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April 13, 1984 - Image 35

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The Michigan Daily, 1984-04-13
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By Steven Susser
A TEN BEST list of the year's
movies is bullshit. Film preference
is terribly relative, and who am I to
decide the most impressive films?
We live, however, in a society that
loves delineation and quantitative
analysis, and shuns ambiguity and gray
as things that the computer just would
not appreciate. If I had my way, I would
discuss the higher echelon of this year's
films as a group, but executive direc-
tive specifies otherwise and a list it will
Fanny and Alexander chronicles a
difficult period in the life of the Ekdahl
family of Sweden, concentrating par-
ticularly on the experiences of young
Alexander. To supply plot details would
be an egregious crime, but don't expect
anything to proceed normally in this
movie. Bergman seems to film from a
child's perspective - time is distorted,
ghosts are real, details are to be noticed
and everything is sprinkled with a bit of
magic. His powerful insight into the
range of human emotions is staggering,
and his many characters unique, in-
teresting, and complete. "Realism" is
fine for some films, but it is a
questionable representation of life.
Bergman seems to realize this and
shuns it for a journey into a fantasy
world which transcends reality and the
limitations it imposes. For beauty,
scope and overall brilliance, Fanny and
Alexander remains unequaled this
Paris is the scene; 1791 is the time.
Louis XVI has just flown the royal coop
to avoid personal injury from his angry
subjects - the city is in turmoil.
Nicolas Edme Restif de la Bretonne,
the indigent writer of such classics as
The Perverted Peasant and The Por-
nographer, learns of the monarch's
getaway, and, in the name of jour-
nalistic truth, decides to track him

down. What follows is a playful yet
menacing romp from Paris to Varen-
nes. Of all the tragedies of this year in
cinema, the anonymity of this master-
piece ranks foremost. Rarely has a film
captured the charm, humor, fear and
sadness of life with such vibrancy and
I must admit, I haven't seen this
movie, yet. I am including it because
the overwhelming opinion is that it is
one of the year's best. A woman (Jane
Alexander) must hold her. family
together and try to survive after a
nuclear holocaust.. The despair,
bravery and love in this film rank it as
perhaps the most powerful of the year.
Released soon after the "The Day Af-
ter," it is everything this unrealistic
and contrived television drama was
not. While its tight budget is at times
apparent, it's sincerity and poignancy
more than compensate.
Imaginez que vous revenez a votre
ville de naissance et personne ne vous
reconnaitre. C'est un probleme, n'est-
ce que pas? It is very frustrating trying
to explain something when nobody
believes you. It's like reading
something in a language that you don't
understand. Martin Guerre has retur-
ned to the village of his birth after a
long hiatus. He reclaims his wife, child
and land and settles into a calm bucolic
existence. Soon, some villagers
question his identity. The remainder of
the film is a search for the truth about
this man - is he or is he not the Martin
Guerre? Ranking with such classics as
Arthur Miller's The Crucible and
Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, this
movie captures they hysteria and
fanaticism that a small town conflict
can engender. The Return of Martin
Guerre is the best mystery of the year.
It gives a realistic and somewhat
frustrating portrayal of the extremes
possible in a claustrophobic village.
Tiny aliens that arrive in Manhattan
in what seems to be two paper plates
stuck together, and thrive on heroin and
orgasms? New York freaks and a New
Wave club? A single-minded German
scientist trying to track down these ex-
tra-terrestrials and a horny divorcee
trying to track down the scientist? Bet-
ter stick to E.T., right? Not really.
Liquid Sky is a helluva lot of fun, as
well as an interesting character study


y Mark Kulkis
A drumroll, please ...
Presenting:.The year's 10 most
notable books of the 1983-84 season (as
seen from the critical eve of this hum-
ble reporter). The judging criteria for
this 10-best list is a combination of
sales, notoriety, and content. As they
say in Woodbridge, Conn. and New
Rochelle, N.Y. (two fine American
towns): Let's begin, huh?
Topping my list is a book that has en-
joyed continued success for the past
few decades, and which, thanks both to
its special "timeliness" and the release
of a special "commemorative edition"
of the book, has recently escalated to
the best-seller list. I am talking, of
course, about 1984, the classic by
George Orwell.
Though many would argue the point,
I think that Orwell's last and most fam-
ous work rightfully deserves its place at
the top of my list. Its insightful depic-
tion of a state in which the government
claims to be working for the people, but
whose underlying purpose is really the
acquisition of power for a few
privileged citizens, is a strong remin-

