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October 07, 1991 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-10-07

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Page 8-The Michigan Daily- Monday, October 7, 1991

Where the twain meet
Critic Stanley Kauffinann discusses film, theater

by Jenie Dahlmann
Imagine having a career that allows
you to weigh the artistic talents of
some of the century's greatest
directors, actors and writers. Think
of the power you could wield with
one simple word, either elevating
careers to the height of fame or
crushing them to the netherworld
of has-beens with one fatal blow.
Then contemplate exercising that
power not only in one medium, the-
ater, but also in film, as these two
artforms often overlap, giving am-
ple opportunity to keep score of the
effects they have on each other.
During his 33-year-long career in
criticism, theater and film critic
Stanley Kauffmann has developed an
eclectic repertoire of observations
and analyses of these disciplines. As
a theater critic for The Saturday
Review and a film critic for The
New Republic, Kauffmann has spent
his life admiring and attempting to
understand the art he reviews, not
only as a critic, but also as an enthu-
siastic audience member.
"In my mind, (theater) isn't fad-
ing, but its quality may be fading,"
Kauffmann says, explaining the-
ater's role in the shadow of the fast-
paced stimuli of film and television.
Kauffmann's interest, when dealing
with the competition between the-
ater and film for audience attention,
lies not so much in the differences
between the two mediums, but in
the ways they often meld together.

gree, when you're going to a film."
Kauffmann emphasizes that, in
his mind, the categories of film and
theater are not separated anymore.
"There is only theater hyphen film,
not just in terms of creators, but in
terms of experience, too," he says.
This heightened awareness of
film's effect upon theater, and vice-
versa, Kauffmann feels, is very ap-
parent in the choices that stage and
film directors make. Stage directors
are aware of the fact that their audi-
ence is "film conditioned," he says.
In many of the plays Kauffmann
sees nowadays, he notices that
"lighting is used in an attempt to
replicate the way the camera moves
from character to character. Scenes
are often joined, particularly in
classic plays, in attempt to repro-
duce the effect of film montage."
All of these conventions, says
Kauffmann, "act as an index of not
only how film is affecting the di-
rector of the play, but how he
knows it has affected the expecta-
tions of the audience."
In the. act of adjusting an inter-
pretation, a director may be viewed
as catering to his or her audience.
Kauffmann does not believe, how-
ever, that such a director does so in a
low sense. Rather, Kauffmann says,
the director is simply "acclimating
his work to the artistic tempo of the
Film directors, in the same way,
but to a lesser degree, incorporate
theatrical techniques when they de-

melding of the two artistic medi-
ums, sometimes he wishes one form
could miraculously transform into
another. Often in his film reviews,
Kauffmann begins with a compari-
son to theater or with an example of
how the film script would be more
effective in a theater setting. And

Modern vvv,
. v
just don'x
get it.. \\
by Aaron Hamburger


Kauffmann emphasizes that, in his mind, the
categories of film and theater are not
separated anymore. 'There is only theater
hyphen film, not just in terms of creators, but
in terms of experience, too,' he says

when discussing casting choices, he
says that occasionally he'd like to
see films with different casts, but
unfortunately, that is one of the op-
portunities afforded only to theater.
For instance, Kauffmann says he
felt the film Object of Beauty, an
elegant, high-comic script, was
terribly miscast. John Malkovich
portrayed a role meant for a Cary
Grant-type, he says, while Andie
MacDowell attempted comedy that
could only be done by an Irene
Dunne. After viewing the film,
Kauffmann says he thought, "Okay,
now they've done the out-of-town
tryout... let's put in the profes-
sional, permanent cast."
Hopefully, Kauffmann's views
on the intertwining relationship be-
tween film and theater will hold
true in the future. The television and
video generation's attention span
for live theater, sans special effects
and Dolby surround sound, may have
already been shortened. If the enter-
tainment business is willing to ex-
pand its definitions of the art forms,
as Kauffmann seems to be calling
for, perhaps theater will not fade
into a mere memory, like the
nickelodeon, but instead be enhanced
and given new life through the
extended visions film offers. And
certainly Stanley Kauffmann will
be keeping a critical eye on the
whole process.

Is a clock art? How about a chair
or a set of dishes? More and more
art lovers are answering yes to
these questions, as the division be-
tween the decorative arts and fine
arts becomes increasingly obscure.
In celebration of Modernism, the
primary movement in design of
the decorative arts from 1935 to
1965, the Toledo Museum of Art
is hosting What Modern Was.
Decorative arts seems an ill-
fitting title for the 250 pieces on
display in the comprehensive ex-
hibition. Followers of mod-
ernism advocated simplicity of
forms and an economy of decora-
tive detail. Modernist designers
were much more interested in cre-
ating functional, inexpensive ob-
jects that could be easily mass-
produced than in creating art.
Modernism began at the Bau-
haus school of design in Germany.
Teachers at the Bauhaus, including
such famous artists as Paul Klee
and Wassily Kandinsky, taught
their students to respond to the
changes in the world around them.
The Great Depression caused a de-
mand for consumer goods that
could be easily and cheaply made.
As a result, simplicity of forms
and means of mass production
became the fundamental canon of

