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March 28, 1990 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 1990-03-28

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Page 12 - The Michigan Daily --Wednesday, March 28, 1990

Lowe maintains his image

Bad Influence
dir. Curtis Hanson
by Mark Binelli
"Get in bed with the devil, sooner or later you've
gotta fuck," James Spader is told in Bad Influence, the
new film in which he sells his soul to Rob Lowe and
then regrets it. Spader (sex, lies and videotape) plays
Michael, an upwardly mobile push-over (I don't get it
either) who is being dominated by his fiancde, his co-
workers and, eventually, this big goon in a bar who has
him in a head lock. Enter Lowe as Alex, one of those
mysterious drifter types, a sort of artsy, new-wave Euro-
Satan who seems to have discovered that he can wear a
lot of black and still look cool as long as he hangs
around with the right people. Anyway, he helps out
Michael by threatening to grind a broken bottle into the
face of his adversary and they become fast friends.
At first Michael is simply overwhelmed by Alex's
sheer hipness. He takes advice on how to be mean to
people at work and they start hanging out in these neat
underground bars that play Skinny Puppy, but
eventually Alex leads Michael down the road to that hot
place (and it ain't I-75),;convincing him to cheat on and
eventually dump his fiancde, do lots of coke, beat up
people he doesn't like, rob liquor stores and most
insidiously of all, insist that everybody call him Mick.
In their hit films from last summer, both actors
established themselves and their true gifts, Spader as a
pretty talented actor and Lowe as, well, pretty.
However, in Bad Influence, Spader just seems
uncomfortable, a completely unsympathetic hero

because of his distance and also because of the ease in
which he is led by Lowe, who seems to be present only
for his piercing eyes and as the victim of unintentional
jokes ("Veecry nice," he says as he checks out
Michael's video equipment), although there does seem
to be this scary new trend for cute young actors who*
want to be rebellious to play psychotic killers. Kevin
Bacon did it in that one movie last year and so did Judd
Nelson, in that other one... but this trend probably isn't
very dangerous.
At any rate, if you don't take Bad Influence very
seriously, it works on a cartoonish level. At times the
film is even slapstick, like when a mind-altered Michael
dresses up in an Easter Bunny costume so he won't be
recognized during the robberies. It can also be extremely
intense, especially when Alex goes over the edge and
begins to play mind games with his rejecting disciple.
But the main problem with the film is that director
Curtis Hanson seems to want us to believe in the
relationship between Alex and Michael, a relationship
which is completely absurd if taken at face value. Alex
too easily jumps into Michael's life, begins giving him
advice and then becomes obsessed with him to a Glenn
Close extreme. With the Prince of Darkness
implications, the relationship could have been of a
surreal-hypnotic quality, like the one between Keifer
Sutherland and the Jim Morrison guy in The Lost Boys.
But Bad Influence is not fantastic enough to work as
fantasy and not real enough to work as reality.
BAD INFLUENCE is playing at Briarwood and
Showcase.

Abigail Hornby of People Dancing troupe expresses the work of artist Charlotte Salomon in Friday's production
of Charlotte: Life? or Theater?
Art imitates Salomon 's life
by Beth Colquitt

"Stories of the Holocaust must be kept alive," says
People Dancing director Whitley Setrakian. She is
speaking of this weekend's People Dancing perfor-
mance at the Michigan Theater, Charlotte: Life? or
Theater?, a mixed media event, with dancing, drama
and music, both instrumental and vocal. The perfor-
mance is based on the life o( German expressionist
artist Charlotte Salomon (1917-1943).
Salomon, a German Jew, was sent to live in the
south of France for safety by her parents when the
Third Reich became powerful in her homeland. Ulti-
mately, she was not safe enough, and she died in a
concentration camp. While she was in France, how-
ever, Salomon produced 800 works of art which, ac-
cording to Setrakian, "were like a diary." Salomon's
art was autobiographical, covering her entire life from
the meeting of her parents to the death of her grandpar-
ents, with whom she lived in France. Her paintings
also included text; on each canvas she recorded what
the work was about and her feelings at the time it was
made.
In order to produce a stage piece from this work,
Setrakian, took a translation of the dialogue from the
paintings and edited it into a workable script. Se-
trakian, who is noted for her odd, humourous style,
callsCharlotte "more formal and serious than my past
work." It is staged in the format of a play with four
actors speaking the dialogue. "Sometimes we dance to

