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March 21, 2000 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2000-03-21

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Heeeerrrre's Johnny!
Based off the Stephen King novel,
"The Shining" finds Kubrick at his
scariest. At the Michigan, 7 p.m.

R .TS

michigandaily.com /arts

TUESDAY
MARCH 21, 2000

5

SClassic 'Exorcist'
repossesses the
silver screen

Writer pleased by
film renovations

- By Aaron Rich
Daily Arts Writer
If there is one thing I hate most about
money-hungry Hollywood executives
and directors it would be that after mak-

ing a successful
y
The
Exorcist
Grade: A
At Showcase
y
sions are mostly
never impress.

movie (read: "The
Abyss," "Natural
Born Killers,"
"Star Wars") they
see the opportuni-
ty to profit further
from the same
film and release a
"new director's
cut," frequently
including a new
ending, new char-
acters who had
been cut out of the
original or new
twists in the mid-
dle. The new ver-
hype and generally

bit miffed. What could they possibly do
to change the story? I thought. How
could they make it any better?
I'll admit right now that my doubts
were dead wrong. The new version of
"The Exorcist" is essentially the same
film that I have come to love with an
additional II minutes - made up most-
ly of two scenes and a few other singular
shots - that were cut out of the original
reels in order to make the film fit the 120
minute mold.
These newly added shots do not
change much of the story. Instead they
embellish subtle aspects of the plot in
order to smooth out previously rocky, if
forgivable, transitions.
The film revolves around young
Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair), a 12-
year girl who is possessed by-a demon.
As her predicament worsens and her
mother runs out of neurological and
psychological explanations, she turns
to a Jesuit at Georgetown University,
Father Karras (Jason Miller), who,
along with an older, more experienced
priest, Father Merrin (Max von
Sydow), performs the rite that the
Catholic Church has apparently had in
the closet for hundreds of years.
In terms of new scenes, aside from

s
Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) performs the exorcism on Regan (Linda Blair).

two brief shots at the beginning and
end that feel as though they could have
been in the original, there are two
major ones. One of Karras listening to
an audio tape of Regan recorded
before her possession and one of the
girl getting a check up at the doctor's
office as her demonic symptoms begin
to appear. There are also many small
surprises waiting to jump out at sea-
soned fans, including a bizarre crab-
walk down the stairs.
Perhaps the greatest achievement of
this version is the re-mastered digital
audio track. What was already a film
filled with striking sound effects and
an eerie score is made more menacing
and frightening. Small audio details,
such as airplanes flying overhead and

cacophonous voices from the pos-
sessed girl underline the already-
thrilling sights.
Don't get me wrong, the original
version of "The Exorcist" remains
spectacular - the new additions do
not affect that feeling. But the con-
temporary cut works wonders touch-
ing up small, old holes and support-
ing the brilliant performances by
Miller and von Sydow (neither of
whom need much help).
Unlike so many other new versions
of old movies, this new version of
"The Exorcist" simply enhances the
film with footage from the original
shoot rather than changing the story
and adding newly shot footage. These
pure additions are a welcome treat.

By Aaron Rich
Daily Arts Writer
William Peter Blatty, the writer and
producer of "The Exorcist;' told a story
in a recent interview with The Michigan
Daily about Pierre Bonnard, the French
painter, who goes into, the Louvre to
touch-up one of his paintings on the wall.
"The Security guards come upon this
old man sitting in front of a famous
Bonnard painting with a brush and he's
touching it up. And they ran and they
grabbed him as he was a desecrator. And
he shouts 'But I am Bonnard.' And he
was - he decided he could make it bet-
ter" Blatty said.
In his analogy, William Friedkin, the
director of the film, is the French artist
who decided to fix up his masterpiece
after it had already been accepted by the
establishment, simply because he felt that
he could "make it better."
Blatty, too, felt that the film, which has
been re-released with formerly unused
footage inserted, could be helped by a bit
of work. "This (new version) is the first
cut Billy (Friedkin) showed me. It was
the original script. I watched it (in 1973)
on a movieola (projection machine) and
it took my breath away. And then Billy
went back to the Burbank studio and the
next I knew these I I minutes had been
cut out of it," Blatty said.
He explained that Friedkin and the stu-
dio felt that the original 133 minute cut
was too long for most audiences, and that
a more streamlined 122 minute cut
would work better.
"I think (the new version) is wonder-
ful. I've been waiting so long for this to
happen. I been trying to get Billy to do
this for 20 years," Blatty said.
The writer began his screenwriting
career in comedy, writing such Blake
Edwards classics as "A Shot in the Dark"
and "Gunn." "But when the comedy
dried up in Hollywood and I couldn't get
a job writing anything serious, I though
I'd try ("The Exorcist").
Blatty was originally inspired to write
the story of possession when he read
about a real exorcism in Maryland while
an undergraduate at Georgetown

