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September 21, 1984 - Image 16

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1984-09-21
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The
volcano
fizzes
Under the Volcano
Directed by John Huston
Starring Albert Finney, Jacqueline
Bisset, and Anthony Andrews
By Byron L. Bull
IN Under the Volcano, Albert Finney
plays a despondant, alcoholic shell of
a man wandering the barren landscape
of Mexico looking for some purpose to
life, as the shadow of death hovers ever
nearer to his side. He's a soulless,
directionless character devoid of even
the last vestige of humanity, a charac-
ter for whom it's impossible to feel
anything more than a mixture of
disgust and pity.
Ironically, John Huston's adaptation
of Malcolm Lowry's diffult novel is in
pretty much the same state. It's a
dingy, confused assemblage of strung
together scenes in search of a movie.
that stumbles for nearly two long hours,
shamelessly babbling its callow
literary pretentions as a flimsy excuse
for a conceptual base.
Lowry's novel, first published in
relative obscurity in 1947, only
evenentually to grow into modern
classic status, is by no means a project
given to easy screen translation.
Essentially, it concerns one fateful day
in the life of a British consul in a small
Mexican town on the eve of World War
II.
The consul, a once idealistic and
solidly self-assured man, is caught by
Lowry at the very end of a long and
devastating course of self-destruction.
Having lost his idealism, and his value
of love, the Consul has taken to drinking
and self pity, to such a consuming dark
obsession that it not only threatens to
devour him but his loved ones as well.
Disdaining the then fashionable
Hemingway style of short, clean-cut
prose, Lowry constructed Volcano as a
sometimes impenetrably dense, thickly
stylized work full of symbols and
mythological references.
With its stream-of-consciousness
narrative, prone to sudden divergent
tangents of thought, Lowry's style has
been frequently compared to that of
Conrad or Joyce (whom he did in fact
admire) and Volcano has at times been
casually referred to as an alcoholic
version of Ulysses.
Since its publication, dozens of at-
tempts have been made to adapt the
material for the cinema. Lowry him-
self, who resided for a wlile in
Hollywood, yearned for a screen adap-
tation and tried to sell his own script to
MGM. Later, minds as diverse as Ken
Russel, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and
Jerzy Skolimowski all took a crack at
scripting the book and gave up. It has,
subsequently been one of those books to

garner the dubious reputation of "un-
filmable".
For John Huston, a filmmaker known
for his spare, laconic approach to the
medium and open disdain for artistic
artifices, to take up the lance and attack
the book is one of the oddest attempts of
all. Since Huston began the project the
ensuing discussions about it, both pro
and con, have all gravitated around
how a director so seemingly ill suited
for such a project dould conceivably
pull it off.
The answer is quite simple: he
doesn't.
Huston's stab at Volcano must lay
beside all the other attempts, the only
distinction here being that he fully
documented his failure on film for all to
see.
Huston's approach to the material is
the one so typical of him that it still
remains unexpected for all its ob-
viousness. The screenplay, by novice
Guy Gallo, skins the novel down to the
bare bones of its narrative, and concen-
trates solely on following the events as
they unfold chronologically.
Gone is the heavy texturing, the op-
pressive moodiness, and insight into the
protagonist's mind. Lowry traced his
character the Consul's disintigration by
delving into his drunken thought
processes, following the Consul from
one level of consciousness to the next,
from bursts of piercing insight to lapses
into obscure obliqueness.
Huston's reasoning, striping the
story of what he referred to as "all the
literary persiflage" is supposed to
ultimately illuminate the character of
the Consul more fully. Instead, it
drains him of virtually everything that
made him complex.
Without the inner monologues and
nonverbalized thoughts that Lowry
provided, the Consul emerges merely a
shallow, despicable drunk.
Worse, Huston's film is only a synop-
sis of the novel, a visual Cliff's notes
summation of the action without any in-
sight as to what is going on below the
surface event.
Volcano is fundamentally a modern
tragedy about a man who loses the right
to live because he violently rejects
everything (love and self respect) that
makes life worthwhile. The Consul
drags himself from one day through the
next, determined to see himself rot in
hell despite the unfailing love of his
wife, Yvonne (played by Jacqueline
Bisset). Even after trying to leave him,
she returns and stays by his side until
he dooms them both.
On the Consul's other side is his half
brother Hugh, (Anthony Andrews), who
is something of a reflection of the Con-
sul's past self, a young idealist and a
romantic, who readily fought in the
Spanich Civil War and talks of enlisting
in the RAF for the impending world
war. His attachment to the Consul is
partly out of obligatory loyalty, com-
passion, and principally, guilt as he and
Yvonne were once engaged in an affair
and discovered by the Consul.
'Yvonne and Hugh follow the Consul,
picking him up when he falls into the
gutter, flinching at his brutal personal
attacks on them, yet neither will aban-
don him. The film, like the book, takes
place entirely in one day from the dark
of early morning to the dark of late that
night. The Consul engages in a long
drunken escape that is really an
odyssey to the deepest pit of his soul,
where he meets his. fatal, violent
destiny.

