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February 17, 1985 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1985-02-17

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The Michigan Daily Sunday, February 17, 1985 Page 5

"Fields' full of m

By Byron L. Bull
' n the spring of 1975 the American
I backed Lon Nol government of Cam-
bodia was toppled by the communist
Khmer Rouge revolutionary army in a
genocidal purge that left three million
of the country's seven million people
dead from starvation or outright mur-
der. The Killing Fields tries to examine
the horrors of that holocaust by looking
at it through the eyes of two men, an
American journalist and his Cam-
bodian assistant. It is a well produced,
conscientious film that takes to its sub-
ject with an earnest intensity, but is un-
dermined by its weak narrative and an
inability to focus clearly on even one
Directed by Rolan Joffe from a
screenplay by Bruce Robinson, The
Killing Fields is a conventionally plot-
ted docudrama based on the experien-
ces of New York Times correspondent
Sydney Schanberg - who was stationed
in the country from 1972 to 1975.
Schanberg, as played by Sam Water-
son, is a driven workaholic who is so
caught up in his work he loses sight of
the human tragedy underneath what
he's reporting. Pran though, despite
his serious desires to emulate Schan-
berg and to become a journalist in his
own right, can't help but see the horrors
and the waste of the fighting because
it's not happening in some foreign land
to him, it's in his own backyard.
Pran is so loyal to Schanberg, and so
intent on becoming his equal, that when
the Khmer Rouge begin to break
through the capital city of Phnom
Penh's last defenses, Pran elects to
stay behind with his boss to cover the
takeover. Shanberg manages to secure
passage for Pran's family on the
American embassy's airlifts, and as the
two men stand in the mid'dle of the em-
bassy grounds, watching the last

helicopters ascending into the dark
gray skies, there's a terrible, resoun-
ding finality to the moment, as if a
great steel cell door was clanging shut.
Director Joffe, here directing his first
feature, takes the first hour of the film
and allows the tension to build like a
tightly wound steel spring that snaps in
your face. When the revolutionaries en-
ter the city, they're driven by a
fanaticism that's a bloodthirsty mad-
ness. Anyone whom the troops even
suspect of being a member of the
government, or of having any connec-
tion with westerners, they execute on
the spot. The whole population of the
city is routed out into the counrtyside
and organized into reeducation-labor
camps in the Khmer Rouge's drive to
return the country to a pure peasant
Schanberg and the small group of
European reporters who've stayed to,
cover the takeover are arrested, and
saved from summary execution only
because Pran manages to convince
their guards that the men are neutral
French journalists. They are im-
prisoned for a while within the French
embassy, and eventually allowed to
leave the country. But Pran, whose
association with them makes him a
marked man, has to be first handed
Pran is sent to one of the Khmer
Rouge's. camps, where famine torture,
and dehumanization are the daily
lifestyle. Pran passes himself off as a
taxidriver and keeps his educated
background a secret - that fact alone
would warrant his death because the
Khmer Rouge openly exterminate any
"intellectual" they find - and endures
the constant beatings and intimidations
with complete passivity.
As the film centers on Pran's struggle
to survive and to maintain his sense of
dignity, it becomes a somber tribute to
the imperishability of the human spirit.
Pran is dragged down to the absolute

