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January 31, 1990 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-01-31

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The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, January 31, 1990 - Page 9

King of tragedy


Henry V
* dir. Kenneth Branagh


If stories were tires then eventu-
ally it would be necessary to get a
retread, or a new set of stories. Simi-
larly, when the old, worn-out Shake-
speare is updated then, like multiple
retreads, the traction sometimes
doesn't stick. This leaves you in the
middle of the highway with a hole-
filled, bald tire. Fortunately, when
Kenneth Branagh updated Henry V
he was smart enough to see that the
same old rubber just wouldn't work;
so he tried a new approach. The new
film, duplicating Laurence Olivier's
1944 effort (thus deserving the title
Henry V-Il), tries to reinterpret the
story with a modern eye.
Since the flag-waving, armor-
shining, enemy-slaughtering, wo-
man-loving Olivier flick a lot has
happened: World War II ended, the
Cold War began, Vietnam happened;
sex occurred, and splatter films splat-

tered (in a visual response to the re-
peated institutional violations of the
body). In other words, things aren't
nearly so rosy. Branagh takes all of
this into account: his battles are
bloody, realistic and go on far too
long (just like the TV news); his
troops are always muddy and sweaty;
and it always rains.
Most importantly the young,
confident king of Olivier's film is
here much more apprehensive and
doubtful of his own worth; he faces
the problems of his own future with
a hesitant - if, nevertheless, opti-
mistic - eye. Of course much of
this cannot be attributed to Branagh.
All of these qualities were in the
play to begin with; it's just that the
two actor/directors (Olivier and
Branagh) chose to emphasize differ-
ent facets of the character in their
performances - and the path they
chose was guided by the events sur-
rounding them.
Another big plus for the film is
that Branagh understood what the
transition from stage to screen would

mean, allowing the camera to get
much more intimate with the charac-
ters and the characters to act much
more naturally than on stage. This
gives the audience a much better feel
for the predicaments and strifes the
characters endure. Added to the gritty
realism of the sets, costumes, and
acting this makes the film much
more of a personal experience than
either the Olivier film or most stage
Unfortunately Branagh's inexpe-
rience as a director - this is his first
film - shows through a couple of
times, especially in the 20-minute
slow-motion battle scene (I half-ex-
pected Branagh to jump out of the
mud with bandoliers and an M-60
and mow down the French troops),
as well as the Henry IV flashback
scenes, which were not only over-
played, but not even consistent with
the original play. Most of this was
countered by the excellent perfor-
mances by Branagh (as Henry), Brian
Blessed (as Exter) and Richard Briers
(as Bardolph). See HENRY, page 11

Kenneth Branagh (center) is the auteur behind Henry V, a new, post-Olivier stab at Shakespeare's play.


over this one

William Bolcom
Euphonic Sounds: The Scott
Joplin Album
Who put the sin in syncopation?
Syncopations are no indication of
light or trashy music.
- Scott Joplin
In turn-of-the century America,
A nicely disturbing double feature
worms its way into the Michigan;
Theater tonight. David Cronenberg's
The Brood (1979), a film from the
modern master of warped biology,
leads off at 7:30 p.m. Heathers.
(1989), by newcomer Michael
Lehmann, waltzes in with its odd
high school hijinks at 9:20 p.m.
Tickets are $3.25 for students; $4

some were enthralled and others en-
raged by a new type of music. It was
an energetic and rhythmic music di-
ametrically opposed to the "tear
jerker" ballads (i.e. "Bird in a Gilded
Cage" and "After the Ball") that were
popular before that time. The new
music, melodically influenced by
syncopated African American folk
melodies, and driven by a relentless
2/4 beat, became know as ragtime.
Depending on the side of the fence a
person was on, it was either em-
braced as America's first true musical
creation or despised for its ethnic
origins and nurturance in the bars
and brothels of red light districts.
Scott Joplin, the most accom-
plished composer of ragtime (but not
the most popular at the time) con-
sidered it to be a serious music.
Through tireless effort and consider-
able genius he elevated his lyrical
and emotionally affecting music to
high art. Recently, several fine com-
pact discs have been released paying
homage to Joplin's compositions.
One of the best of these new releases
is the Euphonic Sounds CD. It fea-
tures Pulitzer prize-winning com-
poser/pianist William Bolcom, a
professor in the University's School
of Music, at the piano playing 16 of

