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January 17, 1985 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1985-01-17

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ARTS
The Michigan Daily Thursday, January 17, 1985 Page 5

'Dune is Dry, Dull,

and

Disappointing

Byron L. Bull
In his novel Dune, Frank Herbert en-
visioned a world that was a vast, desert
wasteland, barren and bitterly
inhospitable. David Lynch's adap-
tation of the book is a film so arrid,
lifeless, and unwelcoming that it could
almost be a metaphor for the planet.
But Dune is no such clever joke, it's
another monstrous fiasco, an expen-
sively mounted but ill-conceived
monumental bore. It portends to be an
epic, but it's merely big and cheaply
decorative, like a fifties bible epic with
limp intellectual pretentions. It stands
very well alongside producer Dino
DeLaurentiis's other films (King Kong,
Hurricane, Firestarter).
Dune unravels thousands of years in
the future when humanity has
populated the cosmos for so long that
the Earth is just a bit of folklore. A
galactic emperor (Jose Ferrer) rules
over all, though individual planets exist
as citystates, often engaged in bitter
inner rivalry. At the outset, two clans,
the Atreides family and the Harknon-
nens, are vying for control of the planet
Arrakis, the worldwide desert that is
the only source of the consciousness ex-
panding narcotic spice known as
melange.
When the emperor (for reasons that
are never made very clear) dethrones
the Harkonnens from the ruling seat of
Arrakis, and gives the planet over to
the Duke Leto Atreides (Jurgen
Prochnow) all hell breaks loose. The
Baron Vladimir (Kenneth McMillan), a
wretch so monstrously bloated he has to
be buoyed up by a jet pack, leads the
Harkonnen's back en masse to
slaughter the entire Arteides en-
tourage.
The only two to escape are the Duke's
young son Paul (Kyle MacLachlan) and
his mother, the Lady Jessica (Fran-
cesca Annis). Jessica is a member of a
bizarre cult of mentalist witches who
have been engaged in a millenium long
plan to breed a superman, whom it
seems Paul has turned out to be,
inhereting his mothers psychic

Jose Ferrer (with his back to the camera) meets with a representative of the Guild in David Lynch's disappointing new
film 'Dune'.

so that we seldom see more than an
acre or two of sand.
The optical work, so crucial a part of
the illusion, is surprisingly shoddy.
Dino DeLaurentiis's budget effects
crew seems to have worked in a forty
year old studio, with their miniatures
on wires and sloppy matte shots. The
sandworms, built by the highly
overrated mechanic Carlo Rambaldi
(Close Encounters, E.T.) are so crude
and unconvincing that they wouldn't
even make the grade in a Japanese
monster opus, and when the same shots
of a sandworm burrowing into the
ground is reused several times within
only a few minutes, the effect is
devastatingly harmful to the audience's
credulity.
David Lynch is indisputedly a brillant
filmmaker. His earlier work, Elephant
Man, and particulary Eraserhead,
were stunningly conceived, vividly
realized dreamworks. Their lack of
concrete logic and accessibility were an
ingredient to their hallucinatory
quality. Lynch was a surrealist painter
before he took to film, and his strong
point is in visual moodiness, in rich at-
mospherics and bizarre imagery of a
provocatively subconscious nature.
Much of Lynch's signature is still in
the film, only diffused and almost
unreadable. Lynch's penchant for
grotesque imagery is still here, with
the pus-faced villains and backgrounds
of industrial nightmarishness. Things
like the decidedly phallic sandworms,
or the biomechanical look of the sets
and costumes, are Lynchian touches
but have been watered down by the in-
ferior imagination of the craftsmen and
artisans the ideas were fanned out to.
Lynch constructs Dune in a pretty
conventional form, a weak kneed David
Lean approach, but doesn't know a
thing about conventional filmmaking.
The film trudges ponderously on,
without tension or pacing, slowly
unraveling toward its climactic whim-
per. Lynch doesn't know what to do
with his cast, all of whom seem to take
their roles with somber intensity,
though they're just filling in

stereotypical roles (the heroes are
stalwart and studious, the villains all in
black and manical).
Ultimately Dune fizzles out, disin-
tigrating from any sense of purpose. At
the end, with its biblical-like contrived
"climax" one feels nothing but an
exhausted sense of relief that they can
go home, and that the memory of Dune
will linger no longer than that of the bad
odor one encounters walking into a
men's room.
A defense
against cancer can be
cooked up in your kitchen.
Call us.
AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY
SAT& SUN. FIRST MATINEE ONLY $2.00
iaowith this entire ad $1.00 off
1.O .adult evening admission. Coupon
OFF good for purchase of one or two
tickets. Good all features til 1124
JOHN SAYLES BEST FILM YET!
THURS. 8:30
FRI. 8:30 MIDNIGHT