der that we should constantly be on our
guard, lest such an anti-utopian state
ever actually emerge on this planet.
Besides being a "prophetic" book (a
label I disagree with), 1984 is also
highly philosophical. It is not as much a
book about how to get power or how to
use it as it is a fascinating study of what
"power" really is. Orwell's penetrating
criticism of the effects of propaganda,
and his thoughts about personal
freedom, are equally intriguing. In my
humble opinion, this is the book of the
Number two on my list is 2010:
Odyssey Two. Although reviews of the
book were not all good, the curiosity of
thousands of people who read 2001 was
enough to send it shooting up the best-
seller list. A movie based on the new
book is already in top-secret produc-
Number three: (What else) Pet
Semetary by Stephen King. Following
the tremendous success of his previous
novel, Christine, this book, his first un-
der a new contract at Doubleday,
already has 575,000 copies in print.
Fourth place goes to In Search of Ex-
cellence, by Thomas J. Peters and
Robert H. Waterman. The book, a
series of testimonials by executives of
America's best-run companies,
describing how they succeeded, has
already sold a whopping 1.3 million
James Michener struck again this
year. His latest work, Poland, has
800,000 copies in print. Although
reviews were not as favorable as
Michener would have liked, people

gladly paid the $17.95 price tag (the
highest price of any book on the best-
seller list this year). The book ranks a
justifiable fifth on the list.
More because of the tremendous
amount of publicity surrouding the
book than any favorable reviews it gar-
nered, Ancient Evenings by Norman
Mailer, places sixth. Because of the
early bad review it received, publishers
Little, Brown offered the paperback
rights to the book up for bids a wee bit
too early. This angered Mailer and his
agent, who left Little, Brown to sign a
record $4 million deal with Random
Seventh place should be no surprise:
Jane Fonda's Workout Book. Although
no one (especially myself) probably
would have guessed it, the book has
turned out to be the biggest seller in
Simon & Schuster's history, with over
See BOOKS, Page 23



Fanny and Alexander: Bergman films child's perspective

of a bizarre woman. It doesn't take it-
self too seriously yet handles some
serious and important questions. Why,
for example, does the protagonist dress
and act as she does? Family? Friends?
Environment? No reason in particular?
While examining these questions,
Liquid Sky paints an intense, vivid por-
trait of the New York New Wave scene.
It is not a slick movie. Camera
movement is limited, and special effec-
ts seem homespun, but it courageously
and uniquely explores a side of society
some would like to ignore.
Never Cry Wolf was made by Disney
Productions. Ugh. It's obviously
childish, banal and condescendingly
simple. I should have substituted a
sophisticated adult film like Blame It
On Rio in its place. Actually, Never Cry
Wolf defied all my expectations. It has
a beauty and magnificence that unfold
subtlely throughout the film. An
unlikely young scientist (looking
remarkably like your typical computer
science major) takes the unlikely
mission of traveling to the Arctic Circle
at the beginning of Spring, killing a full-
grown wolf and examining its stomach
for evidence that the wolves have been
devouring the region's caribou. As he
painfully adjusts to the chilly surroun-
dings, he has the time and isolation to
evaluate his former life and society. As
a combination of scenic beauty,
touching self-realization and venomous

social criticism Never Cry
paralled this year.

Wolf is un-

A passionate tale of love, hate,
violence and homosexuality at a sea-
port, perpetually graced by the night.
Querelle is a French sailor who, upon
arrival at this port, decides to per-
petuate murder, homosexual sex and a
frame-up. It is as if this wildly
surrealistic harbor has the power to
make men into beasts, and call forth all
the desires that we hold but cannot ex-
press. Anything goes in Fassbinder's
film and the sheer power of the images,
dialogue and silence create a haunting,
terrifying effect. Querelle is more than
a film, it is a mystifying experience.
I didn't feel like making a list of ten.
These seven are the better films, in my
opinion, and the others that I have seen
fall far short. I am certainly not going
to include The Big Chill or Terms of
Endearment. Possible additions are
Liana, The Dresser and Berlin Alexan-
derplatz. I have not seen these, yet they
are rumored to be exquisite.
Only two of the films were made by
American directors, which is fine with
me. It seems that American movies
lack only one thing - quality. So, this
list comprises my "must-see''
favorites. They are artistic, powerful,
serious to a degree and they all, in some
way, intelligently illuminate the nature
of man.



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