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February 21, 1986 - Image 7

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1986-02-21

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4

ARTS

The Michigan Daily

Friday, February 21, 1986

Page 7

Saccharine

By Byron Bull
THE FILMMAKER is Terry
Gilliam, the former Monty
Python turned creator of the tainted
fairy tales Jabberwocky and Time
Bandits. The film is Brazil, his
crazed, morbidly funny variation on
1984, (a book which he admits to
never having gotten around to
reading but which he - with typical
Pythonian irreverance - feels no
hesitation about uncourteously
stealing a few ideas from.)
Brazil is a seriocomic look at the
classic dystopian model. The setting
is a grim, Albert Speerian-metropolis
"somewhere in the 20th century" and
though the locale is obviously
JEngland, it could just as easily be
New York or any other large Western
city. The government - a great,
corrupted bureaucracy - manages
the populace with a SWAT team
policeforce that runs an interogation-
torture division with the proficiency
M of a slaughterhouse (though
terrorism runs rampant). The sight of
exploding storefronts and restaurants
is so common that it barely raises an
eyebrow except among the gover-
-nment officials, who call is a "very
unsportsman-like" thing to do.
Enter. Sam Lowry (Johnathan

Pryce), a meek, mild-mannered little
clerk in the Ministry of Information,
but comfortable enough thank you,
when he can sneak away behind some
corner desk and escape into one of his
wonderful, vivid daydreams. Once he
drifts off, he's a handsome Daedlus-
winged warrior in silver armor,
soaring among the clouds and cavor-
ting with an angelic, flaxen-haired
enchantress. The movie keeps slip-
ping back and forth between Sam's
eeriely beautiful dreams and the
grim, realities of life in the real
world. But one day, Sam spies his
dream woman scross the street - a
spunky, strong-spirited truck driver
named Jill (Kim Greist). He begins a
desperate affair which is curtailed
when the omniscient goon squad
comes exploding down through the
ceiling to bag him and haul him away.
Brazil is kind of a companion piece
to the earlier Jabberwocky, where
civilization is viewed as inherently
decrepit and bound to fail. Gilliam
takes many a wild and random shot at
personal pet peeves (like plastic
surgery and the habits of the
bourgeoisie) such venomous disdain
that Brazil often lunges into the
deepest corners of gallows humor.
But while the film suggests social
decline is an inevitable, irreversible
process - the film, slyly designed in a
weird time-warped slant, clashes ar-

atire
chitecture and fashion styles of the
1940's and '80's to suggest that things
are no better or worse now than they
ever were-there are a few crumbs of
hopefulness to be scrounged.
Brazil also has a soft side too. It's
infrequent, but nevertheless there in
touching little throwaway scenes, like
the awkward, desperate near-kiss
between Sam and Jill that's as clum-
sily beautiful as Woody Allen at his
gentle best, and the inspired cameo of
Robert DeNiro as Harry Tuttle, a
swashbuckling, almost camp-heroic
renegade air-conditioning repairman
who swoops through Sam's life and
enflames his rebelliousness. DeNiro's
broadly played heroism is grand and
stirring, and the very essence of the
film.
The film is inconsistent like a
terrorist machine gun attack, with
Gilliam madly splaying his ideas all
over the place. A little more thought-
fulness to structure and plotting
would have helped immeasurably.
Brazil heads off into a hundred dif-
ferent directions at once: tragedy,
absurdist comedy, black social satire.
As ingenius as much of it is, it tends to
feel disjointed, or at best hurriedly
improvised. Gilliam ends up
climaxing with an everything-but-the-
kitchen-sink dream within a dream
sequence. It is full of cheap comic in-
dulgences such as a tacky "Odessa"

Mrs. Lowry (Katherine Helmond) and her son Sam (Jonathon Pyrce) meeting for lunch in Terry Gilliam's "Brazil."

parody, and some awfully unsubtle
bits of symbolism, like the scene of
Lowry scaling a mountain of techno-
industrial-ideological debri - with a
neon cross sticking out a little too
conspicuously - that drains one
more than it invigorates.
In the end Brazil ends on the

inevitable bleak note you expect a
nightmare fantasy to end on - with
its hero crucified and squashed by the
state. But even in its pessimistic
fatalism, Brazil offers a slim ray of
redemption, with its hero, crushed
but still triumphing in one very small
and pathetic, yet ultimately glorious

personal way. As Sam takes off into
his final, grand flight of fantasy into
the deepest, most limitless realm of
his heart, you go soaring with him,
and the moment is preciously
thrilling. Brazil is a very off-the-wall,
but very.special film. It deserves to
be seen, felt, and savored.

