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October 05, 1992 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1992-10-05

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Page 8-The Michigan Daily- Monday, October 5, 1992

Cassavetes' classic
on video at last


by Megan Abbott _
John Cassavetes may have been
the best American director you never
heard of.
Known to the average filmgoer
primarily for his acting roles
(perhaps most notably as Mia
Farrow's devious husband in "Rose-
mary's Baby"), Cassavetes wrote
and directed art house classics for
A Woman
Under the Influence
Directed & written by John Cassavetes;
with Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk
nearly three decades, including
"Faces," "Husbands," and the more
mainstream "Gloria."
Cassavetes' films rely heavily on
cinema verit, acting tour-de forces,
and intense focus on human psy-
chology. Rejecting the new film
style of the auteur movement (whose
leaders include Coppola, Scorsese,
and others) with its emphasis on
roller-coaster camera work, Cassa-
vetes chose a less-studied, more
documentary-style approach in order
to delve into the psyche of his
Thankfully, what many consider
to be his greatest achievement, "A
Woman Under the Influence," has
just been released onl video. This
1974 film, Starring Gena Rowlands
and Peter Falk, tells the story of
Mabel and Nick Longhetti, a couple
with three children, whose life to-
gether is being slowly splintered
away by Mabel's erratic mental con-
The centerpiece of the film is
Rowlands' performance. Rowlands'
Mabel is a manic, self-destructive
romantic whose fierce desire to
make her home a place of love and
whimsy takes her to emotional
precipices that frighten her family
and friends. She says to her children,
"I never did a thing in my whole life
except made you." Indeed, Mabel
makes all those she cares about the
center of her world. But her danger-
ous behavior and her intensity of
purpose unnerves everyone.

Rowlands plays Mabel as a mas-
ter parodist, an obsessively eager-to-
please wife and mother, and a
woman all too aware of her loosen-
ing grip. She moves from having a
nervous, almost lyrical grace to be-
coming a tight fist of anger in min-
utes. She simply does not know how
she is "supposed" to be. Pleading to
Nick, she implores, "Tell me what
you want me to be. I can be that. I
can be anything."

Carlo Naya's photo of 19th century Venice, "Ponte di Rialto con la Serenat - Venezia."

Peter Falk's Nick is a blue-collar
construction worker who is both a
veteran of and utterly mystified by
her mental state. He says to her,
"Why are you acting crazy? There's
no reason for it!". He is desperately
in love with Mabel, but is humiliated
by how her family and friends view
her mental state. Nick can't bur
their pity and ignorance. This sends
him to violence more than once.
Thinking he can force her to keep
hold of her sanity, he commands,
"Don't let that mind run away on
you now ... Don't!" But Mabel can
only fight herself so hard. Nick
slowly realizes it is just her
"craziness" that composes her iden-
tity, He can't bear to lose that either.
What gives the film its true
charm, however, is that it doesn't
say or tell, but shows. Through
small, amusing vignettes, through
subtle and more involved acting de-
vices, through Cassavetes' e ver-vi gi-
lant camera (which picks up on natu-
ral gem after natural gem), through
this blistering realism we get a pic-
ture of every-day tragedy. With loth
humor and pathos, the audience be-
comes so involved in this couples
trial that they find themselves fight-
ing for Mabel to embrace her iden-
tity despite what others think. But
the film is not set up for such easy
"A Woman Under the Influence"
is Cassavetes at his best and his
purest. Finding both the degradation
and the true grace in everyday life,
this film, like his others, gives the
audience credit for finding in their
own lives and struggles the stuff that
movies are made of.

Naya develops Venetian finds

by Amy Meng
Walking into the basement of the
Museum of Art and studying the
collection of 19th century pho-
tographs of Venice is like attending
a history of art lecture. In such a set-
ting, the photographs can be seen as
Carlo Naya
Veduti e Dettagli, 19th
Century Venetian Views of
Museum of Art
slides projected on the walls of the
museum, coming alive to teach
Venetian history through the classic
personages depicted in the frescoes,
sculptures and architectonic monu-
Carlo Naya deliberately exposed
the prints to show the age and thus
the accompanying history behind the
photos. He was able to capture the
timeless essence of the city by pre-
senting his photos as antiquities.
Naya' s album-in-folio volume of
22 photographs emphasizes deterio-
ration and restoration of artistic de-
velopment in the city, stressing the

