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February 04, 1986 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1986-02-04

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ARTS

The Michigan Daily

Tuesday, February 4, 1986

Page 5

Subplots

sidetrack 'Runaway Train'

141W

By Byron Bull
R UNAWAY TRAIN is not a great
movie, it's not even a par-
ticularly good movie, but it aspires to
greatness and sometimes that's good
enough. This gritty, rough little low
budget adventure is at heart a pot-
boiler, but it makes great, glorious
gestures toward epicism and by God
you have to admire its spirit if nothing
else.
The story concerns two convicts

who escape froma maximum security
prison in the frozen Alaskan wilder-
ness, hike through the most Godfor-
saken terrain, and end up hopping a
locomotive that turns out to be run-
ning out of control through the moun-
tains.
The movie has a certain throw-back
mentality, director Andrei Konchalv-
sky goes for the mythic touch of a Ser-
cio Leone western, with a distin-
ctly dated - even in these post-
Rambo times - machismo-
fascination for his two anti-
heroes,Manny and Buck.

Manny is a brutal, inhumane thug.
He's referred to as an animal
throughout the movie, a term that
Konchalovsky gives idolatrous
meaning to. Manny is a pure spirit in
his animalism, truer and more nobile
than the rest of modern humanity,
who seem to be defined as half-men
emasculated by machine sevitude -
the computer engineers who run the
train system - or authoritarian
sadist - the prison guards. Manny is
like a viking warrior, hopelessly out of
sync with the modern world, and he's
doomed because of it. The film dumps

OTB out of this world

a ton of tragic implications on the
character, though John Voight, who
plays the role, manages to shrug most
of the iconographic weight off by sim-
ply playing Manny from a gut level,
as a man who is more spirit than in-
tellect, born to scavenge and run free
like a dog, giving the role with noty
so much a tragic sense as a more
touching, pitiable one.
Buck, played by Eric Roberts, who
after this role and the one in The Pope
of Greenwich Village seems to be
typecasting himself into these loud-
mouthed, loutish roles - the dimwit-
ted punk who follows Manny around
with the faithfulness of a squire, is
another matter. Buck is an oaf, but
he's serving time for a statutory rape
case, and Konchalovsky underscores
his basic innocence by having him ab-
sently trace out the outline of a heart
on a fogged windowaskhe talks about
the incident. To Buck, this is all a
game, he thinks the two of them are
Butch and Sundance all over again.
He's childlike, simpleminded, and
thus spared the same dark fate as
Manny.
Konchalovsky holds the mythic
touch fairly well in check the first ten
to twenty minutes into the film, and
when Manny and Buck wander into a

trainyard looking for a freight to hop
and are confronted with the sight of
the gargantuan, dark, four-
locomotive monster that lumbers at
them from out of a cloud of steam to a
thundering organ crescendo, you know
the movie is going to plunge into real
heavy self-indulgence, and you gear
yourself up for the cheap thrills. But
Runaway Train runs offtrack, mainly
because of its twisted, incoherent
mess of a screenplay with more un-
connected subplots and ambiguous,
halfbaked themes than it can keep
track of.
The film starts crosscutting back to
the pointless melodrama of the
technicians back in the control room,
trying to stop the train, then brings in
a maniacal prison warden obsessed
with hunting down Manny. Then out of
the blue drops Rebecca DeMornay on-
to the train as a young woman who
does little but whimper and cry and
drag the film even further down to the
level of just another Poseidon Adven-
ture.
Konchalovsky doesn't help matters,
skipping over details of narrative ex-
position, like the prison escape and
the heart attack of the train engineer
with an indifference that goes from
perfunctoriness in the formal to vir-

tual amateurism in the latter. Beyond
that, he doesn't realize that his two
dominant preoccupations, John Fors-
like hero worshipping and an attem-
pt to fashion an anxious existentialist
drama along the lines of The Wages of
Sin are ideas that run in completely
opposite directions, and he gets
bogged down in his symbolism, with
the train one minute serving as a'
metaphor for Manny's destiny and the
next as a symbol for rampant
technology.
What redeems the film then is style.
Konchalovsky has a hard, stinging
visual sense, that's a tad bit cool in an
art house-minded way - imaginge
Road Warrior's George Miller had he
gone to film school -- and an eye for
quasi-operatic imagery - like the
shot of Manny straddling the top of the
train Ahab-like - that's so reckless
it's genuinely inspired. Runaway
Train is cheap and vulgar and bold
and thrilling like the way Marvel
comic books used to be, and if you
have a taste for that sort of thing -
which means you probably also like
Clint Eastwood movies and those
by director Walter Hill - then this is
probably right up your alley.
Runaway Train is playing at the
State Theatre.