abilities. Paul and his mother take
refuge with the Remen, the nomadic
tribes of nobil savages who live in the
desert waste, and worship water as a
sacred element, hoarding it in vast un-
derground rock chambers as an
offering to a messiah their legend holds
will one day arrive to transform
Arrakis into a paradise.
In little time the Fremen begin to
suspect Paul is their long awaited
messiah, and when he begins to imbibe
the spice, develops the ability to control
the planets gargantuan sandworms
(monsters large enough to swallow a
whole ship), and to split rock with a
shout, he takes on the part completely.
Paul leads the Fremen on a jihad
against the Harknonnes, staging
guerilla raids that result in a cut off of
spice trade, an act that threatens to
spread galactic chaos.
Despite its oppressive solemnity,
Dune is just another hoary space opera
bogged down in its swamp of nomen-

clature, ray guns, monsters, and psychics.
Lynch's script rips out whole chunks of
the novel and transplants them to the
screen with a religious reverence about
not leaving out any details. What Lyn-
ch doesn't do is assemble the fragmen-
ted pieces with any coherent design or
consideration for narrative. You get
the impression you're seeing exerpts
from a much longer film, each scene
seems to begin and end with so many
loose threads.
Herbert had the luxury of hundreds of
pages to lay out his broad background,
with its intricate appendix of technical
and historical data. Lynch has only two
hours, but he packs it all in anyway,
and the result is an indecipherable
muddle. Worse, he ladens his charac-
ters with laughably bad, prosaic
dialogue that veers far into parody,
regretably unconsciously.
Dune's cast comes and goes, charac-
ters appearing and dying with barely a
few lines. Many of them, such as Lind

Hunt's Fremen servant, appear and die
in a flash, serving seemingly no pur-
pose but to justify cameo appearances
by people like Sting and Max Von
Sydow.
Lynch is much more concerned with
the look of his production than with the
characters within it. Lynch and
production designer Tony Masters con-
ceive the look of Dune as a grand joke,
mixing medieval ornamentation with a
weird sort of high tech antiquarianism
that strongly recalls the illustrations of
old pulp magazines and Flash Gordon
serials, like a bad joke that just keeps
going on and on for two hours. The
result is uncannily what oneemight
suspect in a high budgeted remake of
"Lost In Space." The photography by
Freddie Francis (who made Lynch's
Elephant Man so texturely rich) is a
muddysflat, and never once opens up to
give us a feel for the expanse of the
great desert. In fact, all of the shots are
either angled down or in front of dunes

I

4 CHANNEL DOLBY STEREO
DIRECTED BY JONATHAN DEMME
THE TALKING HEADS

I i

THURS. 6:50, 10:30
FRI. 5:00, 6:50,10:30, Midnight

I

Records

United States Live-Laurie
Anderson (Warner Bros.)
When Stravinsky's Rite of Spring
was first presented to an unsuspecting
crowd of Parisians, people's reactions
were a little less than stoic or aloof. In
fact, there was a massive riot. Igor had
to be slipped out the back door by guar-
ds who then whisked him out of town in
a carriage, incognito, just as Louis XVI
had been 125 years before.
Since then, classical music has seen
its revolutionaries come and go, but
none yet has been able to draw as much
negative attention as Stravinsky did.
Years pass, and people begin to accept
things and appreciate their beauty.
Alban Berg's Wozzeck is currently
playing in New York. The Contem-
porary Directions Ensemble recently
gave Ann Arbor its first ever perfor-
mance of Schoenberg's Pierrot
Lunaire.
When Anderson appeared on the
David Letterman show in May of 1984
and performed "Walk the Dog" (a
piece that involves strumming a violin
like a guitar and features a wide selec-
tion of two notes), Letterman was so
surprised and startled by his guest that
he broke for a commercial when he
realized that she was walking toward
him for an interview. When he came
back on two minutes later he asked her
two ridiculous questions, cracked three
jokes and told us all what we'd be
seeing on the morrow's television show.
It was obvious that he was unable to
deal with contemporary music.
While breaking for a commercial is
far less costly to the public acclaim that
a piece receives than commencing a
city-wide riot; and securing five
minutes on network television for a per-
fomance is a step higher than being
banned from the city and having no
more performances at all; Laurie An-
derson is still facing the same old
criticism. Although she has little if
anything in common with the modern
composers of the early twentieth cen-
tury (including talent), and despite the
fact that she is not the only one who

works with multi-media electronics,
Anderson has now bridged the gap that
exists between avante-garde rock 'n'
roll and contemporary classical music.
Actually, her relationship to the former
category exists almost exclusively
through her dress and the topics which
she addresses in her music. Her
material would hardly fit in between
tunes by Peter Gabriel and King Crim-
son.
Her music has been ignored by many
who apparantly consider themselves
open-minded listeners, which is fine,
yet their complaints are just echoes of
the same gripes that plague modern ar-
tists who work in any media. "I could
draw that" we hear from kids at the art
gallery. "That's not music, it's noise"
we hear from students in music ap-
preciation classes.
On a more optimistic note, Anderson
has been quite popular since the release
of her Big Science album in early 1982.
She's been espoused by a wide range of
people and has been surprisingly suc-
cessful to date. Her latest album,
United States Live, is a five record set
that features her album material and
other various works as they were per-
formed in concert.
To purchase a box of records this size
for one score and five dollars, a listener
has got to be very devoted and in-
terested in her concert presentation.
Unfortunately, her concerts are very
visual and her choreography (or
however one refers to the location of
various objects on stage and her man-
ner of featuring them) are not part of
the LP. At best, one is left to look at the
clever pictures on the jacket sleeves as
a way of conceiving what is happening
as the album is playing.
The album is also difficult to play
more than a few times. Once the
routines have been established and the
effects admired, the listener has gotten
about all the use out of the album that
he could possibly desire. Laurie Ander-
son's material requires one's full atten-
.tion. It will not make sense or be
pleasing if listened to during studying,
and because it requires so much, it

