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March 08, 1985 - Image 14

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1985-03-08
Note:
This is a tabloid page

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The
bla'nd
season
The Mean Season
Director: Phillip Borsos
Stars: Mariel Hemingway
Kurt Russell
By Joshua Bilmes
T he press kit for The Mean Season
comes with a new page 15. The
only difference between the old page 15
and the new page 15 is that the old one
talks about screenwriter Christopher
Crowe while the new one omits him. In
fact, the movie says it was written by
Leone Peidmont, from the novel In the
Heat of the Summer by John Katzen-
bach. Someone, it seems, does not want
to be known as the writer of The Mean
Season, and I don't blame them. The
film is okay, kind of, but I was almost
positive what was going to happen next,
and I was almost always right, and that
tends to take an awful lot of the thrill
out of a thriller.
Like a good thriller, The Mean Season
starts out with a murder, along the
beach in the Miami area. At the fic-
titious Miami Journal, the story is
given to malcolm Anderson (Kurt
Russell). Anderson would rather not
cover the story. He just wants to quit
and become managing editor of a small
Colorado weekly, a decision which
girlfriend Christine Connelly (Mariel
Hemingway) totally agrees with. As
always, the best-laid plans go awry,
and Anderson finds himself forced to
stay in Miami because the killer likes
Anderson's story so much that he gives
Anderson a call and suggests that An-
derson could serve as a conduit bet-
ween killer and public.
That is the last surprising twist the
movie takes, as it goes on in varying
degrees of boredom for another ninety
minutes. Every once in a while a good
chase or some gore gets the film pum-
ped up for' a few minutes, but for the
most part it becomes far too predic-

wwII,
up close
"The Good War"
Studs Turkel
Pantheon, 653 pages, $19.95
By Ron Schechter
N THE LAST four decades, innumer-
able accounts of World War II have
been published. From the sentimental
kitsch of war novels to the copious
erudition of historical works, the
subject has been overworked.
Americans have been numbed by a
barrage of information and misinfor-
mation about the war. Studs Terkel's
"The Good War," however, con-
travenes the popular approaches to
World War II historiography, worlsing
instead with a less conventional
method: the oral history. Through can-
did interviews with more than a hun-
dred witnesses, both famous and
forgotten, Studs Terkel presents an en-
semble of accounts which summarize
the World War II experience. What is
most significant about "The Good War"
is that it emphasizes the war's effect on
people as opposed to governments and
political movements.
Inherent in Terkel's interview ap-
proach is the quality which allows the
reader to feel close to the action. Unlike
novels, which shroud the reality of war
in unreal characters and situations, and
intellectual historical works, which
focus on the broad implication- r, war
rather than on the hideous reality, a personal
account diminishes the distance bet-
ween the reader and the action. In this
manner, the war is neither roman-
ticized nor abstracted, but described
simply and in believable terms.
Although the testimonies are often
graphic, descriptions of violence are
included not for sensation's sake but in
order to portray honestly the horror,
that was World War II.
To capture the essence of World War
II - an enormous if not impossible task
- Terkel has interviewed represen-
tatives from virtually every group af-
fected by the war. Veterans of the ar-
med forces, both Allied and Axis,
recount the terror of combat. "Rosie

the Riveter" tells of her experiences as
a faithful patriot, working arduously
for the war effort in American fac-
tories. Blacks recall discrimination in
the armed forces, Jews describe the an-
ti-semitism both in Europe and the
United States, and Japanese-
Americans discuss the humiliation of
the detention camps forced upon them
by the United States government.
High ranking members of the
military, as well as veterans of the
Roosevelt administration, share their
views on the war. Finally, the civilian
victims of World War II - survivors of
the Nazi death camps, of the Allied
bombings of Dresden and Hamburg,
and the hibakisha, survivors of the
nuclear attack on Hiroshima and
Nagasaki - painfully recall their
memories of intense suffering.
"The Good War" is remarkably
sensitive and non-judgmental. Terkel
eschews the simplistic tendency to see
the war as a struggle between the ar-
mies of light and the armies of
darkness. This is not to say that Terkel
excuses or ignores the heinous deeds of
such groups as the SS or Gestapo,
whose guilt is taken for granted. In-
deed, "The Good War" includes
eyewitness accounts of the liberation of
Dachau, leaving no doubt as to the
culpability of the Nazi.
The emphasis in this book, however,
is on the innocents, who are represen-
ted not only by the civilian victims but
by the warriors themselves: the
magnitude of which was destined to
overwhelm if not destroy them.
The testimonies also stress the fact
that the war was not the idea of those
unfortunate soldiers who were assigned
to fight in it. Indeed, Terkel's inter-
views point out the curious fact that af-
ter the war, Allied and Axis soldiers
were often sympathetic toward the
"enemy" rather than spiting them that
they were forced to take up arms. For
example Terkel describes a scene in
which veterans Hans Gobeler and
James Sanders toast one another, in
1982: Thirty-eight years before, one
tried his damndest, as a loyal mem-
ber of his crew, to sink the other's
craft ... Now they reminisce, wist-
fully.
Despite the fact that Terkel includes
several testimonies of affectionate
reminiscence, "The Good War" is
primarily an anti-war book. As Terkel
explains, the quotation marks around
the book's title appear "not as a matter
of caprice or editorial comment, but
simply because the adjective 'good'

