Nashville was about the ugliness ofnAmerica. A pigheaded obstinacy innportraying America as ugly is as nonsensicalnand repulsive as presenting hernas an unassailable happy-ending paradise,nbut Altman appears not to noticenthis elementary equation. A Weddingnis about the ugliness of affluence andnsocial custom, about the hideousnessnof the comfortable Middle-Americannstratum. There is no attempt to structurena parable here, every facet of lifenis either sin or abuse because it isnAmerican. As sin and abuse put into anshallow social perspective are the mainstaynof the daily press, Altman’s constantnhinting that he has discoverednsomething turns into a boring fraud.n* * *nMidnight Express is one of the mostnscurrilous movies ever made, and perhapsnone of the most despicable ever tonbe distributed in America. It tells thenstory of an American jailed by the Turksnfor smuggling dope. What it saysnamounts to the idea that a dope addictnStagenor hashish smuggler is a victim martyrednby those who, in one way or another,ntry to prevent societies from being decomposednby narcotics. This messagenis enough to make some young peoplenform long lines in front of theatres innNew York City and Los Angeles. Thenmovie seems to be considered both annanthem and a battle cry for both kindsnof Americans: those who become poisonednby drugs and those who poisonnthem—a rare unity between the poisonernand the victim. The dual rationalenof the message is: “That’s what theyn(governments, Turks, narcotic agents)ndo ioyou (us) just for our serene, harmlessnintention to get stoned! Hate them,nbe it Turks or feds, they are the samenbloody fascistic sadists in Turkey asnthey are in Kansas or Cleveland! Hatenthem, you innocent victim!”n* * *nA footnote: the Chicago Tribunenthought it suitable to serialize excerptsnfrom Mr. Hayes’ book, which servednas the material for this movie. DnEntertainment as Cautionary TalenNoel Coward: Present Laughter;nDirected by Roderick Cook; StudebakernTheatre, Chicago.nAin’t Misbehavin’: The New FatsnWaller Musical Show; Conceivednand Directed by Richard Maltby, Jr.;nLongacre Theatre, New York.nDoes it make sense to exhume NoelnCoward from an era when existentialnand social problems were analyzed andndealt with by means of exhilarating giddinessnon Broadway.” From our historicalnperspective, we know that plenty ofnepochal ills went somehow untreatednbecause people preferred to laugh andnforget, which a decade later made themngo to war and die.nYes, it does make sense. WhatevernCoward’s intellectual, or artistic, weight.n221nChronicles of Culturenas measured against the maximal criterianof culture, he belongs to thosenwho knew how to form sentiments withoutnthe pressures of inflated ideologies.nThis is a forgotten art nowadays. Thenfeatherweight story of an all-too-charmingnactor who loses track of the distinctionnbetween performing and existing,nwho is loved, liked, desired and admiredndespite his addlebrained disloyalties,nand every possible transgression ofnfriendship, common decency and goodnsense, settles nothing in us or aroundnus. But, once again, it proves that Coward,nlike many of his contemporaries,nknew how to distinguish betweennweirdos, whose eccentricities neverndispel the boredom they generate withntheir freakishness, and the so-calledncolorful characters which commandnour attention by first generating sym­nnnpathy. Maniacs and nuts, so abundantlynmanufactured by the Liberal Culture’snfashions, bore us more than they suspect;ntheir harangues about their ownn”depth” and “sensitivity” are mostnoften cheap bromides. The two-dimensionalnGarry Essendine, Coward’s creation,nsomehow succeeds in engaging ournattention. Why.-‘ Anything he and hisnentourage have to say is pure bubble,nbut, apparently, there are quality bubblesnand schlock bubbles—and the theaterncan never escape the enigma ofntheir differentiation. We have reachedna point where any psychoanalytical interpretationnof literature, or drama, evennif introspective, now sounds like annintolerable platitude. Noel Coward losesnno time on ponderous banality: he diffusesncharming commonplaces, and henwins us—at least for a two-hour span.nAnd we feel grateful to him for givingnus a bit of mindlessness.nPresent Laughter is, of course, onenactor’s play and it is refreshing to revertnto that venerable tradition of a purentheatrical romp, in which whatevernPeter O’Toole does, says or intimatesnconstitutes the magic of the fleetingnmoment. The pristine times of the LondonnStrand, when people went to thentheater to have a good time, and whenna good time was a part of characternbuilding, seem now like a better andnhealthier era. It was not, but it certainlynwas wiser.n* * *nAin ‘t Misbehavin’ is allegedly a musical,none of those which flow throughnBroadway in bunches, perhaps a slightlynbetter one. However, after it ends, onenhas a peculiar feeling, not often experiencednin the modern, post-romanticntheater that, for over two hours, thisnunassuming piece of singing, dancingnand acting has not left us with a singlenmoment of uninvolvement. Somehow,nin a wizardly but forgotten way, the intensitynemanating from the stage hasnengaged every bit of our attention, ourselves,nour ability to focus on thensounds, the gestures, the mere presencenof five performers, one piano player.n