loses a lot of its timelessness. Mozart
or Beethoven can be reinterpreted by
many orchestras and played differently
every time. Classical music on per-
manent recording never changes and
once it has been carefully deciphered it
sits in the record crate for a long time.
This is not to say that her two studio
albums are failures. They were quite
good, but not worthy of similar
repetition on a live album. The whole
point is being missed. Was this done for
money? Certainly not (we hope). Was
this done for the benefit of her fans? If
so, she might have featured a double
studio album and been more successful.
Five discs of new material serves as
quite a thrashing on old ideas. A truly
fine composer such as Karlheinz
Stockhausen reached the point where
Laurie Anderson now is over twenty
years ago. And once he beat the idea to
death, he moved on and explored new
fields and techniques. Even his most
tepid material was considerably more
advanced and creative than anything
Anderson has yet composed. Anybody.
truly interested in investing twenty five
dollars toward some solid avante-garde
music would be highly recommended to
explore Stockhausen instead.
Laurie Anderson's future is a giant
enigma. It would be a truly sad com-
mentary about her abilities if, after
giving birth to quintuplets who all look
just like her previous two children, she
can continue with childbirth in her
current field again.
-Andrew Porter

Barry Gibb - Now Voyager
(MCA Records)
I am not ashamed to admit that I still
think a lot of the disco-era Bee Gees
material (yes, even including the
repetiore of Solid Gold icon Andy Gibb)
is classic stuff, though the Brothers
Gibb have generally failed badly in
years since to keep up with changing
radio tastes. Barry (the tall, sup-
posedly handsome one with beard and
gold chest chain) was largely the
group's guiding force during those late-
70's peak years.
This solo effort features a lot of ex-
penditure (flown in for cocktails and
vocals on one track were Olivia
Neutron-Bomb, Roger Daltrey, and
K.C.) and just enough promise to make
one regret Gibb has so much power and
studio know-how. If he had turned him-
self over to, say, a Nile fogers, he
might actually have been able to
produce a Saturday Night Fever-sized
monster designed for the different ur-
ban dance tastes of the '80's.
There are a few hints that Gibb had
been keeping up with the state of things
on a few songs, though nothing entirely
clicks; the funky "Shatterproof" and
Steve Wonderish "Temptation" come
close, though. Unfortunately, "Shine
Shine," the cut released as the first
single, is a guaranteed chart loser. The
midtempo and ballady songs are about
as bland as one would expect.
Gibb's singing is slim on the
trademark falsetto sound, but his

phrasing is still so heavy on staccato
brevity and breathiness that it seems at
times mannered to the point of hilarity.
He's the only singer I can think of
whose vibrato is exaggerated to the
degree of a natural reverb, an effect
that gets a bit humorous on the duet
with Olivia, "Face to Face."
This is hardly a very good album, but
it isn't all bad, and at least Big Gibb
hasn't succumbed to the easy commer-
cial option of turning to 'adult' easy-
listening shlock. He's lost track of a bit
of what the younger pop audience wan-
ts, but one has to give him credit for
groping after it all the same.
-Dennis Harvey

TOGETHER THEY MAY FIND
THE STRENGTH TO KEEP THEIR
WAY OF LIFE ALIVE!
MEL GIBSON
SISSY SPACEK
(PG-13)
From the Director of "On Golden Pond"
DOLBY STEREO
THURS. 7:30, 9:45
FRI. 5:00, 7:30, 9:45
NEW TWILIGHT SHOWS THIS
WEEK, 5:00 p.m. MON. & FRI.!
Only $2.50 tiI6 6pm.

I

-j

mom&

Minimum of
IG OFF1
\ \ pWith this coupon
(Good through Jan. '85)
Dance Theatre Studio

Classes in ballet,
modern, jazz, tap,
and ballroom.
New classes begin
January 14.

WORK WITH KIDS A T
TAMARACK CAMPS
IN 1985
Brighton, Ortonville, Camp Kennedy,
Agree Outpost, and Teen-Adventure Trips

THE SCHOOL OF ART
ON NORTH CAMPUS IS PLEASED TO
ANNOUNCE OPENINGS IN SOME BASIC COURSES
Registration for thefollo wing classes can
be done at CRISP, 17Angell. We will welcome your participation.

For current class
schedule and
more information
call 995-4242.

w -

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