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April 17, 1989 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-04-17

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Page 10 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, April 17, 1989

The left laughs again
Political humor returns in High Hopes

1 0000

The Political Left is often accused of lacking a
sense of humor, usually with good reason. Waiting for
the contradictions in capitalism to lead to the proletar-
ian revolution isn't much fun and a revolutionary
committee meeting isn't exactly a barrel of laughs ei-
ther; even the sardonic Trotsky had his work cut out
trying to get Lenin to lighten up. The British left
hasn't had much to laugh about in the last ten years,
so Mike Leigh's High Hopes comes as a very
refreshing surprise. It's the sharpest comedy about life
in Margaret Thatcher's Britain since My Beautiful
The story centers around a working-class couple
who live in the King's Cross area of London. Cyril
(Philip Davis) is a motorcycle courier and unreformed
socialist, and Shirley (Ruth Sheen) works for the
council, clearing wasteground and planting trees. Cyril
sees that socialism isn't just around the corner, but
he's sustained by the simple pleasures of life like lis-
tening to Chuck Berry records and smoking a nice long
joint of an evening. Shirley loves him and though she
recognizes his complete antipathy to "the bourgeois
game," she desperately wants to have a child. Cyril
doesn't want to bring another person into such a mis-
erable world. Leigh has written some beautifully taut
scenes detailing the tension but deep love between
Cyril and Shirley.
The couple regularly visit Cyril's ageing mother,
'Mrs. Bender (Edna Dore), who is in the first stages of
Alzheimer's disease. She's the only remaining council
t'enant living in her street. Under Tory rule council
houses, which have provided cheap accommodation,
have been sold off. Yuppies have bought them,
Vsmartened them up and sold them for a tidy profit.
:This gentrification of the slums has pushed out Mrs.
Bender's old neighbors, replacing them with horren-
dous yuppie Sloane Rangers Laetitia and Rupert
And t
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Boothe-Brane. As Cyril says, their house is not a
home but a capital investment.
The Boothe-Branes are stereotypical upper-class
twits. Leigh uses these stereotypes in a wonderfully
overblown way that highlights particular cultural atti-
tudes. Our yuppie couple is completely disgusting.
Lactitia and Rupert will have you in stitches one mo-
ment, gritting your teeth the next.
Cyril's sister Valerie (Heather Tobias) and her hus-
band Martin are both products of the new spirit of free
enterprise (i.e. greed) that Thatcher has propogated.
Martin is an oily used car salesman and burger joint
entrepeneur who sleeps around and humors his wife by
giving her loads of spending money. She gets more
affection from her pet Afghan hound "Baby."
Valerie is Leigh's caricaturial piece de la resistance
in the movie. She's a desperate social climber, a sym-
bol of all that is bad about the nouveau riche. The
viewer will need sunglasses to deal with the dreadful
color coordination and garishnes of her interior decor.
At one point, she sneaks a tour of the yuppie couple's
house just to see how the other half lives. Valerie is
also a pathetic figure; we do feel for her when she tries
to spark the sexual fire in her husband. She sports a
sexy negligee and attempts to instigate a fantasy:
"You're Michael Douglas," she says. Martin doesn't
know who Michael Douglas is, and guffaws into his
pillow when she play-acts coyly, "I'm a virgin."
Despite their weaknesses, Cyril and Shirley are the
solid center of the picture, and Leigh makes them qui-
etly heroic. It's impossible not to love them. They
carry on with a wink and a laugh in spite of their ab-
surd environment. Cyril still looks after his Mum
even though she irritates the hell out of him with her
crotchety behaviour. The couple help people in need
without being saintly; they take in the hapless and
simple Wayne - who wears the most amazing sneak-
ers to have graced a movie screen - when he comes to
See Hopes, Page 11

For a band that once sang about throwing small children into wells, the Violent Femmes are certainly
looking all smiles these days. On their fourth album, 3, the Femmes' sunny tone leaves their ostensibly grim
looks at life sounding forced.

The Violent Femmes
Slash Records
On 3, (actually their fourth LP),
the Femmes attempt a return to their
trademark minimal acoustic trio
stylings. The Horns of Dilemma
appear only occasionally, having
shrunk to two members, on sax and
piano. The dense, progressive (for
them) sound of their last album, The
Blind Leading The Naked, has been
summarily junked. The press release
calls it one of those clichd
"attempts to capture our live sound."
And capture it it does. The band
is as tight as ever, but the music
just plods along, serving mainly as a

backdrop for Gordon Gano's vocals.
Only on "Mother Of A Girl" does
the band reach a peak of propulsive
energy equal to past efforts.
So, then, what about those vo-
cals? TheViolent Femmes haveal-
ways been known for being
simultaneously pissed off and con-
fused. On this record Gano seems to
realize he has a reputation to live up
to. Yet when one sees Gano in per-
son in 1989, he is all smiles. With
the exception of "Nothing Worth
Living For," I can't explain this, but
1 can't shake the thought that Gano
just doesn't feel the emotions
expressed here anymore.
-Brian Jarvinen

A Show of Hands
Polygram Records
A Show of Hands: The Video
Polygram Music Video
In order to justify its pretentious
bigness, I figure, the straight double-
live album ought to succeed on least
two of three special criteria: the first
objective being to capture the spon-
taneous thrill of a concert's instru- I
mental challenges; the second, to
yield variations and surprise,
emphasizing covers or rearrange-
ments of old songs; the third possi-
See Records, Page 11

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I .w rE l d!


Show her that good taste runs in
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Bring her to the Berkshire for a fes-
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Enjoy the extraordinary piano music
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All this, just a short drive from
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So call Marie at the Berkshire for
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It's a sure way to make someone

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