need to search for new ways of rep-
resenting composition in a classical
viewpoint. He sought to explore the
impartiality of knowledge, taking
the maximum amount of infonnation
given on a subject and creating unity
of image within the framework of
the photograph
Naya saw Venice as a unified
city. When the city slept, all of the
spirits flew around in the sky to seek
shelter and repose along with the
other Italians living in the city.
"Venice by Moonlight" illustrates
the gradual evaporation of billowing,
stormy clouds spanning the heavens,
allowing the massive towers to reach
up and pierce the sky, connecting
the real world to the celestial world
where mythical figures watched the
Venetians from above to make
Bridges were repeatedly pho-
tographed connecting one side of the
city to another as depicted in the
"Scuola de San Marco and the Canal
of the Ospe dole Civile." A man is
seated to the side of the archway,
and seems like a miniature figurine
next to the grandiose architecture -
man versus his own creations. One
enters into the ancient city by cross-
ing beneath this arch and traversing

through its mouth, feeling the spirit
of the ancient days lingering in the
"The Chapel of the Rosary,
Church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo, Af-
ter the Fire of 16 August 1867"
shows reconstruction and deteriora-
tion of vaulted ceilings and of the
ground level of this chapel. The
framework consists of a small tem-
ple surrounded by a larger edifice
decorated with columns and statues
of ancient goddesses. Ladders,
wheelbarrows, and other tools are
strewn about everywhere, and heaps
of crumbling rocks, bricks, and de-
bris from statues add to the spirit of
decay. Where flames have scorched
certain areas, the deterioration is
more serious and brittle layers of
construction seem to crack away.
Workmen climb ladders as if to
reach the ancient statues, showing
the scale of human life measured by
ancient history.
The photograph of the Library of
St. Mark shows the massive struc-
ture vaulted in the air by the support
of columns with figurines atop each
column guarding a fortress. Life
continues to flourish in Venice, but
the dark corridors of the Library re-
main forbidden, suggesting a not-al-

together-removed realm where the
gods carried on sacred rituals within
their own boundaries. Years of his-
tory are ingrained in the stone edi-
fices, and the characters added new
dimensions to its layers.
Faces and bodies of the sculp-
tures and frescoes come alive in
Naya' s photos. A sense of physical
and spiritual tension, suspicion, and
struggle emanates from Michelan-
gelo's Moses at the Church of S.
Pietro. 'he Model for Antonio
Canova's Hercules and Michas show
the struggles of two forces pulling
each other in opposite directions,
seeming to reach for the same con-
Carlo Naya explores meanings,
hoping to tap into conversations in
history. His technique in handling
the aged quality of prints allows
viewers to hear the ghosts of Vene-
tians from ancient times interacting
as if their souls were embedded in
the walls of the city.
VIEWS will be display in the base-
ment of the University of Michigan
Museum of Art until November 29,

1111 1 1111 :1 [ il At 1 14 ii I lyj i

- U

Debussy and Bambi
For the out-on-the-town type (if
you can do that on a Monday)
we've unearthed the University
Symphony Orchestra. Gustav
Meier will, with his trusty baton,
conduct Debussy's "Prelude to the
Afternoon of a Faun," Mozart's
Symphony No. 38 in D Major
("Prague"), and Bart6k's "Miracu-
lous Mandarin" suite. It is, as we
insisted, free of charge in Hill
Auditorium at 8 p.m. tonight.
Sofa, so good
However, if you're a bit more
like us, and rather fond of the old
couch there's a fantastic TV line-
up that'll keep you busy for all of
prime time. (And you don't even
have to be up on current events -
we're ditching "Murphy Brown.")
Up with the Joneses
At 8 p.m. flip to ABC (channel
7) and settle back fo- "The Young
Indiana Jones Chronicles." Hey,
wipe that smirk off your face, it's
a good show - it even tries to
educate you. In tonight's episode,
Indy escapes with the help of

Capt. Charles de Gaulle (OK, so
the history is a tad ... contrived.
So sue 'em.) Just watch it - you
just can't go wrong with Indiana
Jones and George Lucas.
Watson TV?
At 9, flip to A&E (Columbia
47). Jeremy Brett stars in the
"Sherlock Holmes Mysteries."
This man is Holmes - we've
never seen a better portrayal of the
eccentricity that Conan Doyle
wrote for his master sleuth.
Art 'tec
Keep it on A&E at 10 for
"Lovejoy." This British import is
all a modern detective show
should be - Lovejoy isn't a
detective at all. Rather, he's an
antique dealer who's spent a bit of
time in gaol (that's jail, you
anglophobes.) Regardless, he ends
up getting into a jam in each
episode (what else?) but you get to
see a lot of really neat old things,
hear mother tongue as it ought to
be, and Lovejoy even talks to the
camera. What more could we want
... this side of a nice hearty claret?


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Cynthia Glovinsky
Aaron Dresner

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