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April 13, 1984 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1984-04-13

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ARTS

Page 8

Friday, April 13, 1984

The Michigan Dairy

'Moscow'invades America

By Byron Bull
L IKE ALL PAUL MAZURSKY films,
Moscow on The Hudson is loosely
plotted, and more than a little clutzy at
times. But it's also his funniest and
most complete film since Next Stop
Greenwich Village. It's an un-
sophisticated play on the emotions
similar in vein to a Frank Capra film,
so good natured and humorous one
can't help but be charmed and even
moved.
The film centers on Vladimir Ivanoff,
a Soviet saxophonist who defects to the
states while the circus he plays in per-
forms a New York engagement.
Though Moscow does look a little bleak
in Mazursky's eye, it's not so op-
presively suffocating. The government
is more like a strict, easily provoked
parent than some Orwellian om-
nipresence. People go about their
business, almost nonchalantly buying
black market gasoline and bribing local
officals with presents.
Robin Williams, as Vladimir, gives a
surprisingly strong performance.
Pudgy, with a thick beard and an even
thicker accent, he is lighthearted and
has a disarming screen presence.
Without all of the earlier comedic
histronics that distracted from his
earlier performances, he exhibits a
knack for subtlety and timing.
The first half hour, from the opening
scenes in Moscow through Vladimir's
defection, is the film's best. The scene
takes place in, of all places,
Bloomingdales. In this film, it is more
of an American monument than -the
Statue of Liberty. While everyone else
in his troupe, including the KGB agents,
are cleaning the store racks with a
starved frenzy, Ivanoff makes his
break. He dashes down the escalators
and through the aisles, finally seeking
sanctuary behind the cosmetics coun-
ter. The KGB pursue, but in minutes
Vladimir is virtually surrounded by
federal agents, store security, and a
hefty New York cop who scowls defian-
tly, "This is New York, a man can do
whatever he wants."
In short time, and with surprisingly
few legal technicalities, Vladimir is left
on his own. He's befriended by Lionel
(Cleavant Derricks), a black security
guard from the store, who takes him
home to his ghetto apartment. He is
soon working his way through a variety
of odd jobs-street vendor, busboy, and
limo chauffeur. Admittedly it's hard to
believe the ease with which Vladimir

.4

Robin Williams (Vladimir Ivanoff) seems astonished by his new-found life in
(Lucia Lombardo) may be one of the astonishments.

finds work under the circumstances,
but the style and enthusiasm with
which he tackles them is amusing.
Vladimir has little trouble being
assimilated. But then again, in Mazur-
sky's New York it seems that everyone
is either an immigrant or part of a
native born minority. Moscow's
greatest asset is it's celebration of
ethnic and cultural diversity. It's the
America-as-the-world's-melting-pot
premise taken to its most extravagant,
colorful extremes. The New York of
this film has few roots in reality; it's
more like some Disneyworld attraction
sporting agnew animated display every
ten feet.
What the film does lack is a story.
There is a thinly defined romance bet-
ween Vladimir and an Italian woman
named Lucia (Maria Conchita Alonso),
but its stock plot filler. After his defec-
tion, Vladimir doesn't grow or change
much. He learns his way around but
becomes less interesting because his
character doesn't expand. All-of the
jokes about foreigner's infatuation with
American consumerism grow tiring,
and only cheapen the characters.

Some brief scenes are hilarious. In
one, Vladimir makes some misinter-
preted eye contact with a gay gen-
tleman on the street, who begins to
follow him down the sidewalk.
Vladimir, glacing nervously over his
shoulder, thinks he might be a KGB
agent, and breaks into a run.
There's also one short, wonderfully
funny joke in the film. Vladimir,
Lionel, and Lucia exit a movie theater
with Vladimir complaining, "It was
childish. It had no plot." The movie on
the marquee is An Unmarried
Woman, Mazursky's breakthrough
film.
Some scenes, deftly underplayed by
Williams, are movingly bittersweet. In
one', he is sitting on the fire escape by
his window trying to'play the blues late
at night, but ends up in a shouting maf-
ch with a neighbor. In another, he and
Lionel get drunk on an abandoned
sidewalk sofa. Feeling sorry for him-
self, Vladimir explains to Lionel that in
Russia, people love their misery, for it
is the only thing they can touch and hold
that it their own. It is outright
melodrama, but Mazursky is such a
sensitive director, and Williams a good

