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November 29, 1989 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1989-11-29

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4

ARTS

the Michigan Daily

Wednesday, November 29, 1989

Page 8,

Richardson's cowboy junkies

Drugstore Cowboy1
dir. Gus Van Sant
BY ALYSSA KATZ
"This is your brain. This is your
brain on drugs." Aaargh! Enough al-
ready! The anti-drug propaganda go-
ing around these days is so relentless
that any halfway moderate counter-
force comes as welcome relief. When
it takes the form of a film as satisfy-
ing as Drugstore Cowboy, that
break from the drone is doubly nice.
Gus Van Sant, whose only previous
feature was the equally controversial
Mala Noche, has done a really good
job with this touchy subject by rev-
eling in the details of a way of life
that most of us just read about as we
hold our noses in the air. It's not
necessarily a realist film, but at
times it approaches the intensity of
an anthropological study as it por-
trays the lives of junkies in Port-
land, Oregon in 1971.
The much-maligned Matt Dillon
is well cast as Bob, an addict who

instead of taking the usual steal-and-
buy route handles things more di-
rectly: he gets his drugs directly
from drugstores, just like we all do.
Still, he's a little ruder about it.
Bob, his wife Dianne (Kelly Lynch),
and friends Rick (James Le Gros) and
Nadine (Heather Graham) pull off
profitable heists using the kind of
hole-filled diversionary tactics that
arise from desperation, like having
one of them pretend to have a seizure
while another rifles through the
drawers behind the counter. Bob
knows he'll get caught, as he has
been countless times before, but it
doesn't matter to him. It's as if he's
drawn to this risky behavior not
only because of a physical addiction
but because he's enjoying and ad-
dicted to this self-styled alternative
lifestyle. There's a certain glee visi-
ble as he plots revenge against the
police or deftly negotiates with a
less intelligent small-time speed
freak. Maybe society at large doesn't
care about him, but in this world
he's king.

Van Sant has done a great job
balancing Drugstore Cowboy in the
usually avoided zone between glori-
fication and moralism. Its tone of
happy ambivalence gives it a certain
power - half the time you're think-
ing that Bob and his pals are self-
serving scumbags, yet I for one
wanted to see them succeed in their
heists. The down side of the drug
world isn't ignored, either; these
guys face their fair share of unpleas-
ant situations, and their paranoia is
well conveyed. Toward the end of the
film, when Bob decides to enter re-
hab, things threaten to turn preachy
(there's a boring little rap session
scene that has a bunch of addicts
talking about their experiences), but
all is saved by the appearance of
William S. Burroughs as Tom the
Priest, an elderly addict who got Bob
started way back when. As would be
expected, the amazingly slow-speak-
ing Burroughs is great fun to watch
and has a strong screen presence.
The film is also quite good stylis-
tically, with a muddy early '70s look
reminiscent of Paul Schrader's Patty
Hearst and a general tendency to
avoid visual clichds. A couple of in-
novative surreal interludes, in which
cows and houses float around as Dil-
lon's voice describes the experience
of shooting up, help pull the movie
away from plodding realism. In all
its glorious iconoclasm, Drugstore
Cowboy reaffirms the fact that indh
pendent filmmaking is the last great
hope for American movies.
DRUGSTORE COWBOY is playing
at Ann Arbor 1 & 2 and Showcase.
I 0E ON TOP

Steve Kilbey
The Slow Crack
Rough Trade
With his multi-cultural borrow-
ings and taste for the exotic, listen-
ing to Steve Kilbey's music is like
eating at an unfamiliar ethnic restau-
rant. And when one does so, one
should heed one rule religiously: If it
tastes good, don't ask any questions.
So I won't bother to ask why
this album, available for some time
on import and spiced up here with
three new tracks, wasn't released
stateside until now - and almost
exactly at the same time as Hex, his
collaboration with ex-Game Theory
guitarist Donnette Thayer. Or why
these songs are so objectionable that:
Kilbey couldn't have recorded them
with The Church. I'll just tell you
that The Slow Crack is just about
Kilbey's most adventurous, elegant,
and listenable work to date, solo or
Church.
The swirling arrangements on the
album are more suited to Kilbey's
laid-back vocals than the hard-edged
studio sound of Starfish, harkening
back to The Church's more dreamy
early albums. "Favourite Pack of
Lies," an instrumental from Kilbey's
earlier Earthed with lyrics added, and
"Something That Means Some-
thing" have all the ethereal beauty of
The Church's "Tear It All Away"
end "Into My Hands," and the
moky, beat-heavy raga "Tran-
saction" continues Kilbey's fasci-
nation with Eastern-tinged music.
But Kilbey also does a fair share
of experimentation here. "Ariel
Sings" is Kilbey's interpretation of
the song of the spirit from The
Tempest, and yes, "Song of
Solomon" is the original Biblical
lust-fest set to music. He infuses
jazz into "A Minute Without You"
and "Surrealist Woman Blues," and
his acoustic guitar mandolin mixture
on a cover of Australian songwriter
Gulliver Smith's "Woman With
Reason" sounds like a ballad from
Led Zeppelin III.

