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February 09, 1988 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1988-02-09

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ARTS
The Michigan Daily Tuesday, February 9, 1988 Page 5

'Emperor'

tells

tale

of

two

By Andrea Gacki
The Empress Dowager Tzu Hsui
is about to succumb to the dysentery
that is devouring her body, but before
she can die, she must name an heir to
the Chinese throne. On a whim, the
three-year-old Pu Yi is summoned.
Surrounded by ceramic Buddhas and
eunuchs spooning her turtle soup,
the Empress gathers her last breath
and bestows upon the tiny boy the
title of "Lord of Ten Thousand
Years." His reply? "Papa, are. w e
going home now?"
Pu Yi never returns home again.
His life, set against the backdrop of
the revolutionary turmoil of China,
is depicted in Bernardo Bertolucci's
The Last Emperor. This is a
magnificent film, filled with
spectacular images and fueled with a
sweeping sense of history. These
qualities do not overpower it,
however, and its true genius lies in
its focus of a man caught between
two utterly different ages.
In the course of the film, Pu Yi
(John Lone) moves from the position
of Emperor and "Son of Heaven" to a
lowly gardener in the Republic of
China. Brought to the Forbidden
City at the age of three, he suddenly
finds that his every command is
heeded by 1,500 kow-towing eunuchs
and a retinue of servants, cooks, and
advisors. The only thing he is unable
to do is leave.

importantly, he becomes consumed
with the desire to rule all of China,
and this opportunity is denied him.
In 1924, the charade of Pu Yi's
rule abruptly collapses when he is
expelled from his palace by the now
corrupt national government. At the
age of 18, Pu Yi has achieved his
greatest wish; he is finally allowed to
leave his luxurious prison. He's also
terrified of the world that he has
never seen. But the last emperor has
a goal - to restore imperial rule. to
China. The only country that will
give him aid, however, is Japan. In
the greatest mistake of his life, Pu
Yi becomes the puppet emperor of
Japan-controlled Manchukuo, for-
merly his native Manchuria. The year
is '1931; several years later, Japan
will fall in World War II, and Pu Yi
will find himself in a Communist
jail, unable to tie his own shoes
without the aid of servants.
The Last Emperor was the first

ages
American feature film shot entirely
on location in China. With its lavish
sets and portrayal of history, it could
easily have descended to the realm of
the epic TV miniseries. Undet
Bertolucci's guidance, however, the
film is the fascinating and poignant
story of a man bred to rule but
lacking a kingdom.
The film also prospers with the
benefit of expert performances. John
Lone, as the title role, is superb, and
Joan Chen as Wan Jung, Pu )ii's
number one wife, skillfully presents
her fall from Empress to opium
addict.
From the Emperor of China to a
humble gardener of Peking, Pu'Yi
travels from unsurpassed greatness to
obscurity. Finally, in the midst'of
Communist China, the only way
that Pu Yi can see his former home,
the Forbidden City, is to buy °a
ticket. Fortunately, that opportunity
is open to us as well.

Pu Yi (John Lone) and his Empress Wan Jung (Joan Chen) become the rulers of the new Japanese state of
Manchukuo in Bernardo Bertolucci's 'The Last Emperor,' the first American feature film shot on location in
China.

When Pu Yi is 14, Sir Reginald
Johnston (Peter O'Toole), or R.J., is
brought in as the first foreign tutor
of the ruler of China. By now, Pu Yi
has discovered that the only thing he

rules is the Forbidden City, for
China has become a Republic.
Unable to comprehend the outside
world, he lives in an elaborate
scenario created by the deception of

his guardians. R.J., however,
exposes Pu *Yi to elements of
Western culture; the Emperor now
wishes to impose some much needed
reforms on the Forbidden City. More

c'mon.. thursday's classes aren't all that important
StandUp Comedy
presents comedian
NEW WAVE VAUDEVILLIAN OF THE NINETIES
OJ. ANDERSON.'

