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January 28, 1993 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 1993-01-28

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Page 4--The Michigan Daily -Weekend etc. --January 28, 1993

Prez Duderstadt: where are 'U'?

As students and professors who be-
came devout inauguration buffs last
week return to routine academic life,
some University administrators should
consider some lessons of the recent
election.

Clinton's newly soaring popularity
is no mere accident. It is the result of a
carefully orchestrated populist cam-
paign, and it has elevated the Arkansan
to celebrity status unparalleled in recent
years. One would assume that our local
politicians - the Jim Duderstadts and
Phil Powers and Deanne Bakers -
would be taking cues from this political
genius. But this is Ann Arbor, where
regents and University presidents are
effectively accountable to no one, and
politics is a topic tobe studied, not an art
to be practiced.
But if President Duderstadt (to
choose Clinton's counterpart) were to
break out of his electrical engineering
shell and try playing the populist, he
might be surprised at the results.
At no point was this made clearer to
me than when I regretfully woke up to
see my friend's grinning face on the

frontpage of the DetroitFree Pressashe
received a bear hug from President
Clinton. He was the college kid from
Ann Arbor who camped out on the
White House lawn. The national press
- who make a living at reporting this
kind of sugary stuff -jumped all over
the story.
Contrast that with a recent piece of
information about Duderstadt. When
asked about his administration's new
restrictive Diag policy -aimed at turn-
ing the diag from a place of unrestricted
political debate to a virtual golf course
- the president admitted he had no idea
that the policy was even being consid-
ered until after the changes had been
made.
While one president (with a consid-
erably busier schedule) was taking time
to send a message of inclusion to stu-
dents, the other was shunning their input
and asleep at the wheel.
This is no anomaly for Duderstadt,
but a pattern that spans his entire tenure
here. Duderstadt came to the University
in a flurry of protests over the regents'
illegal hiring of him. Since then, he has
wanted nothing to do with students,
whom he views as a regretful inconve-
nience of running a university.
Duderstadtlives virtually inabubble,
accepting only monthly press interviews,
and communicating almost exclusively
through his staff. He spends much of his
living time in hisoff-campus house, and

is frequently away from campus on
work-related trips anyway..
The regents, who are elected state-
wide, are notorious for coming to cam-
pus only for their monthly meetings,
and most students probably couldn't
recognize them even if they did make an
impromptu appearance. The sameholds
true for Duderstadt, a person most stu-
dents only see on the way in (at convo-
cation) and on the way out (at gradua-
tion) from the University.
One reason: Duderstadt has refused
to play the politician. He has refused to
admit that being president of a Univer-
sity requires politics and persuasion,
and has refused to dirty himself with
these tactics. He has ruled by edict,
when he could have ruled by dialogue
and discussion.
Duderstadt would do well to over-
come his political hang-up and engage
in a little old-fashioned populism. If he
were to make himself a more visible
leader and emphasize meeting and con-
sulting students a priority, his job might
become easier.
The sacrifice is minimal. It is poli-
ticking, not power-sharing, but it pro-
vides the people (or the students) with a
sense of control and direction.
Critics might want nothing to do
with such pandering. But meeting with
the people affected by your decisions is
not just a political stunt, it serves an
essential purpose: it offers the governed

access to government, andprovidesthem
with a sense of security and control.
People like to choose window seats
on airplanes - not because it gives
them control of the speed or altitude of
the plane, but because it allows them to
keep tabs on where they are, and where
they are going. Likewise, people like to
know what their leaders are up to, and
prefer to have access to those leaders.
When they don't, the results for the
leaders can be costly. Local pundits
have speculated that one-time populist
Detroit Mayor Coleman Young's recent
retreat into reclusiveness might cost him
his job.
President Duderstadt must surely
remember the last two spring gradua-
tions, when stadiums full of graduates
booed him in front of thousands of po-
tential University patrons, or the student
protests that accompany virtually every
major student-related decision the re-
gents make unilaterally.
All of this hassle might have been
avoided ifDuderstadthadeven sprinkled
his presidency with a few Jacksonian-
or Clintonian - tricks. When the Dude
can be seen hugging a freshman on the
front page of the Daily, attending a
class, playing the saxophone on the
Diag or (God forbid) asking students
for their opinion and then heedingit -
just as an experiment - he might find
that students learn to like him. Or at
least know who he is.

