it a very real, very tangible
reality in a film of facades and useless
fronts.

'Man from Snowy River' flows

By Kevin Walker
T HIS AUSTRALIAN FILM is set in
beautiful mountain country, and it
is almost worth seeing for that reason
alone. But there are other reasons, too,
espite its overwrought sentimentality.
Set in the late 1800s in Australia, a
young mountain man's father is killed
in an accident, and the youth is left to
fend for himself. Some countryside
elders boot him out of the highlands,

telling him he must earn the right to
take over his father's work.
This challenge to young Jim Craig
(Jack Thompson) sets the stage for the
entire film. The story is thus a portrait
of a highlander as a young man, who
goes out into the world to make good of
his life and prove himself a worthy
highlander.
Craig first of all gets a job with a
nasty horsetrader named Harrison
(Kirk Douglas, who also plays the
scrawny, loveable gold miner named

Spur, who is Harrison's brother).
Harrison thinks Craig is "scum''
because he's a mountaineer, but it is
soon clear that Craig is ready to
challenge the greedy businessman in
the realm of integrity and manhood.
Important to this situation is
Harrison's daughter, Jessica. From
the start we cannot help but see her
with dark complexion and "social wild-
ness," as analogous to nature and par-
ticularly to some wild horses that
Harrison and Craig want so much to
capture.
While these themes mount with the
intensity of all the characters' feelings,
we have a nice sub-plot to complicate
things. Harrison and his brother Spur
are long-time enemies because of a
feud over the woman who gave birth to
Jessica. The question of the
moment-for Jessica and the audien-
ce-l4ecomes one of her own identity,
for she learns that both, Spur and
Harrison were at one time "involved"
with her mother, though Harrison en-
ded up marrying her.
This situation helps to move the film
because it is actually a variation on the
"conquering woman and nature and
becoming a man" theme. It shows us
how deeply imbedded the basic con-
structs and values are which shape the
behavior of all the main characters.
But also the shape of the entire
movie. Both Spur and Harrison were at
one time like Craig is now: intense,
ambitious, rebellious; and the manners

in which the two of them have respon-
ded to their own ambitions, and their
relationships with nature and people,
are a testament of Craig's own poten-
tial for both good and bad.
Everyone wants something from
nature, but nature, like Jessica and her
feminist aunt, are defiant. Craig has a
personal vendetta against the wild herd
of horses because one time a stampede
by them caused the death of his father.
Harrison wants to conquer nature
because he doesn't care what or who he
dishonours to make money. And Spur,
who has resigned himself to nature's
conquering of his own soul, wants to get
gold from "them there hills."
The film, at last, does wax sentimen-
tal, sometimes embarrassingly so. Yet
this is excusable because the naivete of
its sentimentality is unselfconscious,
uncontrived; I think it does well at its
claim of being innocent.
The faithfulness of the writers to the
primary beliefs which the film purports
makes it a successful movie. If you still
believe in romance "Harlequin" style
complete with chivalry and honour, or
at least lovely green mountain
scenery, go ahead and see this film: it
sincerely attempts to satisfy.

JOHN PRINE
MICHIGAN THEATRE
FRIDAY, MARCH 4, 8:00 P.M.
Reserve Seating - $8.50 & $9.50
Available at Michigan Theatre box office

""

/.

r

GIFT C ERTIFICAT

"ELZ\THE MOVIES
AT BRIARWOOD
1 "94 R SSTAT E7269 F 7 W A t NG C tFr E

ES-NOW ON SALE
[ FOX 13
375 N L
MA PLEVILLAGE
I 'C tf I ISFT ',t vST() t , .FlttI IC IBtFOR i VI)FT , U

Tom Burlinson and Sigrid Thornton ride off into the proverbial-sunset in
'The Man From Snowy River,' the latest entry from the ever-growing
Australian film scene.

Subscribe to The
Michigan Daily
764-0558

ANN ARBO $2.00 SAT. SUN. SHOWS
BEFORE 6:00 PM
INDIWVUAL TNATRE JAMES DEBORAH
2 5 Av. to" 1-904WOOD HARRY
FROM THE CREATOR OF
"SCANNERS" DAVID CRONENBERG_
FRI MON - 6:15, 8:05,9:45
SAT SUN -12:45, 2:35, 4:25
6:15, 8:05, 9:45 -
LATE SHOW FRI & SAT NIGHT ONLY (R)
"VIDl:ODROAAE" AT 11:30 ALL SEATS $2.25

DOOHS OPEN MON. SAT n-30A M4. SUN. 1130 A.M D OORS OPEN 1 2: 30 DAILY
DUSTINHOFFMIAN THE MAN FROM
SNOWY RIVER 1100
TOo sae KIRK DOUGLAS3:
THISISA HELL OFAWAY TO MAKE A LIMlNG TI xLALLYOUR75:0
NEIGHBORS
ABOCUT 9:30
10:00, 12:15,2:30,5:00, 7:30, 10:00 C R L
201h CENTURY- FOX FILMS
The Man of the RICHARD PRYOR
Century. The JACKIE GLEASON 100
Motion Picture 500
of a Lifetime. PICTURES RELEASE ® 9:15
GANDHI- n----
[ PICTURES RELEASE :3G KISS ME 1:00
GOODBYE 3:00
10:00. 11:00, 2:00, 3:00, 5:30 SALLY FIELD 5:00
7:00, 9:00, Fri & Sot-10:45 JAMES CAAN 7:00
No Posses, Discounts, or $1 Tuesdays JEFF BRIDGFS 9:30
20,, CF NI CJ'
ITHn S E LYLE SWANN IS A CHAMPION
OFF-ROAD RACER..
SBUT TO THE PEOPLE OF 1.00
1677. HE'S SOMETHING 3:00
VERY, VERY DIFFERENT 5:00
M ~ Tm___ :00
, [12:1 2:: presen 9:15
1000, 12:15, 2:30, 5:00, 7:30.10:00RI

Back to Top

© 2020 Regents of the University of Michigan