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January 13, 1984 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily, 1984-01-13

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4

ARTS

T4e Michigan Daily

Friday, January 13, 1984

Page6 1

Subscribe to
The
Michigan
A *
Daily
RUSH,
KAPPA
Need a ride,
Call1662-0385

'Tb

By Byron Bull
THE PROBLEM with Michael
Mann's The Keep is one inherent in
so many recent films, very glossy on
the surface with only a great vacuum at
its heart. As a horror film, it's inex-
cusably timid, in fact, it's boring to the
point of being stagnant. Visually, with
its diffused lighting and drab hues, it's
little more than an expanded MTV
video, and as intellectually challenging.
Described by Mann as a "fairy tale for
adults" The Keep is just a mess of con-
fusing subplots, pretentious sym-
bolism, and genre cliches.
Mann showed great promise as a
writer/director with his one previous
film, Thief. But the great flair and
knack for electrifying cinematics he
displayed there are strangly absent.
His sensibilities here are those of a rank
novice, with plenty of resources at his
disposal and no idea what to do with
them. The Keep is part horror, part
tragic love, and part allegory but with
no connecting threads, and, thus, the
movie feels improvised, as if directed
from a handful of vague notes.

Ann Arbor Civic Theater
AUDITIONS
"The Diviners"
January 14-16; Callbacks January 18
Jan. 14 Mass Meeting and Open Auditions, 1 :30-4:3,0 p.m.
Jan. 15 Open Auditions, 1:30-4:30 p.m.
Jan. 16 Auditions by Appointment Only, 7:30-9:30
Roles: 7 Male, Ages 14-55 - 5 Female, Ages 16-50
Call 662-9405 for Appointment and Information
Scripts Available ANN ARBOR CIVIC THEATER
at AACT Offices. 338 S. Main - 662-9405

e Keei
The story is an assemblage of ideas
lifted from old "Night Gallery" and
"Twilight Zone" episodes. It concerns a
division of Nazis, in the early days of
the war, assigned to secure a remote
pass in the Carpathian Mountains. They
settle in a small Rumanian village and
set up base inside a monumental for-
tress (the Keep) so old not even its
caretaker knows who built it or why.
Touring its labyrinth of dark halls, the
garrison commander (Jurgen
Prochnow) examines the thick stone
walls and comments gravely, "This
fortress was not designed to keep
anyone out, it was designed to keep
something in...
That something is an ancient demon,
locked within for eons until the Ger-
mans accidentally release it. Called a
Molasar in the credits, it is a
tumultuous cloud of smoke and light
that blows the heads off its victims and
incinerates them, leaving cryptic but
indecipherable writings in blood on the
walls. Respondong to the commander's
pleas for help, an S.S. attachment (in
punk haircuts) arrives, and promptly
executes a handful of villagers thinking
they are responsible for the killings. To
decipher the runes they bring in a crip-
pled Jewish scholar (there's always a
scholarly expert in these films) who,
not so surprisingly, is accompanied by
his beautiful young daughter.
The scholar, played by Ian McKellen,
is quickly confronted by the demon
while alone. They form a Faustian pact,
with McKellen regaining his youth and
health in exchange for certain vague
favors. Meanwhile, his daughter
(Alberta Watson) meets and is quickly
seduced by a stranger called Glaken
(Scott Glenn) whose eyes glow green
when agitated and who seems to know
instinctively that the Molasar is loose.
That the two end up in bed after ex-
changing only a few words, is contrived
to say the least.
Little imagination is needed to guess
that Glenn's character is the Keep's
true guardian, waiting through the
millenium in case the Molasar ever
escapes. Their climactic battle is so
brief it's literally anticlimactic.
The proceedings are comic bookish in
the most derogatory sense. Good and
evil are defined in the same old
sophomoric Christian sense of any B
vampire movie. Mann lamely tries to
tie together the evil of fascism and
greed with that of evil incarnate but the
idea never gells. He loads the film with
overt symbolism. The Keep's design is
a blend of mediavalism with Albert
Sperrian influences, and the Molasar's
final incarnation, a shiny, glistening
black muscular form with glowing
eyes, is the ultimate mutation of the
black uniformed S.S. But because Mann
can't connect the two extreme concepts
of evil (human and supernatural), his
symbols lack power. His fairy tale loses
its simple elegance because it's bur-
dened with pseudo-intellectualism, a
myth without a moral.
Technically the film fails as well.
Mann has lost any of the magic he
wO17

I

I

I

lamely escapes

Ian McKellen uses a talisman to stave off the supernatural force held within a mysterious fortress in 'The Keep.'

