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FILM REVIEWS An Acquired Taste Ralph Arlyck's An Acquired Taste is comicly autobiographical but deadly serious on the subject of success anxiety among the EisenhowerKennedy generation. Some irony surrounds Arlyck's search for his personal goal to earn critical acclaim while sidestepping the rat race of filmmaking , public relations, and instant acclaim: having been called by Vincent Canby a "laid back Woody Allen," Arlyck in real life will be forever pursued by the comparison, although his films seek other audiences, and on the whole deal in subtle shadings, in contrast to Allen, whose movies are about as subtle as being hit on the head with a pile of bricks. What makes An Acquired Taste appealing as well as (in Hollywood terms) vulnerable is its penchant for modesty and self-revelation, as if the audience were asked to be the filmmaker's psychoanalyst. Arlyck's film weighs the relativity of "success" in America, from the anonymous, insulting "personalized" computer-produced letters in gaudy typescript which appear in everyone's mailboxes offering lavish prizes in exchange for subscriptions to pedestrian magazines to a sly acknowledgment that the film was produced on a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation ("a prestigious institution"). The film looks back at Arlyck's life from his vaguely traumatic 40th birthday party, revisiting, as it were, scenes from his earlier life, most of them rooted in the ritualistic exhibitionism of the American high school (Suffern, New York) and college (Colgate, from 1959 through 1962). The rest of the film is sort of a wry home movie, in which the filmmaker's wife Elizabeth and sons Kevin and Matthew (mostly the children) abruptly bring his timid dreams of "S"uccess HDack to earth. One would have hoped that An Acquired Taste would have been longer (it runs 26 minutes) because Arlyck's vision rings true, and he clearly has a good deal to say about how silly all of our pretensions are. Some of his other films, especially Godzilla Meets Mona Lisa, a lyrical documentary on the Pompidou Center in Paris, show that Arlyck has the ability to focus his relaxed manner and his trained eye to conventional, institutional subjects. In An Acquired Taste he seems to cultivate an eclectic, almost idiosyncratic home movie style, which is particularly fitting as 43 a vehicle to parody his subject. Arlyck's films bring to mind the images of the late photographer Diane Arbus, but on the flip side: his subjects are odd and sometimes grotesque, but at the same time they are comic, inflated icons. When he punctured them they did not blow up, as do Arbus' s subjects, but they sputter and sirfk peacefully to the ground. As such, An Acquired Taste gently probes our culture and its pompous mores through self-parody. Distributor: New Day Films, 16mm, 26 minutes, color Robert M. Levine, Chairman Department of History University of Miami The World of Tomorrow The World of Tomorrow was produced and directed by Tom Johnson and Lance Bird; written by John Crowley; narration by Jason Robards; edited by Kate Hirson; and historical consultant was Warren Susman. "There are moments when you can see the world turning from what it is to what it will be." These words, from the narration to the superb new documentary The World of Tomorrow, suggest the breadth of the filmmakers ' view. Ostensibly a documentary about the New York World's Fair of 1939, the film is in fact about much more: an historical cusp between the Great Depression and World War II; an exercise in American cultural self-revelation; a past perception of a future that never was. The Worldy of Tomorrow has not only scope, but also beauty, narrative power, and subtlety. Provocative and multi-layered, it should entertain, stimulate, and inform historians and students at all levels. Despite the difficulties of programming a 78 minute film, The World of Tomorrow is worth the effort; it would enrich any course on recent American history. A central source of the film's impact is an eloquent, funny, and poignant fictive narration written by John Crowley that purports to be the reminiscences of someone who visited the fair at the impressionable age of ten and...


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pp. 43-44
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