lowest depths of existance - he's so
starved he has to resort to sneaking into
the animal pens at night where he cuts
gashes in the hides of the oxen and
sucks out their blood - without ever
relinquishing hopes. Pran endures, and
silently, patiently waits for an oppor-
tunity to escape to arise.
There's an undeniable power to many
of the films scenes, which Joffe and
cinematographer Chris Menges - for-
mer documentary film-maker - cap-
ture with a stark,.vivid clarity free of
any distracting stylistic touches. His
mistake, however, is in not conceiving
of the picture as one whole piece. The
film is one long string of seperate
sequences, some of them extremely
well crafted, but they are never connec-
ted with any regard to rhythm. The
Killing Fields is like one long, even-
tually monotonous mural that just
keeps rolling by. It gets so tedious that
even the horrific imagery, the countless
corpses and dismembered wounded,
loses its effectiveness as one grows
desensitized to it all.
The screenplay also makes the
mistake of interrupting Pran's story,
which is the part of the film with any
focus, to keep crosscutting back to New
York where Schanberg is wallowing in
self-inflicted anguish over Pran's fate.
But the screeplay never developed the
two men's friendship to any detail - in
fact, Pran is shown as little more than a
manservant to Schanberg - that the
crucial bond that is supposed to exist
between the two seems artificial all the
way through.
The Killing Fields is a humanist film,
but it lacks any characters of substan-
ce. Joffe, who has spent most of his
career directing for the stage and
whom one would think would be best at
bringing strong performances out in his
cast, always keeps the characters and
their feelings distant from us. His1
direction is detatched and vague,
perhaps out of his desire to avoid

This is not an actual photograph from Cambodia, but rather a still from 'The Killing Fields.' The movie is well-crafted,
but became monotonous from its excessive violence.

cheaply dramatizing the situations, and
everyone in the film is so remote that
one can't empathize with any of them
for a second.
Most of the characters are sloppily_
sketched, they're more like scenery
than flesh and blood people, and not
even the two principals are sufficiently
developed to any degree. Haing S.
Ngor, who has never acted prior to this
picture, does have a very graceful,
relaxed presence, but he can't project
his feelings with any force so that as
angelically pure as his character is,
he's never realized enough to us to un-
derstand or really care for. Sam
Waterson's performance is even

stranger, he plays'Schanberg in such a
hazy, diffused manner that the charac-
ter is devoid of any humanity and
almost invisible. All of Schanberg's
elaborate angst seems hollow and
merely contrived.
The Killing Fields could have been an
important film, and it does have a few
scattered, brilliant moments. But its
muddled, incohesive storyline becomes
so tiresome that by the time the film
unwinds into its sentimental, morally
thick conclusion - complete with John
Lennon over the soundtrack - you feel
only disappointment at having spent so
much time with it for so meager a

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$2.50 TIL 6 P.M.
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OFF 1 or 2 tickets. Good all
fetues thru 2/21/85.





Sororal virtuosos duel on piano at Hill

"By Neil Galan ter
charmingly distinctive French ac-
cent, but this was not the most un-
derlying thing about our conversation.
From a hotel room on the Ritz Carlton
Hotel in Boston I spoke on the phone
with Marielle Labeque; one 'half of the
duo-phone team; Katia and Marielle.
Labeque. The Labeques are sisters,
French, pianists, and are rapidly
becoming the most talked about piano
duo around. They can be more than just
"Talk",: as they will perform here in
Ann Arbor, Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m.
at Rackham Auditorium in a most
decisively juciy program of two-piano
"meat" to include music of Gershwin,
Ravel; Brahms and Stravinsky.
The ~discussion could have been even
better if I could've spoken to both
halves'of the duo at the same time, but I
h still learned a lot from Marielle, who
generously gave me her time. The
Labeque sisters received their first
lessons at the keyboard from their
Kmother, whom Marielle had the
strongest feelings about with regards to
a piano teacher: Then it was on to The
famous Paris Conservatoire where both
sisters studies and eventually received
first prizes in piano performance.
"After we both received the first
prizes (separately) we decided to play
together," remembered Marielle.
. "Just to be together, it's wonderful to
share the music with the people you like
and love, and it's just a beautiful
These devoted and inspired feelings
that Marielle and Katia have about
each other is just one of the reasons that
they have become so successful as a
piano duo. They have worked hard too.
In North America they have appeared
with the Los Angeles Philharmonic,
with Zubin Mebta and Michael Tilson-
Thomas, and with The Montreal Sym-
phony under Charles Dutoit. They have
also made the rounds in Europe, having
performed duos at Queen Elizabeth
Hall, the Roundhouse, St. John's Smith
Square, and on BBC Television-and
hat's their roster for England alone.
this season will take the sisters to
michigan union (313) 763-INFO
The Campus Information
Center is looking for a few
qualified students to work as

