A Search for Signs of Understanding

Having seen and loved the stage version of "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe," I found the movie to be a successful rendering of the material from one medium to another, unlike Kenneth Turan (Calendar, Oct. 11).

His review's focus on costumery to the exclusion of substance betrays--in the context of a film dealing seriously with issues about women and women's lives--a brand of male-centeredness that is yet too much with us.

With the country spellbound by the spectacle of a lone, courageous woman telling an all-male Senate committee what the experiences of women can be like, it ill behooves our cultural critics to demonstrate so openly their need for similar enlightenment.

I applaud the filmmakers for stretching the envelope of the "performance film" genre by having Lily Tomlin's characters appear costumed and on sets. I simply cannot see it as an "unwillingness to trust either the material or the audience," as Turan writes. Rather, I viewed it as an appropriate, well-integrated use of the language of motion pictures, a way innovatively to enlarge upon the magic of the stage performance through the magic of film.

I am compelled to think that this particular review is an unfortunate mirror of our times, reflected in Turan's blindness to the social and cultural issues addressed in this film. In this era of mass media that batters us with so much that is irrelevant, that trivializes emotion, that treats sexual and feminist and political issues in a superficial and patronizing manner, it is wrong not to encourage efforts to put these concerns on the table, as this film has done.

Turan has obviously missed the experience that the audience I saw the film with had: one of connection, meaning and emotion, in an artful and elegant manner.

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