Movies to Make Mom Proud


DEAR Mother Dewitt

Thank you for your lovely letter. As you know. Reading Period has begun here at Harvard, so this will probably be the last communication you receive from your devoted child for a while. We are all busy catching up on the assignment or two that we somehow overlooked during the semester.

In Dewitt's case this need is especially pressing. You are absolutely correct in saying that taking seven courses was a bit foolish, mother dear, but fortunately Dewitt had the foresight to enroll in one of them pass fail. Also fortunately, several professors in addition to giving reading or writing assignments to help in preparing for final examinations have required or suggested the class view a film.

For Shakespeare this means watching Henry V (Dunster House). The idea of outnumbered heroes striking down the enemy for the honor of the fearless leader appeals to Dewitt, who sympathizes with the king Besides, Professor Laurence Olivier has made this a requirement for passing his class. For some reason that Dewitt doesn't quite understand--this is an English class, after all--the final will include a question that asks for some dramatic criticism

Dewitt can handle it, of course, having taken Professor Hitchcock's film course. "The Psychological Thriller in the 50's and 60's," last fall. Should a brush-up be necessary. Rear Window (Science Center B) is circulating again and so is your loving child's brilliant essay about it.


You might recall my postulation that the film's popularity is partly due to its having been out of circulation for nearly 30 years after its release in 1954, and partly due to the ease with which the audience sympathizes with Jimmy Stewart's character. As a photojournalist (i.e., professional voyeur) confined to a wheelchair with a broken leg, he starts to realize how much he enjoys being a spectator--and if we didn't, then what would we be doing at the movies, gaping at Grace Kelly as Stewart's girlfriend?

One new film that should be an assignment for VES 194. "Romantic Cinema," is Woody Allen's newest effort, The Purple Rose of Cairo (Harvard Square). It's your type of movie. Mother, with Mia Farrow laboring in squalor to keep herself and her brutish husband (Danny Aiello) alive, and Jeff Daniels swooping down off the screen to save her. Fred Astaire even makes a brief appearance.

This is only part of the schoolwork, but Dewitt does plan to take exactly one "study break" from all this academic pressure, and that's to watch the Adams House Raft Race on the Charles this Saturday. To set the mood for waterborne hijinks, Deliverance (Adams House, Friday only) seems perfect, but Dewitt may be too drained from review sections to enjoy the show.

By far the most difficult review sections are for "Music and Revenge," a course offered jointly by the Music and Psychology Departments. The final examination will consist entirely of an explication and analysis of the film Amadeus (Harvard Square). Professor Thomas Hulce (perhaps you've heard of him--it seems he's quite a gifted actor, judging from his performance in Animal House) has an unusual attachment to this film, and has us all convinced that Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) is the Devil, sight unseen. Dewitt is willing to give Salieri the benefit of the doubt unless Mozart stops that lunatic giggling.

For Dewitt's Sociology course on "Collective Behavior: Riots, Panics, and Speculative Crazes," the professor has assigned a rather unusual example of group dynamics taken to its logical extreme. The premise of Death Race 2000 (Kirkland House)--an cross-country automobile competition with time reductions awarded according to the number of people run down--strikes Dewitt as a reflection of the violence overcoming modern American society, or at least society at Kirkland House Where else but K-Land could you see Sylvester Stallone developing his dramatic technique?

There must be better ways to see the country, and one that immediately comes to mind is the movie assignment, for "Kerouac and the Search for Self," Lost in America (Harvard Square). Dewitt can hardly think of a more delightful tourguide than Airplane's Julie Hagerty whose husband, played by director Albert Brooks, foregoes the yuppie life and takes Julie along for a ride in the Winnebago.

If there is a more delightful tourguide though, it has to be Daphne Zuniga Dewitt doesn't wish to break harsh news too abruptly, but Mother, perhaps you'd better see. The Sure Thing (Sack Copley Place). In real colleges all across the country, real students are enjoying themselves with luscious blondes or fleeing to Southern California. One identifies with Henry V and Jimmy Stewart, but Dewitt is positively drawn to John Cusack as the woebegotten freshman in this charming slice of life instead of running down pedestrians or searching for his identity. Dewitt saw this movie and wanted to hitchhike to L.A. and take just three or four courses a semester and lie in the sun.

And here it be, Mother dear. Final exams are a vague, distant memory and the surf is bitchin'. See you in September.

Your loving child.