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February 19, 1990 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1990-02-19

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Monday, February 19, 1990

The Michigan Daily

Page 8


Costner's sweet,


dir. Tony Scott
Don't let the title fool you. Re-
venge, the new film in which Kevin
Costner steals Anthony Quinn's
woman and sparks off a testosterone-
fueled bloodbath, just isn't able to
live up to the high standards set by
classics like Death Wish or First
Blood where real men kill other
men who have dared to attack their
manhood. Director Tony Scott (Top
Gun) falters by getting sentimental
on us at the end, but he deserves a
gold star for reviewing the Cine-
matic Rules of the Sick Vendetta.
* Rule #1: The hero (Costner as re-
tired Navy pilot Cochran) is a sensi-
tive guy (has a dog) who doesn't en-
joy violence (lots of close-ups of
Costner's boyishly handsome face,
that of a man who couldn't possibly
get a perverse pleasure from brutally
killing people), but when pushed,
well, he draws on his dark past
(Vietnam vet) to even the score
(torture, maim, kill).
Rule #2: The bad guy (Quinn as
Obscene Gestures for
By Janet Kauffman
The publisher's blurb on the dust
jacket of this collection calls the 15
works in this volume not "stories,"
but "fictions." Perhaps that is as
close as any word can come to de-
scribing this Michigan author's in-
ventive, often mystical - and mys-
tifying - writings.
Kauffman's approach is one of
challenge, both to the world it
chronicles and to the means we use
to chronicle it. Her characters strug-,
gle with world systems that forcibly
define them down to the barest min-
utae of their existences, like the
congressperson in "How Sunlight
Figures In" who describes how
"throughout Republican administra-
tions, she shaves her legs."
As the title indicates, the system
she most consistently challenges is
that of gender roles; feminist issues
are again and again in the forefront
of Kauffman's and her characters'
- thoughts. In the title story,
Marimba, a woman trying to break
. the habit of grinding her teeth, en-
counters sexual "brainwashing" head-
on when she visits a male hypnotist.
To channel her agression away from
tooth-grinding, he hypnotizes her to
gesture with her middle finger in-
stead - to tell the world to "screw
off." "'Women,"' she declares,
"'physiologically, do not screw the
world."' This conflict is significant
both sociologically and personally;
she, like many of Kauffman's char-
acters, is fighting to be an individual
in a world that would have her be a
One could say the same of
Kauffman's writing. Her works often
eschew linear plot and the traditional
boundary dividing "fantasy" and
"reality." This approach, combined
with her beautiful and stylized prose,
makes her, much like Jayne Anne
Phillips, impossible to read compla-
cently. She constantly and effec-

tively jars the reader, either with stir-
ring language, improbable plot mu-
tations, or both - as in "Women
Over Bay City," in which she ren-
ders alienation between the sexes in
a man's witnessing of a flock of
bird-like women landing in a field.
Kauffman's writing style often
makes for difficult reading. If some

Cochran's old budddy Tiburon) is re-
ally mean (his name means "shark"
in Spanish), isn't from the Mid-
West (Mexican), and does bad things
(drug dealer). Quinn, who is about a
hundred years old now and wheezes
every time he has to move, might
not have been the ideal casting
choice for the bad guy.
Rule #3: The love interest
(Madeline Stowe from Stakeout as
Tiburon's young wife Miryea with
whom Cochran falls in love after
about five minutes) is mysterious
(wears sunglasses) and sexy (can
bend her legs really far back), yet
playful (makes love with Costner
while he's driving a jeep). A love in-
terest for the hero can easily be re-
placed by a neat weapon with lots of
gadgets, but if necessary, her dia-
logue must be restricted to wistful
sighs and moans of pleasure.
Rule #4: The sacred male code of
honor is extremely important. As a
male, I am not allowed to reveal the
secrets of the code in this open fo-
rum, but here is an example:
Cochran saved Tiburon's life during
a hunting trip, so later on, when
Tiburon's business associate insults
Cochran at the dinner table, Tiburon
is obliged to shoot him in the head.
Now they are even.
Rule #5: Revenge. The conflict
comes about when Cochran runs off
with Miryea, insulting Tiburon's
See REVENGE, page 9


Revenge isn't even worth seeing for Kevin Costner fans, so as a public service, we're providing a fix for them here. The scar's definitely a new look, but
if you want to see him take greater grooming risks, check out his early American Flyers sometime.