By Marc S. Taras
T HE FIRST SHOW of the new season was an
unqualified success for the student organizers of
Eclipse Jazz. Last Sunday night Out of The Blue (OTB)
delivered a hair raising performance to a capacity
crowd roaring its approval at the Ark. Really. Noah's
place wasn't any fuller when he collected all the critters
in two by two. The metro area jazz animals were out in
full force and joyfully wallowing in the waters of their
favorite sounds. OTB provided two sets of inspiring,
straight ahead, tear-'em-up social music. Y'know,jazz.
OTB is a sextet of young cabs brought together under
the production aegis of Blue Note records. Although alto
saxophonist Kenny Garrett was unable to make the Ark
date the group worked at least one-sixth harder and,
remarkably, made up the difference. And then some.
There first set opened with a barn burner. Trumpeter
Michael Philip Mossman blowing cool smoke over a
rhythm section that made their presence felt on every
tune. Michael's so cute. Put him and Wynton on the
same stage and the listener is apt to incur terminal
trumpet cuteness. But he blows. He blows! Bassist
Robert Hurst enjoyed a homecoming to his native
Detroit area and pleased his hometown folks no end with
his handsome bass lines and sure, strong playing. Harry
Pickens was a lean and lanky delight at the piano: his

long fingers questing out new sounds while drummer
Ralph Peterson made the room aware of his imposing
presence. I have rarely seen a more physical drummer
(truly reminding me of Blakey or Elvin Jones) or a
rhythm section that worked and played so hard.
Add to this team a fine front man on tenor sax, Ralph
(let's call him 'Blowin' ') Bowen and you have all the
necessaries for great jazz gumbo. Ann Arbor's hippest
cab driver, Greg Dahlberg, astutely observed that the
tall and handsome Bowen was cut from the Stan Getz
mold though he happily acknowledged Bowen's skills
and his influence ranging from Coltrane to Michael
Brecker.
OTB is also the title of a Mossman tune that closed the
first set and highlighted the evening's preformances.
Maybe it really stands for Out of The Blakey. This tune
was classic Art Blakey type material with a great funky
shuffling rhythm and joyous horns and soloing.
It was the joy. It was the excitement. These are the
qualities that five young men brought to the Ark stage.
Ann Arbor's folk emporium is also earning a fine
reputation as a jazz club with their presentation of
Eclipse gigs. And shows like OTB help everyone to be
well. To feel good. And that's what it's all about. OTB
was feeling fine Sunday night. This was really apparent
from their playing and pleasant demeanor. The jazz
animals were feeling fine too, as they disembarked in
jazz Canaan.

Herbig and DSO surprise Hill

By ReecChung

.. .

Records

SUNDAY afternoon's performance
by the Detroit Symphony Or-
chestra, with Gunther Herbig on the
podium, was filled with surprises, in-
cluding a dedication to the crew of the
Challenger, the appearance of com-
poser Hale Smith, and a runaway
cello bow. However, the most
pleasant of the lot had to be the or-
chestra itself, whose playing was
characterized throughout by richness,
clarity, precision, and intensity.
After vivid memories of sloppiness
on the parts of Vienna and Munich
earlier in the season, as well as some
of the horrifying errors the NY Phil
has made on television this year, the
DSO was a welcome contrast. The
musicians responded extremely well
to Herbig's organized, deliberated
conducting, producing effective
dynamic contrasts and maintaining
excellent tempos throughout.
Herbig's concentration, displayed
in his hands, face, and body, was
evident and intent. His control over
the orchestra was obvious as well;
sometimes it seemed as though he

was pushing buttons, receiving
almost automatic reactions from the
players. This sort of connection ex-
plained the clean attacks/releases
and effective swelling crescendos
(both liberally sprinkled throughout
the Lalo Cello Concerto and the
Schumann Symphony No. 3).
However, it could also easily be the
cause of the "sterile" performances
that the symphony's more regular
reviewers have complained of
throughout the year.
But it did not seem to be a problem
at this concert. The maestro's inter-
pretations were well-thought out, and
there were many beautiful moments
during the concert, including the
opening of Smith's Ritual and Incan-
tations (a fascinating work), the horn
fanfare in the first movement, and the
cello opening in the second movement
of the Schumann. The only flaws I
could detect were some minor in-
tonation problems in the upper wood-
winds and brass, and a few cracked
pitches in the horns.
The only disappointment of the af-
ternoon was the cello soloist, Heinrich
Schiff, who gave a lackluster perfor-