Steve Kilbey's fascination with Eastern-influenced music perhaps brings

TIft( OF FEELMJ LIKE

about this impersonation of Kali, the
The album's only weak spots
come when its instrumental failings
stand out. Kilbey, who plays almost
all instruments on the album, is a
better songwriter than a player, so
there is the occassional intrusive
drum machine or dull instrumental
passage, but his skill as a composer
usually overshadows these. "Fire-
man" sounds a hell of a lot like the
Jesus and Mary Chain, but then they
sound a hell of a lot like the Church.
"I am not the kind of man given
to extravagance/ Even so, I must
confess a weakness for your ele-
gance," he sings on "Lies." My
words exactly, Steve.
-Jim Poniewozik
Tater Totz
Mono Stereo
Giant Records
Lennon was a dreamer, but he
was a presumptuous bastard. And
Yoko Ono? What is there to be said?
Here, thrashers Red Kross, White
Flag, Pandoras and the Shonen Knife
come together to thrash the life out
of the flailing, writhing spirit of
John Lennon. The presence of
Thurston Moore (brandishing two
severed bustier tassels from his last
headhunt the Whitey Album), is also
appreciated in this dada excursion.
Cherie Currie, formerly of the Run-

Hindu deity.
aways, joins in and Three O'Clock's
Michael Quercio tosses in a severed
hand.
Mono Stereo is hilarious.
There's a tongue-in-cheek subtlety to
these covers that utterly permeates
their spirit, no matter how much
they resemble the originals. "Rain,
sung by Shonen Knife, particularly
demonstrates this quality. The Knife,
Japan's answer to Bananarama, wails
like three different Yokos at once,
pouring on the camp. A particularly
indulgent and sadistic 'version of
Ono's "Why" is the funniest of the
bunch, if just to hear a soundalike
screech in abjct horror and denial for
five and a half minutes.
Musically, Mono works well. A
reworking of the David Essex/
Michael Damian shlock "Rock On"
is given a damn decent rhythm
section that almost makes up for its
soupy arrangement as well as its be-
ing covered for the umpteenth time.
The psychedelic groove sensibilities
of "Rain" and "Instant Karma" are
plastered over with loads of fuzz and
metallic schmaltz.
And all of this hasn't convinced,
you to run out and buy the new
Tater Totz, remember that it's al-
ways fun to laugh at others' ex-
pense, especially if they're dead.
-Forrest Green III

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-Auditions for the RC Players'
production of Chekhov's The Three
Sisters on December 6 & 7, 6-11
p.m. in 2528 Frieze Building. Sign-
up in room 1505 Frieze. Prepare a
one to three minute monologue and
be familiar with Ronald Hingley's
translation, available at any campus
bookstore. Performance dates: March
15-18.
-Auditions for the Brecht Com-
pany's production of Romeo and
Juliet on December 4 & 5 at 8 p.m.
in room A-03 (Basement Anderson
House) in the East Quad, 701 Easi
University. Arrive promptly to par-
ticipate in group readings. A pre-
pared two minute monologue is en-
couraged. Performance dates: March
29-April 14.
-Auditions for Ann Arbor Civic
Theatre's production of To Kill A
Mockingbird on Dec. 3 at 2 p.m.
and Dec. 4 & 5 at 7 p.m. in the Ann
Arbor Civic Theatre building, 1035
S. Main St. Scripts are available at
the AACT office.
Auditions and Opportunities runs
Wednesdays on the Daily Arts page
If you have items for the column; -
call 763-0379.

I

THE
COMEDY
COM PANY

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available
at. THE
MICHIGAN _________
UNION BOX
OFFICE. PJS
USED RECORDS.
SCHOOU DS
RECORDS and ALL
rwra Im
OUlEIS. Or charge by
phone 763-TKISo--r
645-6666. For mor W.. .U
canFlflpse at 763-0046.-

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