The Many Masks of DeWitt

Gatsby....God, what could have been....Where was I? CRIMSON: His voice... DEWITT: Oh, yeah--well, he's had the training. He chooses to

Gatsby....God, what could have been....Where was I?

CRIMSON: His voice...

DEWITT: Oh, yeah--well, he's had the training. He chooses to be inarticulate. Because that's modern man. Does that sound too pretentious?

CRIMSON: He's a modern man...

DEWITT: Yeah. God, he looked good. He's maturing into a remarkably handsome man. I wonder sometimes, though, how much passion he has in him. As he says in The Deer Hunter, he's a control freak.

CRIMSON: What about the violence in the movie?

DEWITT: Well, I enjoy violence. Ever since my accident, I've enjoyed seeing people mutilated or hacked up on the screen....Meryl Streep--I love her, She's so beautiful. She was awful in Julia, and I think it taught her a lot about film acting. She's another great stage actress. I slipped into Happy End on Broadway...I knew she'd become a star. Midsummer at the Yale Rep....a wonderful Helena.

CRIMSON: Do you think the movie is racist?

DEWITT: Yeah. I think so. Cimino was trying to paint Vietnam as a moral hell, but he did so at the expense of an entire race. It was quite a feat to make all the "Gooks" look alike--they don't, you know. It's powerful as hell, but there are too many improbabilities, and it's very disturbing morally. I think it will do for the United States in Vietnam what Gone With The Wind did for the Confederacy in the Civil War. In some ways, The Deer Hunter may be the Gone With The Wind of our time.

CRIMSON: Would you talk about some movies this year?

DEWITT: Get Out Your Handkerchiefs. About on-par with Cousin. Cousine: real lightweight. Maybe I could pick the ten best movies of 1978...I don't think I've seen ten movies in 1978. Terry Malick's Days of Heaven was wonderful. There's Dolby for you. And camerawork--Zsigmond again in places, and Haskell Wexler. Believe it or not, that movie taught me a lot about cinema...about compositions, how to use a moving camera, color...That's the best movie of the year, better than Malick's Badlands, too. His best. I loved Brooke Adams. Real odd, distinctive beauty. And intelligence.

CRIMSON: Did you like her in Invasion of the Body Snatchers?

DEWITT: Yes, but not as much. That was a pretty good movie. I think people came down too hard on it after Pauline Kael wrote that ridiculous rave--the one that got plastered over all the ads. Philip Kaufman has a witty visual style, but the ending was a bummer. People in San Francisco are getting a little too mellow.... mel, if you will. Everyone's a pod.

CRIMSON: What are your favorite movies?

DEWITT: Anything with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. You think I'm joking, right? No, I love those Hammer things. Horror of Dracula: erotic as hell. Fangs into big-busted women in low-cut night gowns...Dracula's a fun guy. They're bringing him back in a new movie with Frank Langella. I snuck into the theater when he was in Boston with it...hated the production, but Langella was terrific-the most cuddlesome vampire ever to suck a jugular. Laurence Olivier will be Van Helsing-I'm gonna be first in line. Then Werner Herzog has remade Murnau's great Nosferatu-the one where Max Schreck looks like a giant rat.

CRIMSON: But what about real movies?

DEWITT: You question with the truculence of many drugged Republicans. Why don't you walk back to your car? There's more in Boris Karloff's monster in Bride of Frankenstein than in Interiors. God, what a wheeze-bag bore. I was embarrassed for Woody Allen. Oooh, were those actors acting. Oooh, spilling their guts out into the camera, "I'm so empty I'm so depressed I've got so much anger in me Watch me crack up Boo-hoo isn't life depressing Look at those waves I'm gonna walk into the surf Whoosh whoosh crash splash." Bleah. That's Woody Allen trying to be arty. All that Freudian bullshit.... I like the guy, he's genius and all that, but he tried to be Bergman in one movie, and not even Bergman could do that. Anyway, Bergman's best movie is Smiles of a Summer Night. I wept at that. Good comedies are usually so sad....

CRIMSON: What do you think of Robert Altman?

DEWITT: The most. McCabe, Long Goodbye, and Nashville are three of the best movies I've ever seen. He brings out the inner beauty in actors, gets them to be collaborators.

CRIMSON: You said you liked Days of Heaven. Doesn't Malick use his actors, like mannequins?

DEWITT: Hey, there's no definitive nothing. Nowhere. I like Kubrick, and he's a cold bastard. I dig Antonioni. They use actors, but they're more concerned with exploring the boundaries of the medium. That's cool. Altman's films are sloppy, but so is true art. Your mother is art, man.

CRIMSON: What about the stuff playing at Harvard and around Cambridge this week?

DEWITT: Oh, you mean my regular column stuff. Yawn. They always show the same movies around here. Treasure of the Sierra Madre: One of John Huston's finest movies, with a flamboyantly weird performance by Bogey and real Mexican bandits....

CRIMSON: You sound as dull as your columns...

DEWITT: I have to churn this stuff out every week: forgive the stylistic lapses. That's all critics do anyway, spew cliches. Oral diarrhea. I try to keep my garbage lively, but that's all it is, garbage. I don't get paid. I'd rather be out strangling young women and hanging around playgrounds.

CRIMSON: You don't mean that...

DEWITT: Well I don't do it, but I like to watch it. I'm a voyeur. Hitchcock, DePalma, Scorcese's Taxi Driver. They keep me out of trouble. It's a crazy world, y'know Chaim? A crazy world. What else is this week? The Third Man. A thrilling Carol Reed movie, with those magnificent camera angles out of German expressionism and Orson Welles's Harry Lime, a slippery, outrageous performance by one of our greatest filmmakers. Touch of Evil is also in town. Best first and last scene in film history. Am I boring you?

CRIMSON: We have heard it before. Before we go for our car, let's hear about you. Where were you born?

DEWITT: Orange County, Providence, New Haven; don't ask. I had my accident in Cambridge. Never been the same. I'll never get laid again. Can't even eat. Spent the years since slurping butyl nitrate through a straw. You should see the zits...

CRIMSON: Many people think your writing is offensive.

DEWITT: I'm a bit of an exhibitionist at heart.

CRIMSON: Would you take off your mask?

DEWITT: I'd take off my clothes before I'd take off my mask.

CRIMSON: No shit?