Thursday, January 10, 1985
The Michigan Daily
Another brother hits and misses
ByIByron L. Bull
HE BROTHER From Another Planet is
certainly not a bad film, nor is it
a very good film. It's a real hit and miss
package, wonderfully unconventional
but not that absorbing. Watching it I
couldn't help but think that
writer/director John Sayles has better
things to do with his time (and ours).
Sayles is the intelligent, independent
young writer turned film maker whose
previous work (Return of The Secaucus
Seven, Liana, Baby It's You) is charac-
teristically low budgeted and crudely
crafted, but full of genuine wit and
humanity. Brother is Sayles' first pet
project, a purely fanciful fun project
that concocted so he could fool around
with some of his favorite guilty
pleasures, namely a love of sci-fi and
martial arts B-movie adventures.
Brother is basically a left field inter-
pretation of the E.T. premise, concer-
ning black mute extraterrestrial (Joe
Morton), who fleeing an interplanetary
slave trade, crash lands his ship into
the Hudson Bay. He swims ashore, ap-
propriately and poetically enough, onto
the ruins of Ellis Island, where the
walls still echo with the ghostly clamor
of past immigrant hordes when he rests
his hyperempathetic hand on them.
Making his way into New York's
famed ghetto, he's quickly assimilated
into the city's underlife, and taken into
the fold as just another street urchin by
the gang at the local hole-in-the-wall
tavern. With a knack fo repairing video
games with but a touch, he quickly fin-
ds a job and wins the affection of the
ghetto's denizens who take the gentle
loner in as a surrogate child. Only
when two strangers, nerdish white men
dressed all in black (one of whom is
played by Sayles himself) come
calling on him with nasty intentions do
they suspect the Brother is more than
just another derelict.
Brother flows rather raggedly, more
a series of short, individual contained
scenes than any kind of a complete
narrative. Sayles, who cut his teeth as
a short story writer, does concoct some
nice little moments: a one night stand
with a jaded soul singer, or a
hallucinatory odyssey through the night
streets, but it's all just tacked together.
Then he drops in an incongruous sub-
plot about a businessman/dope dealer
that never develops into anything sub-
stantial and sticks out like some
The single worst scene, concerning
two hopelessly straight white college
kids who wander lost into Harlem, is
sloppy, selfindulgent, and not the least
The dialogue, usually Sayles'
strongest point, is here surprisingly
stale, more like what second rate
writers usually stick black actors with
on television programs. Unlike the
whimsical caricatures of white middle-
class dialects that Sayles polished to
perfection in his previous three films,
his characters here are stuck muttering
witless, cliche riddled pseudo-black
Sayles' biggest fault is that he still
hasn't developed a cinematic sense. He
stages his scenes like they were for the
stage, and his camera set-ups are un-
dynamic and stiff, as is his editing. He
at least gets his camera out of doors
this time, and moves it with a little
more fluidity and confidence.
What Sayles really doesn't show any
sense of developing is any visual style.
Brother is as textureless and unstylized
as a first film. The idea for this film
supposedly came to Sayles in a dream,
and it's such a dreamlike, slightly
surreal feel that the material needs an
alien, exotic ambiance to make the
ghetto as unworldly as the Brother sees
it. But Sayles just aims his camera and
shoots, and the rest is unevocative and
dreary. Even the Brother's accidental
heroin trip (he finds a needle in a gutter
and just sticks himself with it) is blan-
dly, unimaginatively rendered, save for
some garish lighting effects.
Morton gives a fine performance in a
limited role. Not having any dialogue,
he manages to neatly communicate his
characters gentle, Bambi-like presence
without resorting to cheap miming
gimmicks. But for all his amiable
charm, in the end there's little for him
to delve into, and Brother is as
enigmatic at the films closing as he was
at the outset. The rest of the cast is
comprised of amateurs who, without
strong direction, wander through their
roles looking consciously a bit unsure of
just what it is they should be doing, and
where they should stand.
Sayles' script for Brother was sup-
posedly concoctted in only two weeks,
and the film subsequently shot under
austere, restrictive circumstances. As
a result, the finished product seems
only half finished, its never as clever or
surprising as one keeps expecting it to
I did enjoy the film despite its faults.
Even when Sayles is at only half per-
formance, he's still far more original
and interesting to watch than just about
anyone else working in the commercial
cinema. I just wish he'd put out the
masterpiece he's capable of instead of
fooling around like this.
Hello . . . is that right?
The Michigan Daily?
Carries Bloom County ...
THE BLOOM COUNTY?
SAT.& SUN.FIRST MATINEE ONLY $2.00
HE'S NOT JUST ANOTHER
JOHN SAYLES BEST FILM YET!
THURS. 7:00, 9:10
FRI. 8:30 p.m., MIDNIGHT
DIRECTED BY JONATHAN DEMME
Warner Brother's newest release 'The Killing Fields' outlines the eventful
story of New York Times reporter Sidney Schanberg and Cambodian jour-
nalist Dith Pran in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.