mance-of the Lalo. Not that he wasn't
a good player: he was lyrical in slow
passages, accurate in technical ones,
always in tune (except for the shaky
moments following the unfortunate
loss of his bow during, the final
movement), and pleasant to listen to.
However, it seemed to me that he
could only concentrate on one thing at
a time. He was either technical or ex-
pressive, never both. I just wanted
more from him-more warmth, more
passion, more concentration. He
skimmed his strings; I wanted him to
dig in. By the end of the first
movement, I was already more in-
terested in what the orchestra was
doing than the soloist.
I walked into Hill Auditorium Sun-
day not knowing quite what to expect,
not having heard the DSO since the
end of their 1985 Meadowbrook
season. A recently read "so they're
not the greatest orchestra in the
world" had been flashing before my
eyes repeatedly. But, their perfor-
mance was a success, and I'm begin-
ning to wonder if they aren't just a bit
underrated.

Green River-Come on
Down
Bloodsport-I am the Game
Squirrel Bait-Squirrel Bait
Homestead
1. Homestead Records is a
remarkably prolific independent
record label based in New York City,
featuring a great variety of un-
derground American music. These
three records present a strain of
tuneage that could safely be termed
"post-hardcore," an animal ideally
characterized by the lofty energy
levels and aggressive musical ap-
proach of its now extinguished
namesake without its rigid and
limiting melodic and ideological con-
straints.
2. Within said sub-genre, certain
ground has already been broken and
certain paths been cleared. Bands like
Husker Du, the Butthole Surfers,
Sonic Youth, Black Flag (and in many
ways, The Birthday Party) are
example of such pioneers. Unfor-
tunately, the heirs to this tradition
have too often become satisfied with
(or perhaps only capable of) uncon-
avincingly retreading various com-
binations of those paths already
cleared. In short, American post-
hardcore, like many partially self-
conscious musical movements
(especially today's all too pervasive
revivalist garage roots tedium), is
displaying a propensity for the
mediocre and repetitive.
But this is hardly a eulogy, as there
is no doubt much fine music brewing
in the basements of contemporary
America. It's just that the people at
Homestead and in "independent"
bands have to make sure that their
guard against musical/artistic evils
like imitation, blandness, and "the
routine for its own sake" never even
begins to go down.
3. But when the indulgent veriage
runs out, there remains three records
here waiting to be dealt with. Green
River (named after the Washington
state murderer, not the CCR song) is
a band from Seattle, and as far as I
know, Come on Down is their vinyl
debut. The band aims for that heavy,
metallic, dirge-type sound recently
resurrected and reworked by the likes
of Black Flag and (in the extreme ex-
treme) Swans. The production is loud
by grungy, with the band's twin guitar

attack leaving vocalist Mark Arm
buried deep in the abyss. Chord and
tempo changes come and go as the
Green River boys grind out their
adrenaline-splattered product. Lyrics
are too often based on overworked
semi-misogynistic phrases and
posturings ("Swallow my Pride" and
"Tunnel of Love" to name a couple)
but don't really conflict with the ac-
companying music.
Now don't get me wrong. This stuff
is all perfectly fine but there's just
something important conspicuously
absent from the scene. It's a lack of a
certain sort of vitality, creative
energy or original inspiring force that
just doesn't let this baby get off of the
ground. Instead of jumping off the
turntable and initiating a demonic
sinfest, Come On Down just sort of
leaves everything alone, and that's
not the way these records are sup-
posed to work.
Unfortunately, similar problems
plague Chicago's Bloodsport on their
new album, I am the Game. Like
fellow Chicagoians The Effigies,
Bloodsport goes for a tight, clean and
sharp-edged metallic (that word
again) sound, the effect being ideally
aking to that of a polished shit-kicker
to the pancreas. In this case, however,
the ideal remains just that as I am the
Game really doesn't have the punch
needed to deliver it from mediocrity.
Stunted by clasutrophobic production,
the band's sound never picks up and
develops a strong personality of its
own. Instead of sounding direct and
powerful, Bloodsport sound
calculated and mechanical, lacing
that same convincing urgency of their
aforementioned label-mates. The
vocals are forced and restrained and
the guitars and drums seem trapped
within the album's stiff approach and
production. While it's not a bad
record, I am the Game seems to me.
the least effective of the three
releases sampled here.
Louisville's Squirrel Bait take a
markedly different approach from the
other reviewed bands. With standard
hardcore as the conspicuous starting
point, Squirrel Bait consciously tem-
per it with a hard-driving melodicism
a la Husker Du or the Replacements
and proceed headfirst into an ad-
mirable wall of somewhat
emotionally charged two guitar noise.
Pete Searcy's vocals are strong
(although perhaps a bit too

