Wednesday, September 19, 1984
The Michigan Daily
Woman in Red'
By Marcella Harb
If one enjoys Gene Wilder's brand of
comedy, one will be mildly amused by
The Woman in Red. For the rest of the
audience, however, Wilder overexposes
himself as director, writer and star of
yet another Hollywood remake.
The film is an adaptation of the
classic French comedy, Un Elephant
Ca Trompe Enormement. Boy sees
girl, boy lusts for girl, and finally, boy
sacrifices wife, family, and job in order
to satisfy lust.
When Teddy (Wilder) gets his first
glimpse of Charlotte (Kelly LeBrock),
she appears non-descript. As she
passes over an air vent, however, her
red silk skirt flies up, revealing skimpy
red satin panties. Teddy's eyebrows
shoot up as Charlotte revels atop the air
vent. She wiggles about in simulated
playful abandon as Wilder leers. (One
would hope LeBrock's performance
here is not compared with its in-
spiration, Marilyn Monroe's perfor-
mance in The Seven Year Itch.)
In a film such as this, where women
are seen either as sex objects or
cuckolds, the male chauvanist:
viewpoint is bound to reign. When
trying to cheer up a friend, for exam-
ple, Buddy (Charles Grodin) offers,
"Hey, let's go see some tits and ass."
In another attempt to cheer up a
friend, Buddy fakes blindness and in
the process destroys a restaurant,
slapstick humor which is reminiscent of
the restaurant scene in My Favorite
Grodin develops his character well,
at least until the part where it is
revealed that Buddy is a closet
homosexual. Grodin appears uneasy in
this role, probably because it is an ab-
surd attempt to delve into the
psychological reasons for why and how
This aspect of the film also leaves the
audience somewhat befuddled. The
scene in which Buddy's male friend
drives up to Buddy and his straight
friends and calls Buddy a "bitch"
before dumping the contents of Buddy's
suitcase into the street is as unexpected
as it is irrelevant. To make things wor-
se, Teddy accompanies Buddy back to
Buddy's unfurnished apartment and
inanely asks, "So, what color are you
going to paint this place? To which.
Buddy, in tears, responds, "shocking
pink." This scene between the two men
is tender and deep, but has no place in
Kelly LeBrock, perhaps best known
as "the mouth" in the Christian Dior
lipstick ad campaign, may be sensuous
in her role of Wilder's object of desire,
but her performance reminds one of
Christie Brinkley's infamously insipid
role in National Lampoon's Vacation.
Gilda Radner, one of the main
reasons why anyone would see this
film, is disappointing in her role as Ms.
Milner, the woman Wilder mistakenly
thinks is "the woman in red." After
being rejected by Wilder, radner
destroys his car, upsets his office, and
continually shoots him looks of venom.
Radner could have done more with her
role, but instead makes Ms. Milner as
unappealing and one-dimensional as
The scene stealer in this film is,
without a doubt, Michael Zorek, who
plays Shelley, Teddy's daughter's
boyfriend who lusts after Teddy's wife.
Shelley is a pudgy, odd-looking young
man with an orange mohawk who gets
laughs simply by appearing on screen.
Stevie Wonder and Dionne Warwick
provide the film's score.d It is in-
teresting to note, however, that the
music is not geared to the talents of
either of these fine musicians. Stevie
Wonder and Dionne Warwick singing a
combination of Top 40 and Muzak? It's
In The Woman in Red, Wilder attem-
pts to cast himself as an innocent.
When Charlotte tells Teddy he is "very
gallant," he replies in a ridiculous
voice, "I'm just a romantic." The sad4
thing about this scene is that it has the
potential to be absurdly funny, but it
just lies there growing moldy.
Wilder is unable, despite his
numerous responsibilities, to suc-
cessfully hold this film together. He
should have stopped acting after Willy
Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, a
movie in which the sweetness wasp't
Kelly LeBrock plays Charlotte, the focus of Gene Wilder's lust in 'The woman in
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- 'Mystery Walk'
, most of us have heard the
sound of M&M on the radio
ack Stations/White Stations,"
ous dance tune begging us to
the ceiling in celebration of
barred, integrated radio air-
he trend began with Motown,
wed up by the likes of Sly and
ly Stone, and was most recen-
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, 11322 Idaho Ave., #206 WA,
Ieles, CA 90025 (213) 477-8226.
(a.k:a. Mark Gane and Martha John-
son) have desided that the mission is
now theirs for the undertaking.