University. "I thought 'My God, if this
could be researched what a tremendous
boost to wavering faith this could be,"'
Blatty said.
After publishing the book in 1971,
Blatty got together with director William
Friedkin, who had just finished "The
French Connection," and single-handed-
ly wrote and produced the film, which
was originally released in 1973.
He said that most of the writing came
naturally, though some parts were harder
than others to put down on paper. He
mentions the explicit and disturbing
expletives uttered by young Regan
MacNeil, the protagonist 12-year-old girl
who is possessed by a demon, were espe-
cially difficult to write and listen to.
"Throughout the years, I've always
insisted that I didn't write any of (the
obscene lines) - (the demon) made
them up," Blatty laughed. "It really
wasn't thrilling."
"And through the years," Blatty contin-
ued, "I've never heard those lines really
clearly on the optical soundtrack (the tra-
ditional method of cinema sound). The
first time I heard it in digital this time, I
cringed because I could really hear it and
understand it - it's so in-your-face."
A new-digital soundtrack is only one
of the new additions to the original reels.
In the wake of the original release,
the film has seeped its way into the
common vernacular, most recently in
the Congressional confirmation hear-
ings of Justice Clarence Thomas in
1991. When information about
Thomas' alleged sexual harassment of
Anita Hill, the country learned about
the now-infamous line by Thomas,
"There's a pubic hair in my drink."
In fact, this is originally Blatty's line
from "The Exorcist."
"I was watching the hearings that day
and all of a sudden I hear 'The Exorcist.'
I looked up and I see (Senator Orin)
Hatch holding a copy of the book. I yelled
out to my wife, 'You will not believe what
I'm seeing. I nearly fell off my chair,"'
said Blatty.
This is an interesting comment from
the man who has made viewers hide
under their chairs in fear for 27 years.

Suffice to say that when I heard that
Warner Bros. was releasing a new cut of
William Friedkin's "The Exorcist," a
film that is all-too-frequently dismissed
as a "simple horror flick" and not fully
appreciated for its true greatness, I was a

"Blau' a clear 'Vision'

of an artistic life

By Ad Melber
For the Dailv
On the cover of Ursula Hegi's "The
Vision of Emma Blau" there is a soft-
focus oval painting in a cubist style. As in
most cubist work, the small, piece-meal
items in the image combine to create a
larger picture. This is an appropriate
artistic style to blanket Hegi's novel, for
as one moves through the meticulously

5
Grade: A-
The Vision of
Emma Blau
Ursela Hegi
Simon and Schuster

detailed portraits
of characters from
three generations
and two hemi-
spheres, a greater
vision of the beau-
ty and faults of
humanity rises. In
this sense, Hegi is
a cubist writer,
always halting to
add more history
to a character's

drive him from New York City to the
small New Hampshire town of
Winnipesaukee, where he resides for the
rest of his life.
In Winnipesaukee Stefan builds a fam-
ily and a grand apartment complex on the
town's lake. Natural tragedies make his
family crumble around him quicker and
more often than his beloved brick struc-
ture, reinforcing the contrast between
those achievements one can guarantee
with persistence and those one can only
be thankful for. The years wear on and
the Blaus' tragedies fade, though the
scars that they leave shape the fears, atti-
tudes and relationships of every family
member. As Hegi walks us through
Stefan Blau's second and third genera-
tions, the details and context provide a
rich framework that lets readers care
immensely about the characters.
If there is a generation gap between
Stefan and his children and grandchil-
dren, it has more to do with personality
than time. The greatest difference is his
status as an immigrant and their place as
native-born American -citizens. As one
who dreamed and worked for that goal,
Stefan appreciates it far more than they
do. However it is more than an issue of
earning one's home, but rather having
one at all. For after all the years in New
Hampshire, Stefan and his wife still feel
alienated by American culture and pro-
gressively less in touch with their
German roots. They find that when they
return to Burgdorf for a special occasion,
their friends tell them they have an accent
in German. This bothers his wife
immensely, for she explains 'that means
I have an accent in both languages now
... It marks me, instead of feeling con-
nected to both countries, I belong to nei-
ther one."
Beyond the separations and differences
that people impose on each other, there is

a commonality of the human condition
that Hegi alludes to throughout the text
without ever explicitly asserting it. The
closest she comes is while exploring the
anti-German sentiments froi World War
11, when flegi casually mentions that
Burgdorf was "a town no larger than the
town of Winnipesaukee." This compari-
son adds to what readers already know
about the people in these two towns; they
share the same hopes, fears, joys and
tragedies, while differing in languages
and customs. Like most of her themes,
Hegi shows readers these details without
prescribing a way to think about them,
though the poignancy of a society focused
on distinction rather than harmony is
clear.

One must look hard to find faults
with this book. Readers may grow
tired of Hegi's device of relating char-
acters' actions to their family histories
or her infusion of great meaning into
seemingly insignificant events. But
"The Vision of Emma Blau" is a
tremendous work of modern fiction. It
is a psychological character novel of
family and time that should appeal to
anyone interested in people.

1

fears, more context
to a particular
exchange, or more
nuances to a set-
ting without losing sight of the larger pic-
ture she is painting.
This picture begins in Burgdorf,
Germany in 1894, where a young man
named Stefan Blau dreams of America,
both as a place and an idea. Hegi writes
that "America had grafted itself into his
mind so tenaciously that he had dreams
of it every single night, dreams of an odd
and magnificent landscape ... inhabited
by buffaloes and by buildings so tall they
pierced the clouds."
Settling in New York City, Stefan finds
he has much more control over his life
and future than he ever thought possible.
But as Stefan's control over the tangible
elements of his life increases, problems
beyond the human realm befall him, and

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