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U U

FORBIDDEN CITY
(3535 Plymouth Rd.;665-3591;
4905 Washtenaw A ve.; 434-7978)
Excellence in tke ancient tradition of Man-
darin, Sze Chuan, and Hunan specialties.
Attentive service, a ful service bar with a
complete wine menu and exotic cocktails.
Open 7 days a week.

PIZZERIA UNO
(1321 S. University; 769-1744)
Open daily 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Beer specials
nightly. 2-FOR-1 mixed drinks 11-6 p.m.
Voted Ann Arbor's Best Pizza and Best
Pizza Value 2nd year in a row-1 large pizza
serves 4 for under $7. Thanks Ann Arbor,
you've said a mouthful!

'p.

PARTHENON GYROS
LOVIN' SPOONFUL (226S. Main; 994-1012)
(330 S. Main; 662-2626) Open I1 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; 12-10 p.m.
Sun..and Holidays. Fine Greek food: gyros,
Open Daily. Homemade ice cream - 40 fla- shish kabob sand., mousaka, pastitio, dol
vors, 25 toppings. Shakes, floats, etc. with mades, spinach pie, Greek salads and pastry.
everything from Ambrosia Chocolate to Oreo Now serving liquor, imported Greek wines
-cookie and Bailey's Irish Cream. and imported beers. Try our famous Sagan-
aka "OPA." Table service after 5.
MAUDE'S RESTAURANT OLD GERMAN
(314 S. Fourth; 662-8485) (12 W.RW An
(120 W. Washington; 662-0737)
Open 11 a.m.-li p.m. Mon.-Sat., bar till 12
p.m.; 11 a.m.-12 p.m. Fri., bar till 1 a.m.; 4- "The Award-Winning" Old German res-
10 p.m. Sun. Specialize in Bar-B-Que baby taurant of Ann Arbor offers fine German-
back ribs; large selection of chicken entrees, American dining at moderate prices. Imported
dinner salads, hot and cold sandwiches, ham- beer and wine, cocktails.
burgers, beer/wine.

METZGER'S GERMAN
RESTAURANT
(203 E. Washington at 4th A ve.; 668-8987)
Ann Arbor's oldest restaurant. Serves lunch
and dinner daily except Monday. Prime Rib
- Prime Steaks - Seafood - German Cui-
sine. Full service bar and a delightful Bavar-
ian atmosphere. Dinners from $5.95 to $8.75.
We will validate city parking lot tickets for
car port adjacent.

WOLVERINE DEN PIZZERIA
(1201 S. University; 769-8364)
We serve Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. We
specialize in Pizza, Regular and Sicilian. Now
we serve GYROS.