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) R I E S
along with her impressionistic slices
of life. In fact, the rare flaws in these
stories occur when Kauffman is too
blatant, such as her heavy-handed tie-
in of environental issues in the title
We do not perceive the world in
terms of neat plots or logical causal-
ity - that happens after our minds
sift through what our senses take in
and impose words and structure on
them. What we see in Obscene Ges-
tures for Women is a glimpse of
what happens before that mental
ordering. Janet Kauffman is frighten-
ingly successful in transcribing the
raw language of the mind.
-Jim Poniewozik

The The The
"I've got angst in my pants and I
want to dance," sang Matt Johnson
in "Soul Mining" during The The's
second encore. Well, actually he
didn't, though he should have. "How
can anyone know me when I don't
even know myself," was the real re-
frain, and it was a little bizarre -
nay absurd - hearing a packed Fri-
day crowd at the Royal Oak Music
Theater chanting these personal
words en masse.
The The played most of its songs
from the Infected and Mind Bomb
LPs with a couple of tunes from
Soul Mining. Live rock music these
days is generally a visually dull
proposition; keyboard playing and
guitar.strumming are only so inter-
esting. There comes a point when,
you want something different; when
regurgitating the songs on the
records is simply not enough. And
therein lies the problem with The
The. This was a competent show.
The audience got its money's worth,
and that was that. The economic/art
transaction between the audience and
The The was complete. Just like a
Sting show.
The crowd of metro suburbanites
and trendies took to it because, in
America, they're starved of any
palatable white rock that actually
speaks of broader concerns than
"Love me, I have a rampant member
as well as being sensitive" or "Our
sincerity is proportionate to the hip-
ness of our haircuts." Matt Johnson
writes about politics, religion and
more politics from a leftish point of
view which is rare these days in pop
America, give or take a Tracy
Chapman and Michelle Shocked.
Johnson's jeremiads went down a
The The hammered through
songs about American bombers,
American imperialism, and bad sex
(with Americans?) with a striking
professionalism (CBS must be ex-
tremely satisfied with the efficiency
of their act). To add visual impact,
there was a go-go style dancer/ back-
ing singer who looked liked she'd
stepped out of the title sequence of a
'60s James Bond movie. And there
was dry ice and lighting choreogra-
phy that would have made Pink
Floyd smile.
Johnson's lyrical lecturing was
interrupted by a nifty version of

have been a concert given by Peter,
Gabriel, Simple Minds, or worse
still, Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
Like Punk never happened.
-Nabeel Zuberi
Asolo show
captures Spirit
Noel Coward is the type of
dramatist whose work has that ten-
dency to pass you by if you are not
entirely attentive to the play in
progress. This characteristic, or hin-
drance, places a great deal of artistic
responsibility on the director and
cast. The comic subtleties must be
accentuated, but not spoon-fed, and
the performances must be glowing
in order to capture the full attention
that such cunning dialogue warrants.
For the most part, the Asolo The-
atre's performance of Blithe Spirit
lived up to the high demands of
Coward's text.
The play's farcical plot revolves
around the lives and after-lives of
upper-class English characters prior
to England's involvement in World
War II. Charles Condomine, a suc-
cessful writer, is at the center of an
impossible situation that brings his
first wife back from the dead. Her
resurrection, coupled with the pres-
ence of his second wife and an eccen-
tric necromancer, allows for the rich
In Coward's work, the demand on
the cast is not so much focused on
experience as it is on eccentricity and
energy. For some reason, most of
the actors' performances were not
jump-started until the second act,
with the brilliant exception of Pat
Nesbit, whose portrayal of the sec-
ond wife, Ruth, displayed a refresh-
ing blend of energy and depth
throughout the show. Sadly enough,
it was also Nesbit who seemed to be
the only one projecting loudly and

clearly enough. Part of the time I
felt as though I missed a joke due to
muddled delivery. This problem was
only a minor flaw in an otherwise
glowing production.
Once the second act commenced,
it seemed as though everyone had hit
their stride. Joseph Culliton worked
well at balancing the pomposity of
an English writer with the vulnera-
bility of a troubled husband. Grace
Paige and Bradford Wallace gave,
sound performances as the visiting
couple. Although the farcical nature,
of the work could have catered to
more embellishment from Paige and
Wallace, this was not a problem
with Jane Strauss, whose Edith
could only exist in an impossible;
world with her exaggerated curtsying
and confused delivery.
Perhaps the most obvious candi-
date to steal the show would have
been the bizarre seer Madame Arcati.
Susan Willis lived up to the role.
with great physical comedy but'
often, too, her voice was lost on the
stage and did not translate the joke.
The returned first wife Elvira was
much like Madame Arcati in the
sense that her comedy too was
mostly physical. Kimberly King,
saw to it that her Elvira would not
ignore the possiblilities for ethereal
silliness and melodramatic embel-
lishment. The only problem with
her showing was the inconsistency
of her English accent.
A problem with Coward's plays
is that often a director can rely too
much on the text as the only means
for comedy and ignore other possi-
bilities. Director Fred Chappell was.
sensitive to this and decided to have
some fun with the positioning of the
two wives as they waltzed around
their husband. The effect was both
sophisticated and funny in its own;
right, and Chappell should be given.
credit for his creation.
-Wallace Knox

fiction can be considered "dream-
like," then hers is daydreamlike, in
that the mundane and believable bend
and shift into each other with an
eerie effortlessness. Often it defies
literal understanding, as in "Mar-
guerite Landmine," the tale of an
enigmatic performance artist whose
life becomes indistinguishable from
her artifice - if you can read this
without rereading any part, have a
cigar. If you can read it without
trembling at its eccentric beauty,
have two.
However, because Kauffman cou-
ples a poet's mastery of language
with a poet's economy, her stories
are not overly thick or off-putting.
Also, for all her adventurism, she
proves capable as well of construct-
ing more structured, "story" stories

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