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November 29, 1984 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1984-11-29

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ARTS

The Michigan Daily

Thursday, November 29, 1984

Page 5

Ice cream,

Comedy,

Comfort, and Joy

By Byron L. Bull
' OMFORT AND JOY, the latest film
- by Scottish director Bill Forsyth is
a wonderful gem of a movie that just
isn't for everyone. Then again, neither
were any of Forsyth's three previous
lowburning comedies, That Sinking
Feeling, Gregory's Girl, and Local
Hero because Forsyth's sly, comic
sleight-of-hand all to easily can slip
'over the heads of "hip" audiences
Whose sense of humor was long ago
=benumbed by the blunt wit of "Satur-
day Night Live" and "Monty Python."
Forsyth is one of the finest film-
'makers blossoming on the international
scene. His works have a nicely polished
'but still homemade quality to them.
His films are like modern fairy tales,
taking place in his own private magical
worlds that operate by their own
idiosyncratic laws and are populated by
as eccentric a cast of characters as one
could hope to find. .
The setting for the film is the city of
Glasgow (though I suspect it bears little
real resemblance to that city) and it's
protagonist is anything but herioc.
Alan Bird (Bill Patterson) is an
amiable (to a fault), close-to-bland
fellow who works as a smooth-talking
early morning disc jockey for an E-Z
wake up program. Bird is quite comfy,
he likes his job, enjoys his local
celebrity status, and head over heels
with his beautiful red haired live-in
girlfriend (who just happens to be a
irrepresable kleptomaniac).
Like the awkward, confused teenage
boy in Gregory's Girl, or the ambitious
young corporate rung climber of Local
Hero, Bird is a bright chap, but
seemingly perpetually perrlexed, who
seems to be just a passenger in his own
life.

Early in the film Bird's girlfriend,
whose been helping decorate his
Christmas tree, nonchalantly starts
wandering about the place, picking up
her knick knacks from the shelves and
putting them into boxes. When Bird asks
her what's going on she casually men-
tions that she's moving out, and that
she made the decision some time ago
but just never got around to mentioning
it. Moments later a party of their
mutual friends show up with a truck,
and begin carting out all of the fur-
niture. Bird eventually resigns to the
fact and even ends up helping gut his
own apartment.
There he sits, a man in his middle
thirties, with a receeding hairline, an
empty apartment, and suddenly
loveless, facing a yawning gap in his
life. Somehow his best friend's envious
commentary that he's been handed a
rare opportunity to redesign his own
life just isn't much of a comfort, and he
wanders trancelike through the local
department stores, absently picking up
little odds and ends for his place (none
of which match because he's not even
paying attention to what he's buying).
The one thing of any value left in his life
is his prized B.M.W. Cabriolet, and the
next morning he finds even that's been
soiled by the neighborhood fowllife.
Drifting aimlessly to and from work,
Bird's fortune changes only when he
takes some small initiative. Spying a
beguiling young woman inside a good
humor van beside him on the freeway,
Bird follows the truck off the ramp and
onto a small country road. Suddenly a
carload of skimasked thugs with pipes
(hired hands from a rival ice cream
company) descend on the van and trash
it, while its occupants try to fend the at-
tackers off by hurling ice cream and
syrup out at them.