by Sarah Weidman
Drinking milk used to be a metaphor
for purity in a woman. At least it was in
Southeast Kansas in 1928. Elia Kazan's
1961 masterpiece "Splendor in the
Grass" uses this symbolism to differen-

loyal and wait patiently until he and
Deanie are married, or to takehis father's
advice: finda"differentkind ofgirl"for
a night and let off a little steam.
Deanie's purity is exaggerated whei
she's around Bud's sister, Jenny, the
trashy town flapper whose mother had
to come get her from Chicago after she
had "one of those awful operations.
Jenny teases Deanie about her chastity
and makes Deanie look even more vir
tuous in Bud's eyes.
Tension between Deanie and Budd
and each with his/her parents hits hard
toward the end of their senior year whet
"Spring Fever" sets in. Hormones are
raging, passion is at its peak, and no one
has any patience for abstinence. The
movie then begins its emotional jour-
ney into morality.
We've become immune to sex int
films, so this reflection into the days
when it was still taboo is enticing.:
"Splendor in the Grass" is an evocative
movie sure to draw tears and contem-
plation of our society and its attitude
toward sexuality.
PLENDOR IN THE GRASS is
available at Liberty Street Video.

Warren Beatty has aged since his debut in "Splendor in the Grass."
A video Full of 'Splendor'

tiate between the "good" and the "bad"
girls. It stars Natalie Wood as Deanie
Loomis, a lovestruck high school se-
nior, torn between a need to express her
sexual desires and the societal pressure
ofwhatis appropriate behavior.Deanie's
mother serves loads of milk and says,
"Women don't enjoy those (sex) the
way men do. She just lets him come
near her in order to have children."
Deanie's equally frustrated boy-
friend is the town stud, Bud Stamper,
played by Warren Beatty in his screen
debut. Bud's dilemma is whether to be

Hal Hartley's in a league of his own

The first time I saw a Hal Hartley
movie, Ihated it. It was pretentious. The
acting was awful. Every character was
weird, andspokenothinglikepeopledo
inreallife.Only after seeing afewofhis
movies did I realize that's just what
makes Hal Hartley so interesting.
The 32-year-old independent film-
maker has released two features to date,

defined for himself a very personal,
recognizable style of filmmaking. "I
wanted to make a genre out of myself,"
he told GQ. In the context of conven-
tional Hollywood cinema, the style can
seem so unusual that it can be off-
putting. Only when one understands
what Hartley's trying for, and knows
what to expect, do his films begin to
make sense.
From his sterile native environment
of the middle-class suburbs, Hartley
extracts simple truths of human interac-
tion through a stylized approach. He
doesn't attempt to "realistically" por-
tray life as it looks; instead, he dives
straight to the core of how life really
works. His characters seem bizarre; in
actuality, they're perfectly average, only
magnified and distorted for effect.
For example, Hartley astutely dra-
matizes our self-centered inability to
listen to other people with a conversa-
tion like this one, between two women
in "Trust":
"I killed my father this morning."
"My daughter would have been just
about your age."

"The Unbelievable Truth" and "Trust."
A short film, "Surviving Desire," was
broadcast on PBS' "American Play-
house" last year, and his third feature,
"Simple Men," starts tomorrow at the
Michigan Theater. With unknown casts
and budgets under $1 million, the writer/
director has managed to establish him-
self as one of a new set of American
auteurs along with names like Gus Van
Sant and Quentin Tarantino.
After only three films, Hartley has

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"I didn't mean to, honest. It was an
accident."
"I spent some time in a psychiatric
hospital."
"I didn't know he had a bad heart."
Even in scenes of seemingly normal
conversation, Hartley makes us con-
stantly aware of the artificiality of mov-
ies. Fully aware that conversations on
film are nothing like real conversations,
with all its interruptions, pauses and
half-finished thoughts, Hartley conse-
quently fashions his dialogue into rapid
fire, line-by-line exchanges nothing at
all like reality.
The unusual dialogue calls for an
unusual style of acting, a problem
Hartley has dealt with by using the same
troupe of actors for all his films. Martin
Donovan ("Surviving Desire," "Trust")
and Adrienne Shelley ("The Unbeliev-
able Truth," "Trust") are able to capture
the deadpan, half-sincere tone better
than anyone else. (Unfortunately, how-
ever, neither of them appear in "Simple
Men.")
Hartley cuts through the veneer of
polite conversation to reveal the truth.
"I'm not interested in creating the illu-
sion of how we seem," he told the New
York Times. "I want to create an image
of how we are."
Hartley's films are, however, quite
talky, displaying the influence ofFrench
NewWaverslikeEricRohmerandJean-
Luc Godard. Even more intimidating is
the level of conversation, whose ob-
scure references and 50-cent words will
alienate many a suburban moviegoer
from these suburban comedies. This
line from "Surviving Desire" is typical:
"Ah, you see, that's another thing
youalways do. Wheneveryou're losing
an argument you always depict yourself
as hopelessly incompetent, as if humbly
admitting your shortcomings somehow
places you above the argument at hand,
therefore negating the other person's
point of view entirely."
It's this kind of talk, along with his
too-carefully structured plots that can
make Hartley seem pretentious and ce-
rebral. "Surviving Desire," forexample,
is filled with allusions (and direct quo-
tations in dialogue) to the Bible, which
are all too obvious.
Then again, any filmmaker who re-
fuses to conform to conventions might
be called pretentious. At least he's try-
ing something different. Hartley's pre-
tentiousness is also excusable because
of his fresh and light approach. His
films are, afterall, comedies. As Hartley
matures, his symbolism is sure to be-
come a little less forced and his films
ultimately more satisfying.