F

U U m
I -~

DINING ON THE TOWN

Huston: Gives us visual Cliff's notes
Along the way the Consul and com-
pany encounter repeated symbols and
foreshadowings (the story unfolds on
the Mexican Day of the Dead, so
Christian symbols of evil and death are
everywhere). The conversation is
laced with fatalistic jibberish by the
Consul, made especially so by the com-
plete failure of the script to demon-
strate his desperate inner struggle to
pull himself up from the depths of
despair.
Albert Finney tackles the role of the
Consul with more consumative passion
than perhaps any role (save, maybe for
that in Shoot The Moon) of his career.
He exerts the kind of mastery of a role
that extends beyond gestures and vocal
nuances into his very physique. The
way he shifts his frame, how he
distributes his weight, is natural and
uncalculated.
All of which makes the weak script so
maddening. Without the Consul's inner
dialogues, his conviction of a personal
heightened awareness obtained only
through torturing himself with
loneliness made bearable by the num-
bing of liquor, the character is nothing
but a caricature of a romantic drunk
with a death wish.
Given so much less than even that to
work with, Jacqueline Bisset achieves a
credible characterization, despite the
lack of any details. While there's little
reason provided why she should love

the man who says he loves her but con-
tinually rejects her, Bisset exudes the
sort of subtle subconscious emotional
reaction that feels so much more
honest than the projected histrionics a
less sensitive actress would have in-
dulged in.
Anthony Andrews, on the other hand,
is stiff in his role, confined by the type
of stagey posturing endemic of many
serious but overtrained British actors.
The strength of translating a
challenging book to film rests in the
clarity and insight, and most importan-
tly, unrestricted vision of its director.
John Huston is a craftsman who works
best only in the concrete, not the poetic
(remember Moby Dick).
Under The Volcano could only have
been successfully lensed by a film-
maker not constrained by conven-
tionality. Peter Weir, if he stretched
himself; or David Lynch, if he
restrained himself; might have been
able to pull it off brilliantly. Even bet-
ter, had he been able to secure finan-
cing for it almost twenty years ago,
Luis Bunuel, with his gift for the absurd
and bizarre, might have been able to
capture what Lowry himself described
as 'a poem, a song, a tragedy, a
comedy, a farce. . . a preposterous
movie."
While Under The Volcano is a
preposterous movie, it is so for all the
wrong reasons.

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AFTERNOON DELIGHT.
251 E. Liberty St.
665-7513
ANGELO'S LUNCH
1100 Catherine St.
668-9538
BICYCLE JIM'S
RESTAURANT & PUB
1301 S. University Ave.
665-2650

0
to
01

COTTAGE INN
2307 Stadium Blvd.
663-2822
CRACKED CRAB
112 W. Washington
769-8591

Q1
18

EDEN'S RESTAURANT
& GROCERY
330 Maynard St.
995-0148

BLIND PIG
208 S. First St.
996-8555
COTTAGE INN
512 E. William St.
663-3379
COTTAGE INN
927 Maiden Lane
995-9101
COTTAGE INN
546 Packard Rd.
665-6005
COTTAGE INN
2789 Washtenaw Ave.
434-4122

Q2
03

FLIM FLAM DELI
& RESTAURANT
2707 Plymouth Rd.
994-3036
FORBIDDEN CITY
RESTAURANT
3535 Plymouth Rd.
665-3591

,
20
03

MANIKAS SIRI
307 S. Main St.
663-7449
MAUDE'S RES
314 S. Fourth St.
662-8485
METZGER'S G
RESTAURANI
203 E. Washingt
668-8987
MOVEABLE F]
326 W. Liberty S
663-3278
OLD GERMAN
120 W. Washingt
662-0737
PARTHENON F
226 S. Main St.
994-1012
PIZZERIA UN4
1321 S. Universit
769-1744
WOLVERINE I
1201 S. Universit
769-8364

15

FRANK'S RESTAURANT
334 Maynard St.
761-5699
LOVIN' SPOONFULL
330 S. Main St.
662-2626

II I I I I 111 I 1 1 I I I I I 1 1 I IlII II

6 Weekend/Friday, September 21, 1984

Weekend/Friday

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