Books-
Murder in Outline
Ann Morice
Bantam Books
,192 pages, $2.95
i Tessa Crichton does not have the
orderly mind of Hercule Poirot, nor
dioes she possess the charming deduc-
,ive powers of Miss Marple. But she
can crack a murder case just as effec-
tively as Agatha Christie's famed
idetectives. She illustrates her ability
In Murder in Outline, a" British
,mystery by Anne Morice, author of
over 15 mystery novels.
Miss Crichton is a popular British
actress who practices amateur detec-
tive work as a hobby. She appears
nosy and inquisitive, arid elien *fnds
are constantly referring to her an-
noying habit of asking too many
questions. It is just this habit,
however, that helps her solve crimes.
In this particular case, Crichton is
invited to return to her alma mater,
The Waterside School, as a judge for
an annual drama competition. The.
school specializes in dance and
theatre, limiting its student body to
only wealthy, talented girls. Unfor-
tunately, one of these girls is mur-
dered during the competition, and
Tessa sets out to find the killer.
She decides to stay in the vicinity of
"the murder, and moves in with her old
friend, who is now a dance teacher at
the school. With the help of her
Scotland Yard husband she quickly
unravels the twisted plot, and
-discovers that everyone has a secret.
-to hide.
Her methods seem haphazard at
imes, and she does seem to have
,more than her share of good luck. In
some instances the reader is baffled
by her thought processes. She seems
to arrive at a conclusion with infor-
(mation not offered in the text. Even
:with these faults, however, the

Racial sins remembered

mystery is a joy to read, and Tessa
Crichton is a delightfully original
detective.
-By Lisa Berkowitz
The Wabash Factor
By E. V. Cunningham
Delacorte Press
256 pages, $14.95
Read this book only if you have a
high tolerance for intricate plots
played out by well-defined charac-
ters.
The Wabash Factor is a conspiracy
novel, and therefore follows a predic-
ted pattern; the heroes, who seem to
be the only people awre of what's
really going on, are up against a
gigantic, faceless organization that's
determined to kill everybody that gets
in the way.
The intensely complicated plot
begins with the deaths of two
prominent politicians. Both men died
from strokes and both men were
against further aid of any kind to the
(fictional) Central American country
of Santa Marina.
When New York Police Lieutenant
Golding begins an investigation, he
finds that these deaths are the tip of
an iceberg that consists of more
deaths and bloodshed. The link in all
the slaughters are international

financial dealings concerning Santa
Marina.
From the beginning Golding is up
against impossible odds. The op-
position first tries to frighten him off,
then his apartment and car are
bugged so they can anticipate his
every move. Forcednto flee for their
lives, Golding and his wife are han-
dicapped by concern for their
children, whom they send to Ireland
in hopes of getting them beyond the
reach of the enemy.
When the opposition frames Golding
for theft, he is suspended from the
police force and this is where the plot
goes totally haywire. Suffice it to say
- when a David goes up against
Goliath it's difficult to believe that
David could make mistakes and still
win the battle. Plus, the happenstance
of having Golding revealed to be an
expert marksman near the end of the
book was too much to believe.
The saving grace of the book was
Cunningham's deft characterizations,
Golding is a real person, a.happily
married man who happens to be a
Jewish cop married to an Irish
Catholic woman. Golding's wife
Fran, is no part of a stereotypical
"Bridget Loves Bernie" scenario but.
is rather a college teacher and mother
of two children.
-By Mickey Brumm

By David Turner
I T IS somehow appropriate that Ann
Arbor Civic Theater's production
of James Baldwin's Blues For Mister
Charlie, has fallen into their
chronogically ordered season when it
has, during Black History Month.
Baldwin's play stands as a monumen-
tal work in Black Theater, and those
who remain in town next week should
make an effort to get to the Lydia
Mendelssohn Theater to see this
production.
Baldwin's play, written in 1965,
recalls the story of Emmet Till, a
black Mississippi youth who was mur
dered by two whites in 1955. The
murderers were later acquitted, and
subsequently admitted their crime,
justifying it by the claim that the four-
teen-year-old Till had whistled at one
of their wives.
The enthusiastic director of this
production is Lundeanna Thomas, a
Phd. student who heads the Univer-
sity's Black Theater Workshop. She is
full of praise for her young, energetic
cast of twenty-six which includes
several untried players and three
students from her workshop.
Thomas promises that this show
will offer heightened entertainment
for all, with a very real lesson thrown
in. She is hoping to simultaneously
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show her audience how far we have Day. She is hoping that her show will
come since the events which Baldwin emphasize King's belief that whites
describes, and also how far we still shouldn't discriminate, and blacks
have to go. The story of systematic shouldn't hate.
ihaJustice and racial bigotry will shed Also important is the ability this
light both on the events in South production to explain the huge impact
Africa and those closer to home. As that the Till Tcase had on the nation
an example, Thomas mentions last thirty years ago.. Thomas remembers
year's protest at Ypsilanti High reading about Emmet Till in Jet
School where studentswere given magazine as a youngster, and hopes
failures for a day's work when they that the discovery or re-discovery of
protested the school's failure to this horrible injustice will be part of a
acknowledge Martin Luther King truly rewarding theatrical experien-
ce.
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