for the different people and different
audiences, because each person comes
for a different reason. Some like this
music or that music, and we enjoy
playing music and sharing it with
Marielle's wish of sharing the music
that she and her sister love and enjoy
is sure to be fulfilled on Sunday at
Rackham. Ticket sales have been going
extraordinarily well and to ensure
yourself a seat it would definitely be
wise to call the University Musical
Society at 665-3717 today for ticket in-
formation and availability. The seats
range in price from a very reasonable

$5 to only $10 for the best seats.
Without question, Brahms plus Ravel
plus Stravinsky plus Gershwin with
the Labeques each at a STEINWAY
Grand is the formula to make your
Sunday afternoon perfectly grand it-
WITH Valeri
2040 Green Road


The multi-talented Labeque sisters bring their piano skill to Hill Auditorium

tonight to play a wide variety of pieces.
Holland, Belgium, Germany and Fran-
ce where they have a very large
following and are in constant demand.
The siters like this style of life
though. "Not just one concert makes
you a star," commented Marielle.
"You have to travel, do TV and radio,
play lots of concerts, and talk about it.
Perhaps because we are a piano duet is
one reason why we have made such a
big success. We are playing for a larger
audience, and the repetoire is very
unique and interesting." Marielle
seems to just love the two-piano
repetoire. She claimed that she had no
real desire at this point in her life as a
musician to play solo piano
concerts, or solo piano repetoire. In-
stead she came back to saying again
that she "just would like to play the
music she likes with the people she
likes, and just share."
The Labeque Sisters have done all the
major two-piano repetoire and then
some. "We have done work with com-
posers of today also, such as Luciano
Berio, Pierre Boulez, Oliver Messaien.
And two composers are working on
some two-piano pieces for us right
now." Their Ann Arbor appearance will
include Brahms, Variation of a Theme
by Haydn, Ravel's Mother Goose Suite,

Stravinsky's Concerto for Two Pianos,
and Gershwin's American in Paris,
refering to which Marielle said, "We
just love the music of Gershwin!"
The sisters have also recorded exten-
sively and are able to boast an im-
pressive list of record albums. On
Philips they have done Gershwin's
"Rhapsody in Blue" and "Concerto in
F", which incidentally swept the record
market and became a worldwide best-
selling classical recording. Shortly
thereafter came an equally successful
recording of Gershwin songs with
soprano Barbara Hendricks and then a
disc of Brahms' spicy Hungarian Dan-
ces. They recently signed a recording
contract with EMI, and their first
recordings of ragtime music has just
been released as well as other albums
featuring the music of Stravinsky,
Saint-Saens, and Liszt.
Although their recordings have done
smashingly well, IMarielle seemed to
prefer live performances to recorded
ones. "There just isn't enough time to
polish a recording when you are
working (on the spot) with a particular
orchestra or recording engineer,
remarked Marielle. "There isn't
enough time to do exactly as you want.
It's a lot of pressure. We enjoy playing

OTWE pipsMichigras
OF E Og or. aspl".9 dance
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' .. Bt©Sdate, saccess aied a
of Iv-g p5m ~take oP~arcA 1.a0e
p~as and atme a004a8
?,vv ~$~ .

SUN. 1:20, 3:20, 5:20, 7:20, 9:45
MON. THRU THURS. 5:20, 7:20, 9:45
SUN. 1:00, 4:00, 7:00, 9:35
MON. THRU THURS. 4:15, 7:00, 9:35

4~ri.~ oV tIP ,,,ore at ~63~ 107

Arthur Miller's


The Power Center


Yehudi Menuhin, Conductor
tr i nn


February 20-23, 8:00 pm
February 24, 2:00 pm

The Professional Theatre Program
Ticket Office: (313) 764-0450
U-M Department of Theatre and Drama

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