It seems that two confection kingpins
are vying for complete control of the
city and suburbs, and take the ice
cream business as seriously as their
predessecors did who bootlegged liquor
or drugs. Bird, whose been dying for
some excitement, lets his imagination
run off with him and takes off in pursuit
of the story with grand delusions of
being an investigative journalist, even
if he himself can't quite take it all that
seriously.
Forsyth's humor is a unique measure
of tongue-in-cheek and the absurd, he
avoids cheap pratfalls and zingy one-
liners to opt for subtle visual gags and
quirky plot twists. A lot of his jokes
could easily fall dumbly flat (like
making one of the gangs a family of
emigrated Italians who try to comfort
themselves like the real mafioso) in
less calculating hands, but Forsyth
slips it by with an understated silliness
that's never cheap.
There aren't any great guffaws in the
picture, but there are some wonderful
little jokes (like one of the gangs
making a hit on Bird by plastering his
car with ice cream cones) that get un-
der your skin and make you giggle un-
der your breath for minutes afterwar-
ds. There's an undefinable quality to
his style, that, like a good New Yorker
cartoon, just does not translate very
well verbally.
The movie doesn't gell too firmly as
far as the plot is concerned, but Forsyth
has never been as concerned with
sticking to a straight narrative as much
as he has been with finding any number
of ways to get sidetracked. It even
seems like the bulk of the scenes are in
fact throw aways, like Bird's visit to the
company psychologist who it turns out
is more off keel than anyone else, that
run like ingeniously constructed little

Alan Bird (Bill Patterson) plays a disc jockey who stumbles into a bizzare ice cream gangwar in the deliciously absurd
Scottish comedy, Comfort and Joy.

films within the film. There is a little
trouble with this approach, in that the
story is so diffuse one never quite feels
fully satisfied at the end of the film.
And at film's end there are dozens of
loose ends left untied, only Forsyth has
always done that number, the idea
being that his character's futures are
as uncertain as those of anyone in the
audience.
The most curious thing about the film
is that while Forsyth's work has always

been tinged with a trace of the bitter-
sweet, this one is decidely much
darker, lapsing even into strongly
melancholic interludes. The tone
swings from the sentimentally sweet to
sudden moodiness, and coupled with
Mark Knopfler's equally evocative
shadowy soundtrack, the effect can be
quite absorbing.
Forsyth has always has a knack for
making movies you feel every bit as
much as you watch, and here he paints

Charlie Pickett and

Eggs

cook at Joe

S

By Dennis Harvey
F LORIDA'S Charlie Pickett and the
Eggs are a fine unwashed rock and
roll band in the barroom rave-up
league. They bear some resemblance
to such Southern bluesrock populists of
yore as Lynyrd Skynyrd, but without
any of that less appealling jamsville
bloatation; their authentic grunginess
carries not even the faintest whiff of
calculation.
They're the sort of band that does not
sing of "my girl," but rather of "mah
woman." The sort who can make feed-
back truly expressive. The sort of
super-barroom outfits that cult legends
(and retrospective albums like the
Nuggets and Pebbles series) are made
of.
Unfortunately, they're also the sort of
band that really needs an active, if not
necessarily packed, audience to spark
hysteria in and gain energy back from.
Otherwise the music just sits there,
whirling in a vacuum, no matter how
good the playing or the songs are.
So it's a pity that the Tuesday night
audience for Pickett's Ann Arbor debut
at Joe's was on the definitively measley
side. Great bar bands need a great bar
crowd to be great; on Tuesday this
band could only be very good.
That's the bad news. The good news
is a.) given the rather dispiriting
welcome, Pickett and the Eggs even-
tually managed to get a fair head of
musical steam blowing all the same;
and b.) Ann Arbor will get an unusually
fast chance to atone for this error of
neglect when the band returns to Joe's
in less than two weeks, on Sunday,
December 9.
The show at Joe's started out hesitan-
tly, with the band obviously less than
enthralled at the size and noise level of