Joplin's pieces.
Bolcom has a sureness of touch
and sprightlinessofrhythm that is a
welcome contrast to the heavy
handed approach ofisome other rag-
time pianists. His playing on
"Searchlight Rag," one of Joplin's
most beautiful compositions, is
deftly sprinkled with subtle touches
of rubato and dynamic variation -.
certainly one of the best recorded per-
formances of this piece. Bolcom's
reading of the technically demanding
and harmonically twisting
"Euphonic Sounds" is carried off
without a hitch. Also included are
nice performances of "Maple Leaf
Rag" and the one everyone knows,
"The Entertainer."
My only minor quibble concerns
the final track on the disc. "Magnetic
Rag," Joplin"s final ragtime compo-
sition, is a carefully woven quilt of
deeply felt emotions. It requires a
faithful reading to register its total
impact on the listener. Bolcom's
omission of the repeat in the final
section of this piece leaves a strange
feeling of imbalance. However, this
is a minor point and overall, this
73+ minute CD is one of the finest
ragtime recordings available.
-Phillip Washington

Ski Patrol
As a movie, Ski Patrol has two
broken legs. Advertised as a comedy
with high-action skiing and
panoramic views, the movie has the
humor of wet wool socks and little
else to offer.
For comedy, there is a Mexican
accused of shoplifting who wrecks
snowmobiles and does a desperate
imitation of Rodney Dangerfield, and
a Black guy from the streets of New
York named "Iceman." (Where did he
learn to ski? Weekends in the
Catskills?) He, too, does Rodney.
For multi-racial effect, Ski Patrol
adds a group of Japanese tourists
ready with cameras for any sexually-
suggestive behavior.
For action, the ski footage is
slow and tired. The same clips are
played over and over, same slope,
same tree. Bruce Miller's strenuous
guitar-hero soundtrack roars over
nothing. Could the tracks be left-
overs from Bill and Ted's Excellent
Adventure? For panorama, a still
photo of a generic peak is propped

up on screen, fitting for a TWA
travel calendar.
Martin Mull is the film's big
name. He puts in a near-comatose ef-
fort, indicating that his wit is starved
when there is no pizza on the set.
The movie opens with a showdown
between Jerry, the chisel-chinned
nice guy from the ski patrol, and
Lance, a thick-headed pretty boy
from the ski school. "Snowy Peaks
isn't big enough for both of us,"
Lance taunts in the film's most dy-
namic dialogue. They head downhill
and take the movie with them.
We learn that Mull, as Marls the
megalomaniac, dreams of turning
Snowy Peaks into Maristown, "A
Major Destination Resort." His vic-
tim is Pops (played with fixed de-
pression by Ray Walston, who must
be wishing for a sequel to My Fa-
vorite Martian), who is celebrating
his 25th year as operator of Snowy
Peaks. So the ski school rats try to
ruin the ski patrol brats, and we get
patches of skits from Animal House
(food in the face), Revenge of the
Nerds (geek love), and Turner and
Hootch (yes, a slobbering, farting
pooch); dance numbers from Dirty

Dancing and Saturday Night Fever
with none of the original energy; and
in the end Mull gets trapped in a
Weenie stand on a precipice and Jerry
gets to kiss Pop's niece in the chair-
12-year-olds may appreciate thi$
movie because they'll have the the-
ater to themselves. But no one will
want to spend money for what's on
the screen.

SKI PA TR OL is showing at Fox Vil;
lage and Showcase.

Auditions and Opportunities runs
each Wednesday in Daily Arts. If
you need actors, musicians, stage
help or anything else for a produc-
tion, just drop off the information at
the Daily, 420 Maynard Street.
Use and Read
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