Christopher Lambert (wrapped in towel) stars in "Knight Moves" the best thriller this year since "Body of Evidence.'
'Kniht Moves' ain't noble-

01

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by John R. Rybock
"Knight Moves" might be the best
thriller of the year. Then again, when
you consider that, so far, the only other
thriller is the Madonna vehicle, "Body
of Evidence," this is a safe assumption.
The story has possibilities. A small
town in the Pacific Northwest is host to
achess tournament. In the middle of the
Knight Moves
Directed by Carl Schenkel; written
by Brad Mirman; with Christopher
Lambert, Diane Lane, Tom Skerrit,
and Daniel Baldwin.
competition, there is aritualistic murder
of a young woman. The star of the
competition, Peter Sanderson (played
by "Highlander" starChristopherLam-
bert) becomes the recipient of clues
from the killer. The police need
Sanderson's help to solve the case, even
though he is quickly their prime sus-
pect.
The plot has promise, but unfortu-
nately, it is not used to its fullest poten-
tial. "KnightMoves" is not thefirst film
to use chess as a metaphor for life, but it
puts the game in a new and interesting

situation - as a tool for a psychotic
killer. The quote "He's using the map as
a chess board" has been used in the
trailers for the film, but right there, in
that two second shot, you get almost all
of the chess clues used in the murder.
The filmmakers could have, and should
have, utilized the concept of chess more
in "KnightMoves," certainly more than
just in the title.
All the actors give reasonably good
performances - reasonably in light of
the material that they have to work with.
For example, how many ways can any-
one say "I must be facing north! My
powers come from the north!" with a
straight face? And Tom Skerritt should
be credited with giving a Tom Skerritt-
esque performance, right up there with
"Top Gun".
What forces drive Christopher
Lambert's character? Whatdraws Diane
Lane ("Streets of Fire") to him? What
does Daniel Baldwin's character have
against Lambert? What motivates his
actions in the end? All of these ques-
tions, and many more, are left unan-
swered in a movie which obviously
wants to work on a psychological level.
Thedirection by Carl Schenkel ("The
Mighty Quinn") would get a "B-" from

any film school. It never distracts the
audience from the tale occurring on the
screen, but that is only because it plays
it fairly safe. As far as interesting shots
go, they are few and far between.
The best direction comes at the be-
ginning, when Schenkel has some guts.
It is in the opening sequences, set in
1972 and filmed in black and white. The
sequences use lighting and camera
angles to create mood. The rest of the
film, the color portion, must rely on the
musical score for mood, but at times it
becomes very overbearing.
The entire story and resolution of
the crime hinges on misleading the
audience's perception. The filmmakers
work well to keep the audience guess-
ing, though a skeptic may just blow the
entire ending halfway through.
In the end, despite all these short-
comings, it was difficult not to enjoy the
movie. There is something fresh about
it. It does not frustrate the audience by
making illogical turns, as was a prob-
lem in "Basic Instinct." Rather, it is
possible for the audience to keep a step
ahead of the story, but only if the audi-
ence is on its toes.

0

a

WOMEN IN FILM SERIES 1993
presents
YVONNE RAINER
A significant dancer and choreographer who inter-
grated film into her work, Rainer went on to make
a series of films that have been honored inter-
nationally. Rainer is the subject of the
Indiana University Press publication, The Films
nf Yvnnne Rainer. She will screen and discuss

KNIGHT MOVES is playing at
Showcase.

7-

215 S. State St.
Ann Arbor
995-DEAD
(upstairs)
a - - rtasm. em- . ,

WR ITE FOR FINE ARTS
The Daily needs writers to review art exhibits, classical music
and dance. Stop by 420 Maynard, or call 763-0379 for info.

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