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writer-director Albert Brooks, who also plays Daniel, creates is more like Caesar’s Palace than Plato’s Academy. Daniel is assured that there is no such thing as heaven or hell, but this placid paradise of miniature golf and piggish portions ought to be Hades for anyone with half a brain. And Brooks’s script is as witty as a bingo game. About the cleverest touch in the film is the cameo appearance, in a building called the Past Lives Pavilion, of New Age guru Shirley McLaine, to explain reincarnation. Buck Henry is squandered in the role of a laconic defense attorney who, unaccountably, substitutes for Bob on the second day of Daniel’s hearing. Perhaps because they are the only dead ones with any life, Daniel and Julia find each other and immediately, sappily fall in love. Julia also happens to be the name of the woman, with whom Winston Smith defies Big Brother’s suppression of passion in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. But Streep’s Julia is no renegade; when she remarks: “This reminds me of Disneyland,” her tone is not derogatory. And rebellion against the order of Judgment City seems neither possible nor desirable. Defending ‘Your Life is disturbing in its failure to offer judgment on the sovereignty of torpor. “Don’t worry, be happy” is the subtext of this film, though it is as much a prescription for damnation as salvation. As we and he re view it on screen in the Judgment City hear ing room, Daniel’s life has been monumen tally unremarkable. The prosecutor dwells on moments in which Daniel was cowed by a schoolyard bully, invested in sickly cattle in stead of lucrative wristwatches, and brushed his teeth with Prell. She pronounces him yet too timorous to merit release from his terres trial cycle. Because Julia, however, knows what she wants and goes for it, she will not need to return to earth. Daniel wants Julia, and the only way he can avoid their parting is by summoning the mettle to pursue .her. The message is simplistic, particularly since it was by pursuing what he wanted, a $39,000 BMW, that Daniel found himself in this pre dicament in the first place. Defending Your Life is appropriate for cable showing in Judg ment City, where everything con spires spires to reduce stress and thought. HE MARRYING MAN is a 1930s screwball comedy set in the 1950s with a 1990s sensibility. “It all started on a warm June night in 1948,” explains Phil \(Paul film with his wisecracking voiceover narration. “For Charlie, it was the beginning of the biggest roller coaster ride in the whole history of romance.” Applying hyperbole to a satire, Phil is introducing us to the bizarre case of hig pal, a man who committed matrimony four times, with the same woman. The screenplay, by Neil Simon, is based very loosely on the sequential marriages of shoe store tycoon Harry Karl and actress Marie McDonald. toothpaste fortune worth $30 million, is bedaughter of the most powerful producer in Hollywood. Charlie calls himself a “sportsman,” and his life thus far has been dedicated to cars, horses, and women. However, goodtime Charlie is ready for a change. “I want a woman I can depend on,” Charlie tells suspicious of the sybarite’s intentions. Days before the lavish wedding, Charlie and four buddies drive off to Las Vegas for a final bachelor bash. In a nightclub on their way to a brothel, the five happen to catch the sultry singing act of Vicki Anderson \(Kim when they discover that Vicki is the property Theodore Melbridge: The Si lent Genius, is one of those rare stud ies that forever transform the field. four of them decide that inviting Vicki to their table could be hazardous to the health. For Charlie, though, danger is an aphrodisiac, and he crawls through Vicki’s window and into her arms later that night. The two pounce on each other in ecstatic spasms, but post-coital depression is intensified by the sight of Bugsy and two thugs calmly gazing at the couple. Instead of murdering the sexual poacher or rending his limbs or the suddenly detumescent organ, Bugsy, who wanted to dump Vicki anyway, devises a crueler revenge. He forces Vicki and Charlie to marry, thereby ruining Charlie’s relationship with Adele, and her furious father. As the years proceed and Charlie and Vicki divorce, remarry, redivorce, remarry, redivorce, and remarry, a perfect chemical coupling is complicated by other equations. “Why do you want to marry the same woman four times?” Phil asks Charlie. His reply: “It fits.” But long-term relationships are more intricate than piping. At the start of the film, Vicki is, at least in the macho eyes of Phil, a platinum bimbo. Charlie is drawn to her exquisite body precisely because he expects nothing but the supreme erotic encounter of his life. He is not disappointed in that, but what he also gets, because that is what she wants him to get, is a vibrant woman determined to get what she wants. Charlie is what she wants, but she also wants her own career. When the death of Charlie’s father compels them to move to Boston so he can run the family toothpaste business, Vicki spends two years as an idle socialite before she files for their second divorce and runs off to sing. Like Pretty Woman, White Palace, Work ing Woman, and much else in American cul ture, The Marrying Man pairs an upper-class man with a lower-class woman. Charlie is as suave as inherited, Boston money can make you, while Vicki speaks with the Hollywood version of a Brooklyn, proletarian accent. So, too, do Charlie’s four buddies, hungry young careerists aspiring songwriter, singer, co median, and baseball manager for whom Charlie is a munificent prince. Their nasal, whiny tones make them sound like the cal low, shallow boys they are, desperate for male bonding to protect them from a fearful woman like Vicki. By the end of the film, Vicki has the power, and Charlie is a whimpering, mooning fool. His social and financial indis cretions have rendered Charlie dclass, while,in a reversal of the Cinderella syn drome, Vicki, the woman, is the one Ewith class. VERY STUDENT OF FILM is famil iar with Eadweard Muybridge and George Wiles, who pioneered the new technology and art of cinema in the first two decades of its history. But, a century after the first movies were being created, the name of Theodore Melbridge has vanished into such impenetrable oblivion that it is almost as if the man had never existed. John McIntyre and John Moynihan, two young filmmakers who were classmates at New York University, have set out to correct the historical record, to remind contemporary audiences of precisely how indebted we all are to Melbridge’s ingenuity and fortitude. Their 26-minute documentary, Theodore Melbridge: The Silent Genius, is one of those rare studies that forever transform the field. Not only does it offer an utterly persuasive account of Melbridge’s rightful place in the history of film, but it also provides an extraordinary glimpse into what it might have been like to invent the medium that most now take for granted. Narrator Ian Maitland contends that Melbridge was “the single most influential filmmaker of his time.” That time, he reminds us, began in 1875, with his birth in Hungary to a family of 34, and concluded with his death in 1935 and obscurity. Melbridge was thought to have been seven when his family moved to Quebec, and, orphaned shortly thereafter, 16 when he arrived in the United States. The Jersey City of 1891 offered a challenge to a spunky visionary, and he seized the opportunity to do what no one else was doing. “He had nothing to work with but his imagination,” Mentes specialist John Frazer explains about Melbridge. McIntyre and Moynihan have managed to come up with rare footage from Melbridge’s See Movies page 23 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21