the music and sometimes to the text alone," says Se-
trakian. She relies on similar shapes and the same en-
ergy she sees embodied in Salomon's paintings.
Setrakian says she feels the work has a very con-
temporary meaning because she sees similarities be-
tween Salomon and students on this campus. "She
was a young woman from an educated, bohemian fam-
ily who were very into the arts," Setrakian says.
"Even the style of clothing (in Salomon's paintings)
is right off the Diag, vintage clothing and all."
Setrakian says Salomon's work provides a detailed
look into one person's life and allows the tragedy of
the Holocaust to become much more pronounced. "I
have a great amount of respect for her. She was
trained, but not greatly trained. I also like the fact that
she just did her work. She wasn't concerned with
whether her work was displayed in a gallery some-
where," she says. "She looked out for herself."
Setrakian says she wants her piece to inspire a dif-
ferent perspective of the Holocaust, from the point of
view of contemporary students. "I'm not a politician,
I'm an artist," says Setrakian. "This is one way that
my work can have some impact.-
CIJARLOTTE: LIFE? OR ThEATER? will be pre-
sented at the Michigan Theater Friday at 8 p.m. Stu-
dent tickets are $8.

Midnight Oil
Blue Sky Mining
Columbia Records
With the release of Diesel and
Dust, Midnight Oil encountered
something that was new to them:
mass success. Moreover, the band
had seemingly achieved this on its
own terms; politically indignant
lyrics and ferocious music propelled
Diesel to big sales. After struggling
in relative obscurity for eight years,
this seemed a watershed for the band.
But lurking in the future was the
major problem of the follow up
record. Given Midnight Oil's un-
compromising stance, it would seem
likely that they would continue in
the same general direction. After all,
if the band could hit the bigtime
once without giving in to commer-
cial constraints, then why not a sec-
ond time?
Why not indeed. Predictably,
there has been a great deal of debate
in the press over the new record,
Blue Sky Mining. Most of this cen-
ters on the question of whether or
not this record is a sellout. Given

the extremely high (by relative stan-
dards) incidence of ballads on Blue
Sky Mining, it would at first appear
that this is the case. Even more
agressive songs such as "Forgotten
Years" and "King of the Mountain,"
are almost too melodic for their own
good. Where's all the fire and brim-
stone that marked the band's early
work? As was noted in Musician,
the band's audiences in their early
pub years would have torn them
apart for playing stuff this wimpy.
Okay, okay, enough of the theo-
retical - is Blue Sky Mining any
good? Well, that depends on how far
back one became a fan. Those who
jumped on the wagon because of
Diesel will probably not be disap-
pointed; the songs are good, the
playing is exceptional, and the record
gives a feeling that this is worth-
while art, not just a money grab.
There are a few too many ballads,
but bald-headed Peter Garret actually
harnesses his primal yelp into some
real harmonies. Not bad, Pete,
although you'll never be one of the
great lounge singers.

For those who were drawn to ear-
lier records, the lyrical content has
remained as politically charged as
ever. There isn't any mushy crap
here, except for "Shakers and
Movers." The problem is that the
band seems to lack the drive that
made songs like "Read About It" so
powerful. Maybe the band is getting
older. Worse yet, maybe they're get-
ting more mature. But they're still
pulling stupid gimmicks like mak-
ing the cassette of Mining blue.
Maybe there's still some hope.
-Mike Molitor

THE DAILY
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