Some of us may likewise remember a
boisterously sugar-tinged bit of chip-
per, pop celebrating the merits of dune
life from 1979 called "Echo Beach," by
Canadians Martha and the Muffins.
Well, surprise, kids! M&M are the self-
same crew, only pared down to the
barest essentials of Muffinness with
Gane and Johnson intact. That album,
their debut - Metro Music - paved the
long, steady climb to Mystery Walk,
with more twists, turns, and bizarre
surprises than you'd expect from a
band that originally picked their name
to oppose the rash of violent and/or
nastily-named Canadian surrogate-
punks playing the circuit at the time.
Since my maiden spin of Metro
Music, I have been a dedicated Muffins
fan. Their second album, Trance and
Dance, is, by far, their worst, full of
recycled song ideas and left-over tracks'
from the Metro Music session. Besides
the ethereal title cut, and a spunky
remake of Chris Spedding's "Motor-
bikin'," Trance and Dance is mostly
They then made the most astonishing
about-face I have ever seen from a
fledgling, "still learning" band by
recording This is the Ice Age, and
album so packed full of smart pop
music and idiosyncratic experimen-
tality tht I consider it their master-
piece. Ice Age also heralded a minor
radio it with "Women Around the World
at Work," wherein since-departed sax
Their record label was so pleased by
this success that they abruptly folded,
leaving M&M out in the cold until
Current Records, a Canadian sub-
sidiary of RCA, picked them up. Their
first for Current, Danseparc, was an
aggressive, exhilerating disc showing
the Muffins (now down to four) in tip-
top form, with guitarist Gane searing
the frets as he had never done before.
Which brings us to Mystery Walk.
Now it's M&M ("occassionally known
as" Martha and the Muffins); the
groove is much more regular, with
many cuts leaning toward dance-hall
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"Black Stations/White Stations" is
the most blatant example of funked-up
M&M that you will get on Mystery
Walk. Other songs - "Cooling the
Medium," "Come Out and Dance," and
"In Between Sleep and Reason"-
exhibit the same kind of trappings, but
they are not as constricted by them as4
"Black Stations," with its straightfor-
ward integration message. "Cooling
the Medium" appears to be about
drowning and life after death, for
example, and "Sleep and Reason"
about thinking too hard, but with all the
The two ingredients that have always
made M&M consistenly interesting
happen to be the two persons behind
most of the music. Martha Johnson has
a voice. that could melt ice, and is as
impassioned here as always. Arguably,
however, it is Mark Gane's influence on
the sound of the compositions tha gives
them their edge.
Gane plays guitar like a junior-league
Robert Fripp, switching tonal qualities
and chords with effortless effervescen-
se - he is one of the most subtly effec-
tive guitarists I've ever heard. Plus the
songs he sings here - like the ones
from past albums - are the most
strange and alluring.
"Big Trees" is a short one poem
about - you guessed it - trees; it's
backed musically by what sounds like
treated percussion and toy pianos
making a tinkling, washy background.
Preceeding "Trees," Gane tears
through a particularly Frippy solo in "I
start to Stop," which also features
gorgeous cello accentuations by Rufus
Cappadocia. It's an eerie song, full of
"found" voices and other music nuan-
ces, making it the highlight of side one.
Side two features Gane's vocals -on
Mystery Walk's best song, "Nation of
Followers." The lyrics say it all: This
is how it goes:/We believe in
before we believe in ourselves
This is how we live:/We believe in
God/Before we believe in our-
selves/Nation . . . /Nation of
followers. The music is punctuated by
weird keyboard treatments, studio
drummer extraordinaire Yogi Horton's
Phil Collins-esque percussion, and a hot
solo from Gane.
It is, in the end, a fifty-fifty share of
the credits between Gane and Johnson
which constitutes the M&M sound. Her
piano playing and voice are as much a
Muffins 'trademark as Gane's brittle
rhythm guitar and syncopated, jagged,
songs. On "Garden in the Sky," John-
son imparts a sultry vocal over the
album's prettiest musical backing,
highlighted by co-producer Daniel
Lanois' pedal steel guitar solo. 'Alibi
Room" reminds me of (don't ask me
why) Al Stewart circa Year of the Cat,
and "Rhythm of Life," the closer,
leaves one on an up note with the song's
sincere delineation of a world without
boundaries, sharing universal
language; the same kinds of themes
have been explored by M&M before
(such as in Danseparc's "World
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