'The

People

Could

Fly'

presented

a

magical,
By Cherie Curry
Picture this. A cast of characters
energetically moving across the
stage in diverse, colorful costumes.
Simultaneously, several members of
the predominantly female cast nar-
rate, in testimonial form, the trials
and tribulations of the history of the
Afro-American people. The dancers
are representatives of the narrators'
spoken words. There is plenty of
singing and the songs take you from
the music of Africa, through the
Blues, Ragtime, Jazz, Gospel, Mo-
town, and other forms of contempo-
rary Black Music.
The aforementioned is an at-
tempted brief summary of the musi-
cal The People Could Fly that was
presented by Mystic and Common
Ground Theatre Ensemble this past
Thursday through Sunday at the
Mendelssohn Theatre. However, an
accurate synopsis of this contempo-
rary presentation of history would
certainly take more.
The opening of The People Could
Fly stated just that - "the people
could fly." The setting was some-
where in Africa, and the characters
told how the African people used
magic to fly. This was a consistent
theme throughout the musical.
The story became heart-felt when
the narrator told how the slaveown-
ers used to whip their slaves while
tey were working, and then it was
said, "They encouraged the slave girl
and she began to regain the magic
and fly. She flew away." And with
the narrative, the audience flew to
the next scene. The mood changed.
This was characteristic of the scene
changes; one scene would be low-
keyed and serious, and the next scene
would provide high energy and
laughter.
Whatever the mood, there were
bodily movements throughout The
People Could Fly. These rhythmic
contractions represented both
abstractions and people and were es-
sential to the musical's theme.
Dance portrayed the power and
struggle of the Afro-American peo-
ple in their quest to break the bonds
of oppression.
Director Elise Bryant, who has
directed the play Children Of A
Lesser God, incorporated the use of
a sign language interpreter through-
out the production. To some this
may have added confusion to the al-

musical,
roots and losing their magic w,
reminder of how the people v
could fly had been in a constant1
tle throughout history to retain t
magic.

message

of

spirit

NOMINATED

COLLEGE ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
FOR '86 &'87

The People Could Fly was per-
formed in a shorter amount of time
than expected, but a certain length
was not indispensable. What was
important was the message being

portrayed. The people who kept their
magic were the lucky ones, and the
fact that they could use this magic to
keep a race in existence and unified
is the celebration of the Afro-
American spirit.

Student Comedans
CHRIS WASHINGTON

TOM FRANK

JIM MERCURIO

WEDNESDAY
FEBRUARY 10
And Your Host
PETER BERMAN
IN THE U-CLUB
10 P.M.
$2.50 Admission
, rn t LUTRACK Q..I
0 0 . S unday , oo " 't da Y. J IZwi 3
. - - .
m-ei. -=
wrrnarrmiew AAe'P :_______._
'U.',

i 4C; Ii u'1, ItH MX l 1) 7-- U. S. A . I To
, RECRUIT U.S.A., INC. (800) 325-9759
CITICORP PLAZA, 725 S. FIGUEROA ST., SUITE 3100
LOS ANGELES, CA 90017 ,PH ONE: (213)'955-4900

2
w
1

Announcing:
The English Composition Board's
WRITING WORKSHOP
AFTER HOURS:
WINTER 1988
In addition to the daily Writing Workshop at 1025 Angell
Hall, the English Composition Board provides Writing
Workshop services for undergraduates in their Residence
Halls (Alice Lloyd, Bursley-Baits, Mary Markley and West
Quad), and Writing Workshop conferences will also be
available in the Undergraduate Library. Like the main
workshop, the Writing Workshop After Hours provides
assistance on all aspects of the writing process (from
discovery to grammar to revision) on LS&A course papers
and on personal writing projects. The Writing Workshop,
however, is not a proofreading service.
Students who write using a word processor can bring their
disks with them to the UGLI on Sundays, since the
Workshop will have access to both IBM and Macintosh
microcomputers there.
At West Quad, students may sign up for half hour appoint-
ments at the main desks. Other sites operate on a walk-in
basis. Walk-in appointments are also welcome at West
Quad, schedule permitting.

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