October 2010: Woody Allen (E Street Cinema)
and "Hair" (Kennedy Center): More Strange Bedfellows?
This week's culture fix involved Woody Allen's "You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger" and the Broadway early-seventies musical "Hair."
Neither attracted full houses.
In one (the film), the "fall guy" wins the day and in the other ("Hair") the "God's gift" ends up dead and totally compromised.
But it's silly to compare a period piece with a Woody Allen production--he habitually time-trips to produce his inimitable farces. This film is set in the present tense.
"Hair" commemorates the worst aspects of an era that will stand out for many reasons other than drug-crazed street hippies with a poignant tale. You've read my paieon/ plainh about that brief Camelot in time where the quality of education for middle-class whites reached its peak and threatened the right wing so entirely that they succeeded in dumbing down most of us, to the detriment of all of us except those Exeter grads who hold a hugely oversized proportion of our country's wealth and, with it, our systems, which they are attempting to force to ignore the common welfare.
"Hair" recalls that rejection of middle-class values and questioning of all conventions. What if? This. A reverse revolution followed, beginning with the election of Nixon in 1968. The super-rich Yippies, the crème de la crème of the movement, the brashest who initiated the convention of plaster-of-paris effigies amid protest marches that are now conventional in this milieu, fled back to their gated communities while the middle class retrogressed to the American dream.
A few stalwarts moved to communes you won't find on your GPS or Mapquest.
The most beautiful scene in "Hair" involves the stereotype the right wing loves to ridicule, a flesh heap getting high so gracefully, a dancing tableau vivant.
God did those kids work hard. Te band, visible on stage-right scaffolding, was remarkable. True to the opera-hall venue, the actors could pause for breath, but the music hardly stopped at all.
The scenes with straights confronting this rebellion are priceless, with the dumpy middle-aged newly wed suddenly parting her housedress to reveal a male body, which her new, diminutive spouse, busily photographing the era, is unaware of. What a voice--strength enough to send Barbra Streisand back for a few more lessons.
The star of the show, Claude, regresses, under parental pressure to cut off his sustenance, to his inverse, the Vietnam-bound, uniformed draftee (he first pantomimes wiping himself with his draft summons) whom his tribe cannot recognize. Neither can any of the audience, though he sings his same song of self-aggrandizement. In the last scene he ends up dead, lying on a new carpet, the American flag.
Why die for your country? asks the musical. Why not make love instead--questions that once opposed the Odes of Horace to the "bohemian" defiance of the love-crazed poetry of Propertius in ancient Rome.
I guess we're still asking that same question as the left wing fights the right wing, ridiculing them for wasting billions while at home the numbers of homeless and jobless are spiraling.