solace in NIT
Starring Tom Conti
Directed by Robert Ellis Miller
Now playing at the Briarwood
By Dennis Nicoski
F I MAY make one meager
demand concerning director
Robert Ellis Miller's film Reuben,
Reuben, let it be this: Do not allow
yourself to be misled by the publicity
that graces this film. It does little
justice and even slanders it; it
seemingly ignores the film's solemn,
serious side, while exploiting the
"commercial" elements. In Reuben,
Reuben we have a rare film that forces
us to think in order to understand.
Sex. That infamous box-office draw.
Give 'em a full frontal and they will
gladly shell out $4.50, but this is im-
becilic celluloid clutter. Sex is integral
to Reuben, Reuben only because the
pursuit of it constitutes a critical piece
of poet Gowan McGland's twisted per-
He thrives on the somehow alluring
glances of face-lifted, post-menopausal
women with gravity-stricken bodies.
But he does not crave the pleasure of
sex. He needs the thrill of the chase, the
daring of adultery, and above all, the'
attention. He has long since lost a
loving and thoughtful wife because of
these amorous adventures.
Alcohol is his second deadly sin. He
constantly gulps from a water glass or
bottle huge draughts of Dewars' or J &
B or Johnny Walker. This is his crutch
in any time of anxiety - a crutch that
causes him many problems.
These faults confound Gowan's lofty
yearning in life: To write poetry.
Though once successful, Gowan eeks
out a pauper's existence from boring
lecture tours to women's clubs and by
stealing tips in posh restaurants. The
drive to write is still there, and tormen-
ts him repeatedly, yet he fails to
produce anything publishable.
Enter Geneva Spofford (Kelly
McGillis), a lithe, bright student with
dreamy eyes and wispy blonde hair,
who immediately usurps Gowan's
heart. Now he is truly in love, yet he has
sunk so low he cannot realize that her
deference to him may be more out of
pity than genuine love.
We often laugh at the hopeless con-
dition of our tragic hero, but we cannot
fool ourselves into thinking that this is a
comedy. The humor is educated wit,
not the crass bathroom variety. Gowan
remains, above all, a poet. His con-
scientious word choice and Conti's
beautifully expressive Scottish accent
make the movie to a joy to relax with
and listen to. In one scene, Gowan
speaks of the power of words, stating
how much our picture of a common
weed would alter if it were called "mist
of morning." His insights into the
language are brilliant. Credit Screen-
writer Julius J. Epstein with a daringly
intelligent adaptation of Peter de Vries'
1964 novel, on which the movie is
In the aforementioned scene, along
with every other, Conti's presence
alone consecretes the moment. Per-
manently attired in a tweed coat, with
dissheveled shock of brown wire-
rimmed glasses, he is a delight to
behold. He is also characterized by his
boyish eyes and an unmistakeable oc-
Conti is remarkable throughout the
film - from teasing and seducing mid-
dle-aged housewives to brilliant and
bitter moments of self-realization. I
never once thought of Conti the actor,
but rather that Conti embodied Gowan
Kelly McGillis portrays a convincing
Geneva, though their relationship lacks
the depth of emotion needed to be truly
convincing. The remainder of the cast
merely constitutes Gowan's world.
They are a plaything for him, a torture
to him, a mirror in which he can see
The striking simplicity of the film
enhances the characters and their im-
pression on us as audience. No camera
tricks or special effects needed here,
there is a sparsity to every scene which
gives it beauty. We focus primarily on
two characters engaged in intense
dialogue. The camera does not avoid
By Paul Helgren
W HEN BILL Frieder parked himself
in front of his television set last
Sunday at 5:30 p.m.,he expected to hear
some good news about his basketball
team. There was no advanced war-
ning for The Announcement, not even
for the coaches. Frieder sat and wat-
ched, just like the rest of us.
Frieder looked on as Brent
Musburger and Billy Packer, standing
before the famous "Big Board," calmly
revealed the fate of 85 schools-the 53
that made the NCAA and the 32 that
were left for that "other" tournament.
Slowly, tantalyzingly, the teams from
each region of the NCAA tournament
were listed. When the final team in the
final region was named, Frieder at last
knew his team's fate.
N.I.T. The letters don't have quite
the same ring as N.C.A.A., do they?
"I thought we'd be in it (the
NCAAs)," Frieder said a few hours
later. "We had 18 wins with a tough
schedule. They (the NCAA selection
committee) took other teams that were
18-10 and didn't play as tough a
schedule as ours.''
A BRIEF look at some of the teams
shows that Frieder is right, at least
about the records. In fact there are
some teams with records worse than
the 18-10 mark he mentioned. Nevada-
Reno, at 17-13, made the tournament.
Dayton, which finished with a record
identical to Michigan's-18-10-and lost
to the Wolverines by 22 points this year,
got a bid. Alabama, Virginia, West
Virginia,. Villanova and St. John's all
got bids, despite their 11 regular season
losses. These teams may indeed be
superior to Michigan. But that doesn't
make it any easier to accept.
But Frieder's Michigan basketball
team made the NIT just the same and is
doing its best to live with it. Frieder
claims it is a worthy challenge for his
club and is in no way a sign of failure;
but no matter how you look at it, the
NIT is a bitter pill for a team expecting
the sweet rewards of another, more
prestigious tournament. It is an anti-
climatic journey, a cruel punishment
for a team that fought so hard only to be
ignored by the NCAA selection commit-
tee, possibly on the basis of one over-
time loss to Northwestern.
The committee's message is clear:
The best teams in the nation play in our
tournament and we don't think you are
one of them.
"NATURALLY I'M disappointed,"
said Frieder. "Especially when so
many teams with more losses than us
got in. . . But our fate was in someone
NIT. It stands for National Invitation
Tournament, a once-proud, now futile
Continued on next page
Michigan: Squeezed out of the NCAA tournament
Tom Conti: No DELIte
extreme and insistent facial isolation.
We see and feel pain, love, joy, pity,
despair, and humiliation along with
each character. Forever transfixed in
my memory will be Gowan's tear-
streaked, crushed countenance
smeared against a bathroom mirror.
This mirror is a wonderful metaphor
for the film as a whole. As Gowan's
world mirrors the poet, the film itself
reflects Gowan to us. We laugh heartily
at his witty sarcasm and cute clum-
siness, but we also pity him. He is a
character we can learn from.
Jf only to appreciate Tom Conti's
glowing performance, and to be lulled
by lovely language and diction, the
movie is something to relish. But it
allows us to think too: an admirable
quality in modern cinema. So next time
you brave the popcorn and bubble gum
crowd, shun the unsubstantial and min-
dless, and feast on this delectable film
j "10% off tonight's
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