commanded in The Thief and resorts to
lamely copying the techniques of other
filmmakers. The misty atmosphere
with shafts of almost solid light cutting
through recalls Ridley Scott, but
without the aura of mystery. Every
shot is crammed full of visual texture a
la Kubrick or Weir, butswithoutthe
submerged kinesthetic presence.
The man simply has no command of
his medium. In the opening sequence of
the film he employs a lengthy editing
montage, but without a motif to give it
any weight. It's a crass display of em-
pty virtuosity, and sets the tone for the
rest of the film. When he tries to
manipulate his audience, the best he
can do is fall back on the insultingly
stupid trick of making his actors jump
at sudden noises and walk backwards
into dark rooms.
Nor is there any mood of dread or
suspense, as most of the deaths occurr
off-screen. We hear the actors talking
about murder but we can't feel their
apprehension. Imagine what Jaws
would have been like if all the shark at-
tacks had been discussed but not
shown, and you are supposed to get the

idea.
The production design by John Box is
not particularly inspired either. His
design for The Keep uses a lot of set
space but fails to be effective. The
sweeping, streamlined arches and
ramps intrinsically conflict with the
overt primitivism and cancel each
other out. The Rumanian village is a
step up from *the old Universal backlot,
but consisting of only three 'or four
houses, it seems unrealistically small.
And the houses, with their fresh-painted
gingerbread look, would be more at
home as an EPCOT attraction. The op-
ticals, so integral a part of a film of this
nature are pathetically cheap looking.
A lackluster array of grainy superim-
positions, amateurish matte paintings,
and crudely rotoscoped lightning bolts,
inferior even to what one often sees in
TV commercials. The score by
Tangerine Dream is an inexhaustible
electronic blare. It doesn't underscore
the action as much as drown out the
voices.
The actors seem painfully unsure as
to how to interpret their characters.
Jurgen Prochnow plays much the same

role as in Das Boot, a sympathetic
German ashamed of his uniform. This
time he talks to himself and twitches a
lot but he's not as developped. Scott
Glenn projects none of the energy he
displayed in The Right Stuff, wandering
about looking pained andconfused, as if
someone told him he was playing the
Silver Surfer. Under pounds of uncon-
vincing latex prosthetics, Ian McKellen
does a great impression of John
Carradine as a mad scientist, uninten-
tionally. Alberta Watson's acting range
seems limited to posing for the camera
and parting her lips. And, in the grand
manner of Hollywood window dressing,
she takes her clothes off for an un-
needed lovemaking scene.
:Ultimately The Keep leaves one
feeling only dumbstruck at how such a
poorly conceived film ever got financed
in the first place. Paramount would
have been better off forbidding its
release and writing the whole thing off
as a loss. Or even better, they should
have stuck it in a special vault. One not
designed to keep anyone from getting in
but...

Records

q

Elvis Presley - A Legendary
Performer, Vol 4 (RCA)
Some people get resurrected more
often than others. Consider Mr.
Presley, whose umpteenth post-mortem
record, Elvis - A Legendary Perfor-
mer, Vol. 4, has just been released. Six
years have passed since the king of

rock and roll last lay down at
Graceland, and still his voice is uplif-'
ting and lifted up.
Volume four features dead Elvis
singing live from Las Vegas, live from
Madison Square Garden, live on 1968
television. There's even an airheaded
live interview from Tampa, made in
1956, when the phenomenon was still
without paunch or rhinestone-studded
jumpsuit.
The living gem of the collec.tion is a
previously unreleased outtake from the
original Sun Sessions, entitled "When It

Rains, It Really Pours." Still raw and
raunchy from 1955, the Voice never
died, although it can't quite make it
through the song. Elvis also fails to
finish a dripping version of "Are You
Lonesome Tonight" recorded in Las
Vegas in 1969. And, although he's not
laughing, the Vegas duet with Ann-
Margret will crack up even the most
stoic admirers.
Still, you've got to admire his
tenacity and enduring relevance. The
King is dead, long live the king.
- Ben Ticho

4

Univers
MA S

-1

ity

Activities

Center

iS

MEETING

1

Monday,
Anderson R
VIEWPOINT L
HOMECOMING
MICHIGRAS
*3*Un A ^"r UrA kU

January 1
7:30p.m.
loom, Michi

Committees:

6, 1984
gan Union
MUSKET
LEGE BOWL
IAL EVENTS

Dance
Theatre
Studio
711 N. University
(near State St.)
Ann Arbor
Classes in ballet,
modern, jazz, tap.

I!
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' _

ECTURES

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