forms elocution exercises. (“Twenty ilar films comes immediately to mind,ndwarves took turns doing handstands on from A Night at the Opera to any ofnthe carpet.”) At first, these gestures seem those show-biz morality plays in whichnto be mere jokes, but one gets the sense the indomitable Judy Gariand and Mick­nthat the interior of Siegel, his mind and ey Rooney put on a show (“We’ll do it innsoul, are as vacant as Nevada. He is al­ the barn!”).nlowed or even required to imagine some­ In other words, I had my trepidations,nthing, and the terrain seems in no way to going in. But since Mephisto I havenlimit what he can invent.nbeen following Istvan Szabo’s work, andnSiegel dies, but Las Vegas happens and it has never been terrible. I was thereforenis there, in the movie and in the world, willing to waste a couple of hours if, atnsomeone’s vision materialized, or, just as the worst, I could pass the time lookingnunsettling, our tme natures revealed to us. at Glenn Close. She is terrific, gorgeous,nThe eminent Philadelphia architect, and almost convincing as she lip-syncsnRobert Venturi, suggested in the late 70’s to Kiri Te Kanawa’s Elizabeth. She arrivesnin Learning From Las Vegas: The For­ at an opera house in Paris, and she andngotten Symbolism of Architectural Form ‘ the conductor have an affair—of course.nthat we ought to give some serious The conductor, Zoltan Szanto, is playednthought to the buildings, signs, and all the by Niels Arestrup, and he is fine too,ntawdry glitz of that peculiar city. Barry able to suggest intelligence and sensi­nLevinson, James Toback, and Warren bility without being sappy, and withnBeatty, taking him at his word, have made a kind of puppy-dog attractiveness.nan elegant, improbably witty, and dark­ More important, Szabo’s verve is altolynthoughtful film.ngether winning. The fluidity with whichnIf America has its problems, though, he gets us from inside his besieged con­nEurope is hardly any paradise—or at least ductor’s head to external reality, andnnot according to what we gather from then just a bit beyond that, is a mostnIstvan Szabo’s new film. Meeting Venus. gratifying technical achievement.nIn a few broad strokes, we get indications Once the not-very-complicated con­nof the political, historical, and ethnic riceit of the film has been demonstrated innvalries that make it all but impossible for the first twenty minutes or so, the film cannreasonably intelligent and talented peo­ afford to relax and devote itself to havingnple to collaborate, say, on a production of a good time. There are a variety of send-nWagner’s Tannhaiiser. Well, it’s a simple ups of the eccentricities of the mem­nenough premise, too easy and programbers of the company and the crew. “Thenmatic if anything, and a long list of sim­ artists behave like bureaucrats, and the bu-n54/CHRONICLESn•LIBERALARTS-nFRAT EQUALS COEDnBowdoin College officials have voted to ban fraternities andnsororities “that exclude students because of gender,” reportednthe Maine Sunday Telegram last March. Scott W. Hood,na spokesman for the college, said the resolution “prohibitsndiscrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, gendernor sexual preference” in keeping with a “fully co-educational”nenvironment. Chi Psi president Brian C. Hawkin draws the linenat admitting women and plans to fight the ban on “same-sexnfraternities” that goes into effect September 1993.nnnreaucrats behave like artists,” somebodyncomplains. The ingenue is voracious andnambitious. The paymaster—or perhapsnit is a paymistress?-^-is monstrous and conspiratorial.nThe first tenor is a petty crooknas much interested in automobile parts asnin opera. The second tenor is a dunderhead.nThe choreographer is predictablynperverse. The sets are aggressivelynmodem and displeasing. Worst of all, thenmanagement is manipulative and thenunions are absolutely Kafka-esque. •nSzanto attempts to negotiate his way.namong these obstacles, talking all thentime about dedication to the music, andnto Wagner, but he is speaking a languagennobody seems to understand.nAt this point, where we are engaged butnhardly transported, Glenn Close makesnher appearance as the perhaps-just-a-little-bit-agingnsoprano, and she takes thenfilm into her own expressive hands. Szabonand the movie are home free from herenon. The love affair may not be altogetherna surprise, and the setup is obvious, butnthere is a sense of fun, an inventiveness,na mastery to which we yield quite cheerfully.nIn one extraordinary shot, a Closenclose-up, for a few beats, nothing happens.nShe is just reacting to a silence on the partnof the conductor, a failure on his part tonanswer a question she has asked. And wenwatch her as, without saying anything, andnhardly even moving a muscle, she goes innthirty seconds or so from adoration to apprehension,nto dismay, to rage . . .nBrilliant! Brava! Co see this!nMeanwhile, what happens with thenstory?nWhat can they do that isn’t trite or banalnor insultingly stupid? The question,nin more practical terms, is how to indicatenthe salvation of the production, how tonshow an aesthetic and even moral triumph,nand do this in visual terms. Wencan’t trust our ears, after all, because anyonenold enough to go to such a film understandsnthat it’s dubbed. We have tonsee a moment of grace.nIn an elegant piece of business, this isnjust what happens. For just a few framesnat the appropriate moment of the performance,nSzanto’s baton bursts intonbloom—like the pilgrim’s staff in thenopera! Another triumph!nFor that thirty-second shot of GlennnClose and then this splendid bit at thenend, which I suppose is Szabo’s, MeetingnVenus is a must.nDavid R. Slavitt is a poet and novelistnwho lives in Philadelphia.n