Roberto Rossellini whisked in and out on Francis Ford Coppola’s private yellow-and-black jet, spent a quick day, Sunday last, in San Diego. Fruit salad for lunch at the Marine Room, a guided tour of the Salk Institute conducted by Jonas Salk himself, a spaghetti dinner at the La Valencia (or so I’m told.) All of the foregoing is of piddling consequence to film aesthetics, and so is the hour Rossellini later spent fielding questions in the cafeteria at UCSD. And that is no more, no less, than is to be expected when any world-famous film-maker appears in front of scores of strangers, even when the strangers are as mannerly as the ones gathered last Sunday night. In the questioning process that night, a surprising number of intriguing ideas and insinuations about the Italian film-maker’s work came up, while in the answering process there was the customary cover-up (Rossellini does not care to be a film director. Rossellini does not care to be an artist. Rossellini aspires to be a human being, simply, simply), and anyone in the audience who went away disappointed would have had to go in naive. But in the Thursday-through-Sunday period that was devoted to Rossellini, with all-day film screenings, a panel discussion headed by Manny Farber, and finally the question-answer game, the intrepid filmgoer at least had an opportunity to catch up with, and assay for himself, the renowned Rossellini of Paisan. The Miracle, Voyage to Italy, and the renewed Rossellini of The Rise of Louis XIV, Man’s Struggle for Survival, and Blaise Pascal, and somewhere in the title of Revelle Cafeteria someone can now scratch “Rossellini was here.”
In its normal channels, San Diego’s movie scene has been locked in an impersonation of a log jam for some weeks, and none of the occasional new arrivals has thrown enough weight to break things up, or to lodge in my brain for very much longer than its running time. While rattling my newspaper and waiting for a change in this bleak situation, a hefty piece of correspondence in answer to a past column gives me a chance of stay active, to keep my hand scrawling across a page, with some supplementary hissing and bristling and tensing of muscles. This, then, is what the mailman delivered, several days ago:
To the Editor:
Duncan Shepherd’s grim harvest of dour adjectives regarding UCSD’s film programs was an unfortunate departure from the realm of criticism into the more precise and demanding area of the editorial. Mr. Shepherd was definitely out of his element and deserves four stars for ignorance of the facts (it is possible to receive four stars).
I am responding personally to this vicious and unfounded attack in order to clarify much of the misinformation Reader readers may now believe as a result of Mr. Shepherd’s exercise in straw-grasping. Despite his smug tirade, I would cite Duncan Shepherd for his own contribution toward making the UCSD film program what it is today.
The films we run at UCSD are not intended to satisfy those outside the campus community, least of all Mr. Shepherd, who appears totally dissatisfied with the medium itself. The films presented are completely student financed, student run, and chosen by a committee comprising mainly of students (sic). We are prohibited from advertising any of these films off campus and are not in competition with local movie houses as Mr. Shepherd intimates. A great number of resident students either do not have transportation to reach, or cannot afford to attend, commercial theaters. Therefore, their alternative is not where but whether to see the kind of contemporary films offered in our Friday series.
Mr. Shepherd also fails to adequately discern the chasm seperating (sic) the Friday from the Saturday films. The Friday films are intended to be relatively current, popular, and not so deep that they add further strain to an already taxing week.
As much by definition as contrast, the Saturday series is considerably more deliberate. These “remedial classics," as Mr. Shepherd handles them, (again student financed, produced, [sic] and selected) are designed to acquaint students, some for the first time. With representative films from a category sometimes described as “art,” low budget, deep, underrated, exemplar [sic] of a particular filimic device or attitude , political, foreign, avant garde, important, or even classic. Few, if any, are considered box office bonanzas.
Human film critics are subject to sensorial saturation, like everyone else: they have often viewed such a great amount of footage that mans films, no matter what their merits, are rejected simply because they do not provide a Bizzare [sic] enough stimulus. Fortunately for most of us, our senses are not dulled to the point of requiring such jarring. Nor do we harbor cravings for that esoteric jugular and can still see a good film for what it is.
As for the film [sic] that wasn't shown, Mr Shepher [sic] didn't attend. I can appreciate the clear objectivity one gains with distance, but his indignance was ludicrous.
I welcome constructive remarks concerning the programming at UCSD and, indeed, the attendance of those outside the UCSD community. We would all take Mr. Shepherd more seriously if he were enrolled here, therein paying for the programs and the right to criticize them, or if there was reason to believe that his attack was more substantial than a vendetta or at least a grudge. That the Reader would solicit this office for photographs to accompany Mr. Shepherd’s remarks is not in keeping with the usual class the Reader displays. Neither is allowing Mr. Shepherd to stray from the calendar page.
Arts & Lectures/Campus Program Board
First of all, "ignorance" is a charge at which I would nod my head and never bat an eye, no matter who is accused. And I would fully expect that anybody who commands the wit displayed at the beginning of the letter (that is merely the 85th jibe I've heard about the Reader movie ratings), and who also commands the authority to have his personal letters typed by a secretary, would be certainly able to set me right on a few points. However, after all is read and re-read, where are "the facts" which are promised in the letter's first paragraph? Where is there one tidbit of information that is not obvious, already known, or immediately guessable? This letters seems to brush past only a few of my complaints, and misunderstands most of those as well; meanwhile, in its excuse-making, it widely skirts a sizable fraction of my complaints, it deliberately avoids mention of plainly relevant information that would add tarnish to the UCSD film program it is nakedly incorrect on scattered bits and pieces, and it is fuzzily incoherent on others.