Tracy are period cars — including andelicious lavender Cord that Breathlessndrives around in. There is a nostalgianfor the 30’s of Chester Gould’s stripnand the innocence of its assumptions,nso that the grown-ups in the audiencenare flattered and comforted while thenyoungsters are being entertained. Suchnvillains as Flattop, Pruneface, and ThenRodent are more fun and less troublesome,nsurely, than Mike Milken. Theynwere rather fun as grotesques, in partnbecause the subtext was that theirnvillainy was a deformation of a morennatural condition of virtue and decency.n(Milken looks rather like MichaelnKeaton out of his Batman suit.)nIt used to be a rule of thumb thatnwhen you noticed how pretty a movienwas there was probably somethingnwrong with the plotting, the acting, ornthe directing. In those self-consciousnshots in which the cowboy and hisnhorse would appear upside down, andnthen, as the camera pulled back, we’dnsee that we’d been taken, that we’dnbeen shown their reflection on thensurface of a pretty lake, and that, aboventhem, correcfly oriented, was the realnhorse with the real cowboy sitting tallnin the saddle. We were being diddled.nThat still holds in Westerns (or would,nif they were still making Westerns), butna comicbook movie has different rules.nHere in Dick Tracy the idea is tonconjure not so much the wodd of thenfunnies as the nostalgia for them. Thenreal comics were mosfly ugly with thencolors garish and often off-register.nThe film takes this dreary truth andnuses it as an occasion for a flight ofnbizarre and mosfly breathtaking mattenshots and palette effects. The primarynUnabridged Books onnCassette Tapesn^•^’Columnist George Will has stated, “I gonthrough a book a week using time otherwise wastednin taxis, shaving or walking!’ (NY.Times)n^’•’Try listening to fulllengthnrecordings of booksnby the world’s greatestnminds. We specialize innHistory, Politics, Economics,nPhilosophy, Religion,nSocial Issues,nandTimeless Literature.n^•’For free catalog, calln1(800)729-2665nFor Rent or Purchase. . .nCLASSICS ON TAPEn58/CHRONICLESncolors are the hues of dreams. Thisnisn’t Chester Gould so much as Gouldnremembered and transformed by a RoynLichtenstein — or, in this case, cinematographernVittorio Storaro.nIn Batman, when Nicholson appearednin a purple suit with a brightnorange shirt and a metallic blue tie, wenwere seeing something arbitrary andnmannerist. The next shot might havenhis shirt and vest off-aqua. The ugliernthe better, or anyway the wilder thenbetter in a display of cheerful campnnonsense. In Dick Tracy, however, thencolors are characters. The costumesnrelate to the sets, and the suggestion isnthat there is a coherence somewhere, ifnnot that of the world then the morenimportant coherence of dream andnfantasy.nThe temptation is to comparenNicholson’s work with that of AlnPacino (who is Big Boy) and DustinnHoffman (Mumbles). Nicholson gotnmore attention in Batman becausenthere was nothing else to pay attentionnto. But Pacino and Hoffman are quitenwonderful, and what they do is in thenservice of a work that includes theirnodd characters and draws its strengthnfrom them. I don’t think Pacino hasnever been better. His menace isnmenacing — especially when he is rehearsingna line of exhausted chorines innhis night club. Hoffman is perfecflynbrilliant as Mumbles, also selfparodyingnbut in a way that doesn’tnever distract from the film’s actualnbusiness. And even Madonna, who isnnot exacfly on my top-ten list of peoplenI’d cross the street to see or hear, isnquite right in this, sexy and, in the end,nslighfly frightening, as she should be inna late-latency drama.nIt’s my view that Dick Tracy is onenof the great movies. That WarrennBeatty was able to do so grand a job onna budget as big as this (and thereforenwith such scrutiny from villains,nknaves, and fools) is remarkable. Hisnarrogance and zaniness have been wellndemonstrated — in Ishtar for instance.nThose qualities were his allies this time.nThey kept him from worrying toonmuch about what would sell, whatnwould do well, what would bring innthose teeming hordes that would benneeded to rack up that thirty-milliondollarnopening weekend managementnhad in mind. {Batman’s opening weekendnbrought in $42.7 million in boxnnnoffice receipts, just as a comparisonnfigure.) Beatty just made a movie, anperfectly lovely movie, which was morenthan nervy. It’s miraculous.nOne of those films that underscorednthe disappointment of Disney executives,nopening the same month, wasnGaroico Pictures’ Total Recall (it didnthree million dollars better in its firstnweekend of play) in which ArnoldnSchwarzenegger is . . . Arnold Schwarzenegger.nThis time he is a secretnagent from Mars, or maybe not (that’snthe minimalist plot — I swear). I sawnthis in a local theater, on opening day,nand it was an experience. We’re notntalking motion picture art here; we’rentalking raw meat being flung to thenbeasts. Every time anybody gets kickednin the testicles (which seems to benalmost a way of saying hello) or impalednor has his forearms severed, thenaudience makes a kind of animal noisenof delight. The plot is as irrelevant innthis kind of picture as in a pornographicnfilm, where the only object is to getnfrom this trio to that quartet. Here, too,nthere are trios and quartets, and superiorsnand inferiors, and the gorier thenspecial effects the better the mobnseems to respond to it. Schwarzeneggernkeeps making jokesn(“Consider this a divorce,” he says tonhis wife as he shoots her dead with anmachine gun), but they are only winksnand waves to the animals in the auditorium,nacknowledgments that we’renhaving a great time in this abattoir,naren’t we? The jokes in Dick Tracy arengood natured and actually very funny.nPacino, parhcularly, has a kind of moronicndelivery patterned perhaps afternsome of Kevin Kline’s routines in AnFish Called Wanda. Big Boy is alsonfond of inventing quotes from greatnthinkers: “A man without a plan is notna man — Nietzsche.” What makes itnfunny is the earnestness, the stupidneflbrt with which he delivers such fakenpearls. Schwarzenegger’s jokes are notnstraightforward but embarrassed, as indeednthey ought to be.nThat’s the environment. That’s thenecology. And in such a setting, DicknTracy isn’t just another blossom innsomebody’s garden but an astonishingnflower that has managed to bloom in antoxic dump.nDavid R. Slavitt is a poet and novelistnwho lives in Philadelphia.n