;

AN ORAL HIS

OF WOR LD

W A R

Hemingway and Russell: trying to appear convincing

table. Anderson nicknames the killer
the Numbers Killer, and the reporter
becomes a victim of the hordes of press
that he was once a part of. He becomes
intertwined with the story and, as the
characters are always sure to remind
us, begins to make the news just as
much as he covers it.
Obviously, the Numbers Killer has to
find out about Malcolm's girlfriend,
and he does. You just know that
Malcolm is going to start getting calls
at home, and he does. You just know
that Malcolm and the police are going
to get upset with one another, and they
do. you just know that Malcolm is going
to come under attack from everybody
who thinks the job of a journalist is to
cover the news, and not make it, and he
does. You just know the killer is going
to tell Malcolm where a few more
bodies can be found, and he does. It
would seem to be a given that sooner or
later something is going to happen to
Christine, and sure enough, something
does. Maybe I was only able to figure
out so much of what would happen
because of my vast moviegoing ex-

perience, or some such nonsense, but I
have to think that if I could figure out
this much, other people will be able to
figure out a bit too much, too.
The script has perhaps a few nice
'touches, such as the Numbers Killer
getting upset because he is overtaken in
importance by Anderson. No doubt
there are one or two other good things,
but they elude me at the present time.
With such a weak script to work from,
director Phillip Borsos, who crafted
such a nice film in The Grey Fox, is for-
ced to resort to a lot of cheaper thrills
and our naturally suspicious post-
psycho view of any scene which takes
place in a shower. The film is also for-
ced to resort to incredibly obnoxious
music by Lalo Schifrin. It does its
worst to pound some excitement into us
by using all of the standards of the
thriller film musical score, but all it en-
ds up doing is sounding loud and an-
ticipating too much of the action. The
movie would have been much better off
with something subtle like the rolling
thunder off in the distance that Michael
Small composed for Star Chamber. The

Mean Season's all too typical script is in
no way helped by all too typical music.
On the bright side, Frank Tidy, who
gave The Grey Fox a splendid black
and white in color look, does a very
good job here, and makes everything
look natural.
The acting troupe is, to a certain ex-
tent, in a thankless cause. Russell
proves his versatility, doing a fairly
decent job as Malcolm Anderson.
Definitely not Academy Award
material, but decent enough. Mariel
Hemingway still looks too much like the
high school student she played in
Manhattan. She has the technique down
right but just does not convince as an
elementary school teacher who must be
in the high twenties. Her face is just a
bit too youthful. There are no other real
standouts or problems in the cast. But
with a fairly awful script and music so
bad that it tends to draw your irritation
away from the more important flaws,
The Mean Season (the title refers to the
summer weather in Miami) is more
boring than anything else. 01

" 'The Good War' ": sensitive and non-judgemental

mated with the noun 'war' is so in-
congruous." While most of Terkel's
witnesses agree, from an Allied per-
spective, on the necessity and morality
of World War II, the general consensus
is that the war was not the romantic
and glorious event that it has been por-
trayed as in the movies but was rather
a terrifying and gruesome experience.
Even an officer as high ranking as Ad-
miral Gene LaRocque was so seriously
affected that, for two decades after-
wards, he was unable to watch any

films on Wor
films, peoph
their clothes a
ground. Yo
being blown
an antiseptic
gloriously.
As a histor
Good War" is
remarkable a
is the effect
describes the
lives of humar

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