Visage-Beat Boy (PolyGram)
It's a mild shock (one more amusing
than unpleasant) that Visage, a.k.a. ex-
Blitzboy centerfold Steve Strange and
mentor Rusty Egan, have bothered to
give the record market another go at
this point in time. After all, the short-
lived New Romantic fashion-as-music
craze of which Steve was joke King is
long dead (though by way of in-
troducing several groups it had a far
greater impact on the;U.S. market than
anyone could have realized at the
time), and Steve's subsequent
retirement from the recording industry
in favor of running a ridiculously
fashionable British disco seemed the
Yet here they are again, a good two
and a half years after the release of
their inane 2nd LP The Anvil. The sur-
'prise is that Beat Boy, while hardly
good, isn't as hopelessly out of date as
one would expect. As with many pure-
product-type releases, the moneyed
pool of hired talent come up with one or
two uninspired but fairly appealing
tracks-probably the best is the poppy
"Questions," with its neat horn-section
Elsewhere, the sound is canny to
several current structures for pop/dan-
cefloor success. Egan and Strange ob-
serve all the latest rules, particularly
the re-introduction of big guitars into
the synth-based arena. The title track
"Beat Boy" captures that Duran
Duran/"Reflex" feel of hitsville expan-
siveness, adding a guitar at times oddly
reminiscent of Queen's signature lead.
"Casualty" sounds like a mildly
funked-up struttin' dancefloor Van
Halen. Elsewhere there are dilutions of
Heaven 17, Kraftwork, etc. A few of the
songs, particularly on the second side,
do settle into the tedious electro-dumb
category one would expect. Steve's
vocals, which were moderately
promising (considering his mannequin
status) in 1981, are merely
anonymously acceptable here.
Visage is a pastiche of somebody
else's parts, immaculately produced;
the only thing that's missing is the
feeling that there's ever an unstolen
perspective behind it all. Beat Boy is
deeply mediocre, but on the surface it
will do, in passing. If you happen to
hear it being played from an adjacent
room, with the door closed, you may
think "Who is this? It sounds great." If
you really sit down and listen to the
thing, you're likelier to think, "What is
this? It sounds like everybody in
general and no one in particular." The
gift of mimickry ultimately doesn't
count for much.
Elvis' Golden Records-Elvis
50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't
Be Wrong-Elvis Presley
As part of the celebration for Elvis'.
50th birthday, RCA is releasing several
of the original recordings restored to
mono, digitally re-mastered and
pressed on virgin vinyl.
There aren't any surprises in the
packages-Elvis is still Elvis-but the
mono does seem to help (RCA claims
that the sound was altered when it was
transferred to stereo) by giving it a
more authentic feel.
Much of the music sounds dated, but
it still has a lot of energy and it hints at
some of the rock music that it inspired.
Elvis is a very versatile singer, at home
with folk, rock, blues, or spiritual, and
he shows all of his sides on the different
My personal favorite is Elvis.
Released in 1956, it was Elvis' second
record. It catches him just before he
began to overpolish his pieces but also
just as he was becoming comfortable as
a star. With everything from "Rip it
Up" and "Long Tall Sally" to "Old
Shep," it shows Elvis in all his moods,
yet remains a consistent album rather
than simply a collection of songs.
Elvis' Golden Records has most of
the classics. With "Hound Dog," "All
Shook Up," "Heartbreak Hotel,"
"Don't Be Cruel," and "I Want You, I
Need You, I Love You," it shows in
boldface that Evis is still an integral
part of this country's musical heritage.
The only problem with the album is
that it singles out the hits. Because
they come one after another, many of
the songs lose some of the power they
might otherwise have had. But that's a
Elvis Presley is raw Elvis. This was
the first album he recorded for RCA
and with songs like "Blue Suede
Shoes," "Tutti Frutti," and "Blue
Moon," it shows him as a star just
becoming aware of his abilities.
The cover perhaps sums it up best
when it pictures him with his mouth
wide, eyes closed, and hand poised for
another stroke of his acoustic guitar
looking more like a member of the
Clash than a "country" singer from the
50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong
is another greatest hits album and was
recorded in 1958 to provide RCA with
singles to release while he was in the
army. This album is much more
polished than any of the others, and at
the same time it seems a bit less in-
spired. The hard-edged rock songs
have been removed as well as the more
delicate spirituals, and what's left is a
collection of sure-fire hits that still
sound pretty good.
Again, the albums' cover tells much
of the story, as it has several pictures of
him posing in his now-famous gold suit.
Even today almost everybody knows
three or four of Elvis' songs, but all too
often images of him are tied to the older
parodistic junkie who occasionally
graced TV Christmas specials and
tossed sweat-laden scarfs to the women
swooning in the audience. Hopefully
RCA's rereleases will help recall an
earlier Elvis, the Elvis who really
deserved the title 'King of Rock and
Roll'. It would probably be a bit much
to buy all four of the albums, but on the
same token it would be a shame not to
listen to at least one of them.
Take-out & Delivery
iu Ckioe ToFo&
355 North Maple
Maple Village Shopping Center
THE TALKING HEADS
THURS. 7:20, 9:20
FRI. 6:50,10:30, MIDNIGHT
TOGETHER THEY MAY FIND
THE STRENGTH TO KEEP THEIR
WAY OF LIFE ALIVE!
From the Director of "On Golden Pond"
t's a New Year
and there's a
new club in
town. A new
place to party
on Thursday nights.
The music room has
been made more spa-
cious and more social.
A new game room has
been added in the
basement. We've got
27 brands of beer in-
cluding Bass and
GnPame anra filnnd
also feature reduced
cover charge for stu-
dents. Just a dollar.
For dancing to the
area's favorite bands.
If you've been to the
Pig before, check it out
again. If you haven't,
you're overdue. Make
"Blind Pig Night".
617 East University and all other
participating Taco Dell Restaurants
-~ - ---- -- ~- ~-~~-~.
THIS COUPON GOOD FOR
medium soft drink
THIS COUPON GOOD FOR A 1
BEAN BURRITO I
with purchase of a
medium soft drink |