reminiscent of Replacement Paul
Westerberg for my taste) and allow
this stuff to get mighty tuneful, par-
ticularly on side one's Sun God. The
production is good, giving the band all
the room they need to develop their
sound and songs without seeming lost
in an abandoned nunnery.
In fact, few legitimate bones could
be picked with Squirrel Bait regar-
ding the particulars of their product.
It' just that same damn problem of
vitality, original personality and con-
vincing drive that seems to hold this
Squirrel Bait thing down. I mean I
wasn't looking for this trouble when I
sat down with these babies. It just
reared its ugly puss and wouldn't lie
down until the last notes of all three
LP's had left my speakers. It's not
even got me feeling guilty for
bringing the public's attention to its
foul presence.
But when confident objectivity
returns, the demand of ambivalent.
blandness must be aggressively
rooted out. We've got to assert our-
selves. We've got to do our own thing
because no one's gonna do it for us.
We've got to patent our own visions
and use the others for reference
ONLY in order for this "independent"
music thing to remain vital, deman-
ding and exciting.
4. Me? A musician? Are you kid-
ding? -Rob Michaels
BLOOM COUNTY

Powerful themes within Inside Out'

By Jose A rturo Martinez
VIEWING a dance concert from
the extreme ends of the theater
can give you a different perspective
on a performance. It was just my
luck last Friday night to see Inside
Out, Steve Mann and Betsy Glenn's
thesis concert from just this perspec-
tive.
Batterie, choreographed by Steven
Mann, was the most engrossing piece
of the concert. A powerful allegory
which features, as its title suggests, a
disturbing look at abuse.
Denize Oktay, who receives the bulk
of the piece's violence, directed her
role in a most convincing fashion. At
first as an innocent playful child who
neglects to see the consequences of
her actions as she knocks over a vase,
and then as the cowering, fearful child
who tries to make amends to 'daddy'
and ultimately does only through the
beating she endures.
Keith Foote played the hateful,
abusing father in this dance with a
quiet menacing calm. This large
menancing figure loomed largest on
the stage and helped to inspire em-
pathy for the small vulnerable child.
The closing scene, which illustrated
a beaten, despairing child, evokes the
image of Eduard Munch's lithograph
'the Scream,' as Oktay cries out to the
audience almost as if she is imploring
the audience to help her.
Sidetracked is a dance that evokes
the atmosphere of a train station
during the hub of a heavy travel day.

Glenn manages in her choreography
to generate some of the confusion and
noise that one sees at a station with
jerky, rapid pedestrian movements
that punctuate this piece.
Jon Hassel's music and the cries
and shouts by the dancers help in
evoking this scene of confusion and
gives a humorous fun tint to the piece.
The dancers, seven women dressed in
identical costumes, interacted and
danced well together.
The program closed with a group
piece featuring all the dancers that
performed that night plus the piano
playing of David Coppen who perfor-
med at Center Stage the music La
Valse by Maurice Ravel. This was a

good collaboration between the artists
and Coppen held my attention if only
because the sight of a lone musician
playing during the midst of dance
concert seemed so unusual.
SHORT OR LONG
Hairstyles for
Men and Women
DASCOLA STYLISTS
Liberty off State . 668-9329
Maple Village .. . 761-2733

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Watch for it in
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The University of Michigan
College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
Tenth Distinguished Senior Faculty
Lecture Series
Professor
Warren H. Wagner, Jr.
in a three-part series, will discuss
Systematics of
Plants: An Unending
Synthesis
February 4
Taxonomy:
Approximating Reality
February 6
Phylogeny:
Groundplants and Divergences
February 11

University Activities Center
Executive Board Applications

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