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September 23, 1987 - Image 63

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The Michigan Daily, 1987-09-23

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whose prevailing spirit is often summed up
in the slogan Laissez le bon temps rouler-
Let the good times roll.) When a grinning
Remy tells the starched lawyer played by
Barkin, "Relax, cher, folks got a different
way of doin' things down here," it's both a
seduction and a rationalization: sure, he's
corrupt. Everybody else is, too. "There's a
system down there," Quaid says. "Out here
in L.A. there's no room for the particular
kind of corruption that goes on down there,
because here everybody's spread out and
you don't know your neighbors. Down
there, you're a cop, you go in a restaurant
and sit down and you eat for free. And the
criminals know where the police hang out,
and they don't hit those places." It's
all in the family, in other words-an ethic
that makes betrayal all the more painful
and Remy's transformation all the more
powerful.
No vanilla, please: "The Big Easy" was al-
most a very different movie. Hard as it is to
believe for a film with such a strong sense of
place, the film was first set in Chicago until
director Jim McBride moved it south. "It
was originally written as more of a Mafia
murder mystery," Quaid says, "and every-
body's seen that a hundred times. But New
Orleans is pretty much untapped." And the
picture almost got made without Quaid,
who threatened to quit early on when the
producers tried to cut a key sex scene.
"They wanted to turn it into a plain-Jane
vanilla film," he says with a touch of annoy-
ance. "I'm not for sex for sex's sake, but this
was a real integral part of the film. These
two people who are complete opposites
have to have some reason for being togeth-
er. You can't just show that happening over
dinner." He won. The scene stayed in and
accomplishes just what Quaid hoped-it
provides the fuel that drives the romantic
relationship between the leads. Also, it's
real steamy.
"The Big Easy" marks the midpoint of a
busy year for Quaid. This summer there
was the well-received science-fiction come-
dy "Innerspace"; in November he'll be seen
opposite Cher in "Suspect," playing a
Washington lobbyist, and early next year
he'll star in a remake of the 1949 detective
chiller "D.O.A."" 'Suspect' ended on a Fri-
day and I started 'D.O.A.' on Monday. The
only reason I did it is because the title is
'D.O.A.' and I was;" he says with a gravelly
laugh. "I was burned out. I figured I was in
the perfect shape to do it." The last time he
was this busy, in fact, was the summer of
1983, a year The Milwaukee Journal pro-
claimed "The Year of the Quaid." That was
the year of "The Right Stuff," "Dream-
scape" and, yes, "Jaws 3D." This time out
it's different. Today Quaid is overworked
because he wants to be. "I was a fool in my
youth," he says mock-seriously, and then
laughs again. "But it was a good lesson."
BILL BAROL

Two Serious Films
A pair of fall releases promise a season of quality

Now that summer has ended and the
parade of noisy, sweaty movies has
dwindled away, the time has come for
serious films. Two new ones, in particular,
explore substantive issues in a thoughtful,
unpretentious way-and there isn't a car
chase between them.
Matewan tells the true story of a small
West Virginia coal-mining town, Mate-
wan, in 1920 when a union is starting
to form. When Joe Kenehan (Chris Coo-
per) arrives to help organize,
the local coal company has
begun to import blacks and re-
cent Italian immigrants in an
effort to force down wages. But
the new men are offended by
the exploitative practices of the
company and its gun-toting
strikebreakers, and Kenehan
persuades them to join forces
with the locals. The workers
are forced to set up camp out-
side the company town, and
they suffer hardships and har-
assment, but Kenehan ral-
lies them by speaking simply
to their cause: "There ain't
but two sides in the world.
Them that work. And them
that don't. That's all you need
to know about the enemy." The
workers hang together, even in
the face of violence.
In "Matewan," director John
Sayles ("Return of the Secau- Understate
cus Seven," "Lianna," "The
Brother From Another Planet," "Baby, It's
You") shows that he has the common
touch. This may be the film that, at long
last, breaks Sayles through to a mass audi-
ence. It has all the simple grace and quiet
power of the people it portrays and, for that
reason, may remind many of John Stein-
beck's depiction of migrant workers in
"The Grapes of Wrath." The fact that only
a few of the actors (James Earl Jones, Bob
Gunton) are well known helps give
"Matewan" an ensemble quality. The quiet
performances by this uniformly excellent
cast provide a democratic, understated
eloquence.
Set at roughly the same time, but in very
different times, is Maurice. The film ex-
plores the troubled experiences of a gay
young man in England in an era when
homosexuality was outlawed. It's based on
a 1914 E. M. Forster novel which he sup-
pressed during his lifetime because of
its autobiographical elements. Maurice

(James Wilby) comes from the merchant
class and, while studying at Cambridge,
meets and falls in love with Clive (Hugh
Grant), a landed aristocrat. Clive refuses to
consummate the relationship, although
they continue to see each other, even after
Maurice is expelled from the school and
Clive marries. Trapped in a society that
jails gays, Maurice must come to terms
with his sexuality and decide whether he
can risk everything to express his love.

BOB MARSHAK-VISIONS
eloquence: Organizing in 'Matewan'
"Maurice" was produced by the team of
James Ivory, director, and Ismail Mer-
chant, producer, known collectively as
Merchant-Ivory, who have made 12 theat-
rical features together, scoring a critical
and commercial coup with their adapta-
tion of another Forster novel, "A Room
With a View." As with that film, "Mau-
rice" displays lush costumes and settings
and an outstanding cast. Wilby and Grant
offer beautifully modulated performances,
effortlessly moving from the charming
Cambridge days to the more tormented
later stage of their relationship. The sup-
porting players, including Ben Kingsley in
a hilarious cameo as a very questionable
therapist, are uniformly excellent; togeth-
er they provide a rich psychological con-
text for the protagonists. "Maurice" is ev-
erything good that we've come to expect
from British cinema-fiercely literate and
finely nuanced.
RON GIVENS

SEPTEMBER 1987

NEWSWEEK ONCAMPUS 47

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