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Vassar Miller Pho to by Ja me s Le ife s te Throughout the program, Miller smiled at friends and acquaintances in the audience. Clearly, the crowd felt, along with Rosellen Brown, that this was a “forceful woman . . . Houston’s own genuine article.” Margaret Tucker, pianist, and Mary Starnes, soloist, performed one of Miller’s poems, “Christmas Mourning,” set to music by Thomas Avinger. Ed Morris read two of Miller’s poems, “Or as Gertrude Stein Says . . .” from Selected and New Poems, 1950-80, and “On a Weekend in September” from a forthcoming book. At the end of the program, Robin Downs handed Miller a bouquet of roses in appreciation for a body of work which, as Stanley Plumly noted, has the “good guts” to speak in religious terms about subjects important to poetry: the limitations of the body and the soaring of the spirit. Lukewarm to The Big Chill By David Prindle Austin ILAWRENCE KASDAN’S The Big Chill has produced a minor sensation among well-educated, once-radical people in their mid-thirties people whose most vivid memories are of antiwar marches, drug parties in the dormitory, and televised Watergate hearings. The film seems to speak to our vague sense of having sold out, our nostalgia for that most intense period in our lives, and our yearning to recapture the lost camaraderie of the picket line and the psychedelic slumber party. The film perfectly evokes the tone of bittersweet confusion so many of us feel when we think back over the era between the assasination of one President and the resignation of another. The setting is the present-day reunion of seven friends who attended the University of Michigan in the late 1960s. They are brought together after David Prindle, author of Petroleum Politics and the Texas Railroad Commission, is an associate professor in the Government Department at UT-Austin. almost a decade by the funeral of an eighth member of the group, Alex, a suicide. Through snatches of conversation and oblique references, Kasdan manages to suggest a great deal about the lives of these seven in their younger days: they participated in the peace marches in Washington; they exhorted their fellow students on picket lines; they smoked a lot of dope. He can get away with mere suggestions because he knows that the members of his audience will fill in the details from their own experiences. Now, of course, all but one former freak has attained upper-middle-class success. There is an attorney working in a big Atlanta law firm, a doctor, a running-shoe entrepreneur, a reporter for People magazine, and so on. Only one, Nick, who appears to be a drug dealer, has not left the psychology and lifestyle of the sixties far behind. During the week-end. after the funeral, staying in a big house together, the seven smoke and talk, trying to explain, understand, and justify the people they have become. To Kasdan’s target audience, this is an entirely engrossing experience to watch. For one thing, it is about us, and we too want to know the answers the people on the screen are groping toward. For another, a great deal of the film is very funny, especially when the humor, rests on in-jokes from the sixties. For another, the performances, especially by Jeff Goldblum as the reporter and William Hurt as the drug dealer, are incandescent. Rated strictly as a way to kill two hours, The Big Chill deserves the affection it has received. Yet the film pretends to be more than mere diversion. It implicitly claims to be an exploration of what went wrong with the generation of the 1960s. Not merely an entertainment, it seems to teach us moral lessons about what is lost and what is gained in living every day. And as a moral statement, the film is hollow at its core. Despite its presumed intentions, it offers no more insight into the psyche of the sixties generation than The Return of the Jedi, which Kasdan co-wrote, offers a true portrait of heroism. The concern and emotional warmth that seem so evident in the script are really created by cinematic sleight-of-hand. Sixties THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21