.S( KIIN JnMen to Man: a DuologuenDiner: Written and directed by BarrynLevinson; MGM.nby Eric ShapearonOne big cheer for a movie in whichnhumanness—with all its weaknesses,nfoibles and modest strengths—does notnrun against humans (as is de rigeur innmodish literature and its byproduct,npopular moviemaking). It’s a refreshingnchange to see a movie in which decency,nloyalty, friendship do not ruin existencesnand drag stuporous wrecks of humanitynto their prescribed habitats—the junglenof psychoanalytical couches, the swampsnof abominable marriages, the purgatoriesnof self-realization, the Bosch-likenlimbo of human-potential centers andnpsychiatric clinics, and finally to the mostnunsavory treat of Hollywood’s belovednsymbolization—a depraved penitentiary.nIn Diner, there is no gourmetndestruction of the individual or societynbut, on the contrary, a humble enrichmentnof man through other men, of ancluster of people through the very rudimentsnof unpretentious realism. Thenrulers of today’s Hollywood seem unablento understand one simple truth: that excessivenpessimism turns as quickly intoncaricature, meaninglessness and boredomnas mindless optimism does.nDiner is an unassuming antidote: itnfinds its way between the vagaries ofnsadness and premonition and hope andnwarmth, among the natural complexitiesnof basic relationships and uninspiringneverydayness. What results is a miniphilosophynof friendly, post-Darwinian naturalismnin which man does not eat man,nbut enjoys his being next to himself andntries to communicate his feelings of acceptancenor disappointment with thenmeager means which are offered to himnby his not-too-original personality andnnot-too-elevated grasp of what life is allnabout. This is not particularly enlightening,nin comparison to what the 20th-centuryncreative culture has tried to convey tonus, but it is a welcome reprieve from thenfashionable highbrow and middlebrowncultural fare that sees artistic virtue andncognition in freakish obfuscation andnoutright lies about us. The tale of fivenmen who wrestle with the minor traps ofnliving their youth, and whose defensenagainst existential defeat is endless talking,nhas a curious healing potential. Thenmoviegoer quickly understands Diner’sndifference from the routine cinematic fixn—it is the same as the difference betweennhealth food and a nourishing, tasty, honest-to-goodnessnAmerican hamburger.nby Stephen Macaulayn”Who’s the best singer—Frank Sinatranor Johnny Mathis?” he demands, explainingnthat the answer is “important”nto him. White shirt, tie, sports coat.n”Elvis Presley,” replies the young mannwith hair slicked by pomade, an iridescentnsuit, gold jewelry including a classnring on a chain around his neck, andnpresumably thick-and-thin stockingsncovered by shiny black shoes known asnpoints.nThe answer is right for the speaker,nwrong for the auditor. It doesn’t meannMr. Macaulay is a frequent contributor tonthe Chronicles.nnnanything; it really doesn’t matter. It’snjust idle chatter in a diner at 3 a.m., notnthe Fitzgeraldian 3 a.m., when grand,nstruggles commence among mind,nbody, and soul, but the 3 a.m. whennmen—boys, actually—in their earlyntwenties meet to idle away time becausenthe dance is over and the bars are closed.nA diner in Baltimore in 1959- Five youngnmen: a greaser, a Wasp, a married man,na rebel, a fan. They really don’t meannanything in the grand scheme of life: exceptnfor the fact that Fitzgeralds are rarenand that they arc typical of the peoplenone passes on the streets every day in anyncity, types who don’t wonder if they’renleading lives of quiet desperation, butnrather remember the times when theynhad good times, who think that theyn”have a history,” as one character innDinerputs it, without realizing that eachnday adds another line or paragraph tontheir chronicle. The brief interrogation isnindicative of this attitude or approach tonlife. It points up to the fact that communicationnbetween individuals is an extraordinarilyndifficult thing to effect, notnbecause of the background noise or interferencenthat people like Norbert Wienernand Michel Serres describe, but simplynbecause there is little to say. However,nfriendship and love are not based on verbalncommunication. Actual statementsnbetween lovers and/or friends are morenoften than not trivial (‘ ‘Ask me what ‘sonnthe flip side of any 45,” “Who was thenleading wide receiver for the Colts inn19–“). They communicate throughnproximity, through closeness. When thisnisn’t achieved and maintained there is an•falling apart and the answer to a questionnabout the leading pop singer becomes anframe for a bitter exchange.nDiner is a slight movie—spare, notnanemic. A diner in Baltimore in 1959-nFive young men: $2000 lost in a bet on anbasketball game and no money to pay it;na pregnant friend who begins to take onnthe image of a wife; a marriage in whichn^ • M H 4 5nOctober 1983n