Monday, February 6, 1989
The Michigan Daily
The Day I Became an Autodidact
By Kendall Hailey
Dell Publishing $8.95/paperback
At one time or another, most people have considered
quitting school to "find themselves" and live life on
their own. After a rough day of classes, many college
students have felt the urge to drop out and teach
themselves what they need to know. This concept of
becoming self-educated, is called autodidactism, and is
illustrated in Kendall Hailey's new book. The Day I
Became An Autodidact tells the story of the personal
quest Hailey began at the age of 15 to become a self-
taught and a self-made individual.
The daughter of playwright Oliver Hailey and best-
selling novelist Elizabeth Hailey, Hailey was always
given the freedom to pursue endless literary
possibilities. Therefore, when she received a high sch
summer reading list her junior year, Hailey decided
didn't like being told what to read anymore, gradua
early and became an autodidact. This book chronicles
events of her life from the ages of 15 to 19; in th
four years, Hailey made many discoveries about hers
her family, life in general and how to live it. .
Not only did Hailey learn about how to live life,l
she intended to read as much about it as possible.t
began a book tour to read just about everything e
published, ranging from Aristotle's Ethics to Mo
Dick by Herman Melville. She believed this wo
give her a test of life, and by passing it, she would hz
the best of life, allowing her to take on the rest of li
Hailey wasn't worried about succumbing to p
pressure but instead to life pressure, something we
will face sooner of later if we aren't already.
Through her readings, Kendall learned about hist
and literature in almost all areas. With this knowled
she became inspired to write a mystery, a comedy
novel and a play called A Bar off Meirose which s
acted in as well. The Day I Became An Autodida
written in somewhat of a journal form, highligl
Halley's accomplishments both intellectually a
personally. She is often witty and offers a candid vi(
of life through an autodidact's eyes.
To make the decision to become an autodidact at t
age of 15 is quite a step. In fact, in writing the boo
Kendall feels that she has to prove something to hers
as well as her readers. Does she succeed? Yes and n
Yes, phe proves she can write and write well, but n
she dbesn't prove that she has taught herself everythi
she needs to know about life. That is something whi
can be learned only over time and through experience.
BY ALYSSA KATZ
The movie industry has long re-
lied on the biographical film as a
crowd- and critic-pleaser. A movie
based on someone's life is often au-
iool tomatically regarded as important,
she merely because it tells the story of a
ited significant person. Would Gandhi,
the Out Of Africa, or The Last Emperor
ose have won Academy Awards for best
elf, picture if they had not been about
real people? Would they even have
but been nominated?
She However, filmmakers have a
ver problematic tendency to let such
)by theme material overwhelm their work
uld - sometimes, it seems, because
ave they become so enamored of their
ife. subjects that they present them in a
eer highly idealized fashion. Eleni suf-
all fered acutely from this; in that film,
Kate Nelligan seemed to have the
ory word "noble" suspended over her head
age like a halo. Hanna's War is a more
a recent and more pathetic victim of
he this syndrome.
ct, Menachem Golan, the Israeli-born
hts co-head of Cannon Pictures - the
nd studio which brought Bolero and
ew Superman IV into the world - has
taken one of his occasional forays
he into directing, with results one might
)k, expect from a man who spends much
elf more time behind a executive's desk
no. than behind a camera. His subject is
no, Hanna Shenesh, a Hungarian-born
ng Jewish poet who, as a teenager in
ch 1937, moved to Palestine, having
decided that life as an agricultural
ta worker would be preferable to what
she was experiencing in an increas-
ingly anti-Semitic Budapest.
Shenesh adored her adopted land,
but feared for her mother, who re-
mained in Nazi-occupied Hungary, so
she enlisted in the British Royal Air
Force, hoping to eventually find her
way to Budapest. She did make it
there, in the end, but never left. After
being tortured by Hungarian officials
for refusing to divulge Allied secrets,
she was executed on a charge of trea-
son against Hungary at the age of 23.
To Israelis, she became a legend,
-. someone whom every child learned
about at school. Her story clearly had
Menachem Golan's Hanna's War
transforms an Israeli legend into
4' .4 .
an influence on Golan, who in his
film depicts her as a nearly flawless
martyr who fights valiantly and suf-
fers greatly yet almost always man-
ages to wear impeccably applied, un-
A few readers may be grumbling
at this point: "What a lousy critic!
She just revealed that the main char-
acter dies at the end! I hate when
they do that...," and so on and so
forth. But you see, the issue is irrel-
evant; this movie isn't worth seeing,
so knowing its outcome can't really
In fact, its ending provides a good
example of exactly why Hanna's War
is the sort of film that is only
watchable late at night on pay-cable,
when, unfettered by theater etiquette,
viewers can shout back at the screen.
Upon learning that the Russians are
about to invade Budapest, Hanna's
captors have hastily arranged for her
execution by firing squad. But she is
brave, as always. She marches self-
assuredly to her doom, looking
absolutely radiant. She calmly re-
fuses a proffered blindfold. The
squad's commander slowly shouts
orders, in Hungarian (strangely, when
Hanna speaks Hungarian, it sounds
like English). Three or so shots pen-
etrate her unwrinkled white blouse;
blood flows like milk from her
breasts. She falls in slow motion,
and we are subjected to a dizzying
shot depicting her point of view as
she drops (Golan is fond of such
camerawork). We also hear her
thoughts: in her dying moments...
she is composing poetry! This se-
quence is high schmaltz and is typi-
cal of the film as a whole.
Also bothersome is the anachro-
nistic electronic music which blares
heroically or thuds menacingly every
now and then, guiding us patroniz-
ingly like the laughtrack in a sitcom.
The screenplay is laden with innu-
merable clich6s, as well as some
bizarre and inappropriate (but unin-
tentionally funny) Freudian
Surprisingly, though, some of the
actors survive this debacle. Mar-
uschka Detmers, who looks like a
cross between Debra Winger and the
young Jane Fonda, is quite good as
Hanna - her performance is not very
subtle, but then neither is her role as
Golan apparently envisions it. Ellen
Burstyn, here affecting a vaguely
European accent, does what she can
in her relatively small role as
Hanna's beloved mother; most of the
time she is just required to look
shocked and dismayed. Donald
Pleasence, though, looks like he's
having the time of his life playing
Hanna's evil torturer: his eyes bulge
wildly as he thrusts his face near hers
and, in a great moment, expresses his
dismay at having had to remove her
pretty fingernails. Pleasence obvi-
ously understood from reading the
screenplay that Hanna's War was to
be a showcase of camp, and crafted
his performance accordingly.
HANNA'S WAR is showing at Ann
Let Them Know
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