The striking thing about What
Modern Was is how the simpli-
fication of forms became a beauti-
ful art in itself. Russell Wright's
streamlined American Modern
dinnerware, consisting of bright-
As simplicity became
an art form in its own
right, the importance
of practicality waned
ly-colored monochromatic ser-
ving pieces, has a remarkable
pureness of form and color analo-
gous to the cut-outs of Matisse.
As simplicity became an art
form in its own right, the impor-
tance of practicality waned for
modernist designers. Wendell
Castle's serpentine floor lamp,
carved out of mahogany and in-
spired by a bent-out-of-shape pa-
per clip, could hardly be called

Hey Mom, what's for dinner? The question takes on a wnoie new
meaning when you're eating with modern art. This flatware, made by
Arne Jacobson in 1957, was inspired by Lost in Space.

practical as it sprawls across the
floor and stretches its snakelike
neck, stopping just short of the
gallery's ceiling.
Many of the exhibition's pie-
ces are unintentionally funny.
Earo Saarinen's Womb Armchair,
upholstered with cowskin-like
fiberglass, looks like it belongs in
a circus rather than in someone's
living room. The infamous globe
chair, designed in the '60s during
the beginning of the Space Age
(which explains its similarity to
a deformed space module), is sim-
ply a huge white sphere with a
section carved out of its center.
Major 20th-century artists are
well-represented in What Mod-
ern Was. Matisse's cut-outs and a
painting by Raoul Dufy inspired
two rugs. A glass vase with a hu-
morous smiling face designed by
Pablo Picasso strangely resem-
bles the "Hey, Kool-Aid!" pitch-
er/man. Fans of Salvador Dali
should be sure to see his gold
brooch studded with diamonds,
which was inspired by his famous
masterpiece,The Persistence of
Besides being a great art ex-
hibit,What Modern Was is a lot
of fun, well worth the 40-minute
drive to Toledo. You don't need a
docent-guided tour to appreciate
the beauty and splashiness of the
featured objects.




"Theater and- film exist symbi-
otically," Kauffmann explains.
"One feeds the other, not necessar-
ily in their creation, but especially
in the minds of the audience. Society
is more satiated in the film experi-
ence, regardless of their possible
love for theater, so one way or an-
other, that film experience colors
your expectations, your view of
possibilities, even your view of
techniques in the play you're seeing.
The same thing works, to some de-

velop scripts into cinematic experi-
ences. Kauffmann says this practice
is usually most evident in acting
techniques. "A director will often
rely on the sheer acting of a scene to
carry it, instead of fussing too much
about editing or weird camera an-
gles," he says. "You can almost feel
the director saying to the actors,
'This is yours. This moment is
yours, just as if you were in the the-
ater. "'
Despite Kauffmann's adamant


WHAT MODERN WAS will be on
display at the Toledo Museum of
Art until November 17. The
exhibition is open Tuesdays
through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to
4 p.m.,and Sundays from 1 p.m. to
S p.m. Admission is $3 for adults
and $2 for students and seniors.




Peter Himmelman returns to
Ann Arbor with his inspired muse
and excellent songwriting. This
Minneapolis native has little in
common with Prince or Soul
Asylum, save the fact that he fol-
lows his own direction. Witty and
exciting, Himmelman plays at the
Ark tonight and tommorow night.
Tickets are $8.50 in advance from
TicketMaster, plus evil service

The Cynics, those critically-ac-
claimed, ever-snotty pushers of the
finest '60s guitar punk stuff, play
untamed at the Blind Pig
Wednesday night with Ohio's
finest, Gone in 60 Seconds. The
Cynics are from Pittsburgh, Pa.
Hey, maybe you should drive your
Chevy to the show. Tickets are $5 at
the door only. Doors open at 9:30

Its press kit claims that School
of Fish has "created an intruiguing
album of songs both idealistic and
sardonic, all about innocence, guilt,
dependencey, messed-up relation-
ships, and turtles." Imagine what
this School sounds like live. You
can check them out at Industry in
Pontiac on Thursday. Tickets are
available at TicketMaster. Doors
open at 7:30.

Continued from page 5
deafening roar and peace signs from
the crowd as they launched into
"Welcome to the Terrordome." P.E.
could do no wrong as they whipped
Clubland into a frenzy, ripping
through hip-hop classics like "Fight
The Power," "Don't Believe The
Hype" and "She Watch Channel
Zero." Terminator X worked magic
on the turntables, producing P.E.'s
trademark "wall of sound" with
only his two hands. And as usual,
Flay stole the show with his spastic
dance moves and a huge shock of


Heavy metal headliner Anthrax
threatened to bring down the ceiling
with a monstrous barrage of power
chords and head-banging anthems.
Their fans were easily the most vo-
cal, chanting along heartily to
"Anti-Social," "Caught in a
Mosh," and the band's first collage
of metal and rap, 1988's "I'm The
Man." Overrated pseudo-rockers
like Skid Row and Guns N' Roses
could only dream of being, able to
match Anthrax for sheer power and
What really made the night

Relaxation exercises everyone! Stare really hard at this 1951 rug by
Henri Matisse, anoint your temples with olive oil and shout, "I got the
Power!" Designs like this tend to inspire such inner tranquility.


memorable, however, was what was
going on in front of the stage. It was
an incredible experience to be able
to watch Black kids in Anthrax T-
shirts and white kids wearing
African beads, all thrashing, diving
and sweating together, and having a
great time. Call me outrageously
optimistic, but I think this is indica-
tive of something bigger. Slowly
but surely, the walls of hatred and
ignorance are coming down, and it's
a beautiful sight. Tear down your
piece of the wall and say you were
--Scott Sterling

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