the crowd. This resulted in a bit of that
hollow feeling you get when watching a
performer who clearly suspects no one
is really paying any attention; there's a
slight feeling of going-through-the-
motions.
Still, the music and playing were
great on "(I'm Goin' Back to) Marlboro
Country" and the lament "If This is
Love, I Want My Money Back," both
penned (the former in '66, the latter
recently) by Charlie Pickett's cousin
Mark Markham. More stomp great-
ness was achieved by "I'm Gone," the
"true story" "My Little Sister," (a
'billy rock classic that would have
made B. Holly happy), the hyperactive
"'Trash Fever" and "(Hope You)
Liked It a Lot," the latter two off the
band's excellent new EP on Open
Records, Cowboy Junkie Au Go-Go.
"Liked it a Lot," doesn't actually stomp
beat-wise, but it does emotionally: a
sneaky slow-tempo, slow-burning tune
about romantic betrayal that betrays
its utter cool only with some sustained
guitar feedback agony. This may be, in
its much less raving manner, the most
devestating rock pronouncement on
jealousy since Marianne Faithfull's
spitting "Why'd Ya Do"?
The second set seemed to loosen up
considerably as Pickett and company
resigned themselves to the disappoin-
ting turnout and invited requests. They
did some of their standard covers, like
the Flamin' Groovies "Shake Some Ac-
tion" and a screamin' ace version of
"Talahassie Lassie."
Shouts for Velvet Underground
material resulted in two Reed
covers-"Waiting for My Man" and
"White Light White Heat"-that surely
would not have shamed Lou, and which
in some respects even had a tad more
ooomph than the legend himself
managed to rustle up last month during'

his admittedly excellent set at Hill. The
penultimate moment, and maybe the
whole set's highlight, was another tune
off the Cowboy Junkie EP, "But I
Didn't," which is about as poppy as this
band gets and was pretty yip-yip-yahoo
good about it.
Needless to say, a band this direct in
appeal and this weatherbeaten by club-
bing around for years had better be in-
strumentally swell, and the Eggs did
not disappoint. It takes lots of both in-
spir-and perspiration to do what they
frequently did-achieve interludes of
pure, controlled crunch 'n' din. Big
hats off to the big guitar sounds of
Pickett and John Salton; to bassist
Dave Froshneider; and to the beating
of John Galway, who actually managed
to get some of the lonely schmoes at
Joe's out onto the dancefloor. Pickett
himself has an agreeably rough-hewn
voice that's fine for the loud songs and
effectively aw-well-screw-ya-anyway-
honey on the slow ones.
Well, you all blew it. But you can
right your wrong next Sunday.

a portrait of a character grappling with
loneliness and depression that is vividly
haunting at times (particularly in
several touching scenes where Bird
daydreams fantasies about his
girlfriend coming back to him).
Forsyth calls this his most personal
film to date, and it's also his most
mature. He seems to be fashioning his
own distinctly personal style of tone
film, one that mixes sweetness and
mild pathos in perfectly measured
quantities. A less sensitive director
could have easily let the material slide
into despairing romanticism, but For-
syth keeps all the elements in firm con-
trol, and succeeds in raising the filmed
comedy to an utterly sublime level.
This is an original, thoroughly
rewarding film, and the fact that it's
scheduled to leave the Ann Arbor
Theater after tonight is an unfortunate
loss to the local cinema scene. If you
have the chance to see this film tonight,
do so. It's a rare treat.
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Daily Photo by DEBORAH LEWIS
Wynton Marsalis will bring his trumpet to the Michigan Theater tonight at
7:00 p.m.
Wynton Marsalis tonight

The boy-wonder of the jazz trumpet
Wynton Marsalis is back in Ann Arbor.
One of the few artists in recent years to
capture mainstream critical attention
for a "just good jazz" format, Marsalis'
return to Ann Arbor tonight should
prove effective to even the I-kinda-like-
jazz crowd.

The concert will be held at the
Michigan Theater this time which, in
some ways may prove superior to his
appearance at the Power Center in
March of last year. For information of
tickets or whatever, contact the
Michigan Theater box office.

0C0
DAILY FIRST MATINEE ONLY $2.00
$ OO THIS ENTIRE AD GOOD FOR
w TWO TICKETS AT $3.00 EACH. 0

NAD The High End
is now
Affordable!

Stop by Ulrich's and see a Josten's representative on
Tuesday, Nov. 27 through Friday, Nov. 30, 11:00 a.m.-
4:00 p.m. He will be glad to show you the entire line of
rings from Josten's. During this week you can get $20
off of White Lustrium rinas

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