enough actor, to make it work.
But short, even brillant vignettes
don't make for a story, and Moscow is a
movie as lost as its protagonist. None
of 'the threads tie together strongly
enough to leave one feeling satisfied.
The development is often uninspired
even formulaic. When Vladimir is4
mugged one night, he walks down the
streets, bitterly disillusioned and
disenchanted. Moments later he ends.
up in an all-night diner, surrounded by
other immigrants who, when the
distant sounds of fire-crackers remind
them it's IndependenceDay, all join in
to repeat the Declaration of Indepen-
dence. Vladimir's reaffirmation seems
trivial,and his character trivialized.
But as uneven as it is, and though it'
lacks depth, Moscow remains a
praiseworthy film that can still be quite
engaging in its warmth and love of.
humanity. Some people will be put off
by its occasionally patriotic overtones,,
but they're harmless, and never
degenerate into overt nationalism.
Others will find the sentimentality too
strong, at times, but that's a part of its
innocent appeal. It's a brief, lighthan-
ded repose from reality that just leaves,
one feeling good inside.

'London'

assures

fun

'I

YEARBOOK
DISTRIBUTION
STARTS MON., APRIL 16th
Bring receipt and ID to Ensian office
at 420 Maynard, Mon. - Fri. from 8 -,5 p.m.

By Emily Montgomery
T HE UNIVERSITY PLAYER'S
production of London Assurance,
directed by Richard Burgwin, opened
Wednesday night, filling the immense
Power Center Auditorium with an
almost steady stream of laughter.
London Assurance, is a Restoration
period style comedy, which was ac-
BIOLOGICAL
ANTHOPOLOGY
Introduction 161 (Div. 318)
OFFERED
SPRING HALF 1984
4 cr. MTWTh 1- 3
MLB Lec. Rm. 2
N.S. Distribution
For more information call
ANTHROPOLOGY DEPARTMENT
764-7274

tually written in the Victorian Age
(1841) by Dion Boucicault. Boucicault
recognized the need for a change from
the heavy melodramas of his time.
Looking to the past greats, he
"borrowed" the fundamentals of Lon-
don Assurance from them, adding his
own special touches of humor until he
had what Director Burgwin calls "the
greatest comedy of the 19th Century."
London Assurance addresses the
theme of identity - why it's better to be
yourself than to try to pretend you're
something you are not. The plot centers
around a young heiress, by the name of

Grace Harkaway and her plansto
marry an old, though hewon't admit it;
coot, Sir Harcourt Courtly, in order'to
ensure her right of inheritance.
Grace accepts her fate willingly, for
she considers love a waste of time, a
silly notion pursued only by the most
foolhardy. She changes her mind rather
quickly, though, when young Charles
Courtly comes on the scene. Unaware
of his father's plans, Charles im-
mediately commences to woo her and,
when he realizes the predicament of the
situation, devises a plan to steal Grace
See 'LONDON', Page 9

i --

JOSTEN'S
GOLD RING

x

AF "OllorwMMMMON

SALE

...
/4

i

r

one
step
at a
time
toward
fitness

oV

/

The Univetsity of Michigan
Dlepartment of Recreational Sports

Stop by Ulrich's and see a Josten's representative on Monday,
April 9 through Friday, April 13, 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. He will
be glad to show you the entire line of rings from Josten's.
During this week you can get $15 off 10K gold rings and $25 off
all 1 4K gold rings. The White Lustrium ring is only $79.95 on

9

Friday. April 13, 1984
CCRB 8 pm - 2 am
Valid I.D. or User Pass
$3.00 guest fee

ACTIVITYP PLACEI
Aerobic Dance' Activity Room8
Advance Training Center Room 22208
Fitness Center Room 22308
Universal Weight Training Demo Weight Room9

TIME
8 p.m.
8 p.m. - midnight
8 p.m. - midnight
9 p.m.

i

I

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