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October 18, 1990 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-10-18

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Page 8 - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, October 18, 1990
Little hunter, big gun ;wEw

White Hunter,
Black Heart
dir. Clint Eastwood
by Gregg Flaxman
From the first, John Wilson's
passionate, unyielding presence is
the nucleus around which obsession
and - too infrequently - art re-
volve in Clint Eastwood's White
Hunter, Black Heart. Wilson is an
indebted, apparently brilliant film-
naker whose penchant for danger is
force-fed to the audience. The film
wastes no time in establishing, liter-
ally, a parallel between Wilson and
Hemingway. Actually, Eastwood's
character is based on director John
Huston as he prepared to make The
African Queen.
Eastwood assumes the role of
Wilson, who coaxes screenwriter-
confidant Peter Verill (Jeff Fahey) to
accompany him to the Congo in
preparation for his latest film.
Amidst the plains of Africa, East-
wood dons starched khaki and evi-
dently refuses to appear in any scene
without a brown-paper cigarette.
Here, the unfaltering egotist and self-
made deity finally finds a focus for
his hunger and violence: the African
Elephant. Wilson must kill one, and
his maniacal pursuit of the beast
comes to eclipse his film, and even
his relationship with Verill.
Eastwood's attraction to the
screenplay, written by Peter Viertel,
James Bridges and Burt Kennedy,
seems obvious. The Wilson charac-
ter is undeniably compelling, and the
duality of a director making a film
about a director an intriguing chal-
lenge. Yet it's one that Eastwood
never quite digests. Assurances of
Wilson's brilliance are merely assur-
ances; the film offers no glimpses of

the director at work. Instead, the
writers provide absurd conversations
between Wilson and Verill on the
nature of art and Wilson's faith in
the power of simplicity.
Verill also offers several
nauseating poetic phrases about the
timeless elephant, in contrast to
Wilson's obsession with killing
them. Thankfully, Eastwood never
lets the film descend into ecological
didacticism. Yet, Verill's eyes
provide a fair and uncompromising
- if unpenetrating - portrait.
First appearing in England, Wil-
son is constricted among the conven-
tions and wealth of aristocratic soci-
ety. His humor, his offensiveness
and his obscenity are misplaced; his
brashness is ludicrous. Eastwood's
performance is strained and uncom-
fortable, imbued with a purposeful-
ness that betrays artificiality. Wil-
son's verbosity is a far cry from the
reticent infidels of Eastwood's past:
sneering Dirty Harry Calahan or the
slit-eyed nameless honcho of Sergio
Leone's films. Wilson's assurance to
a producer's wife that Verill is "hung
like a stud horse" sounds more par-
odic than shocking.
If the film is tedious in its antic-
ipation of Africa, then certainly
White Hunter, Black Heart is sig-
nificantly revived when Wilson and
Verill reach Africa. Jack Green's cin-
ematography - increasingly expan-
sive, but never superfluous - solid-
ifies the transfiguration of both film
and character. Eastwood's pacing is
effective and sometimes inspired.
Wilson's assertive nature is suited to
the rugged landscape and brutal poli-
tics of the Congo, and this is un-
doubtedly authenticated by East-
wood. He wavers between aloofness
and obsession, between morality and
self-aggrandizement.
Wilson's confrontation of an

anti-Jewish, white guest, Mrs.
MacGregor, at his Antebbe hotel
may be the film's best moment. Her
approval of Hitler's "disposal" of the
Jews rouses Eastwood from flirtation
and mild intoxication. On a small
pad he begins to sketch her face and
hair, while leisurely relating an in-
sult he once gave another woman
with a mindset similar to Mrs.
MacGregor's. As .Mrs. MacGregor
abruptly leaves, Wilson tosses down
her portrait - with an unmistakable
black moustache drawn in.
Ultimately, Wilson's nameless
passion becomes the African Ele-
phant. Despite Pete Verill's desire to
enhance the script and producer Paul
Landers' (George Dzaudza) compul-
sion to begin filming, Wilson, the
deity, must commit the symbolic,
sin. There is something in White
Hunter, Black Heart which begins
to articulate the pull between self-
definition and sublimation, but
Eastwood's performance and direc-
tion ultimately substitute head-shots
of the actor's sun-burnished, creased
face for nuance. The connection be-
tween art and obsession is only
vaguely illuminated. This is made
painfully clear by Huston's film -
The African Queen - which looms
over Eastwood's work in the form of
absurd Bogart and Hepburn look-
alikes. How indeed did Wilson-Hus-
ton channel his energies into film?
Or was his greatness divorced from
his obsession?
The look-alikes mock Wilson and
the pretense of White Hunter, Black
Heart. One might wish that
Eastwood had left these traces of
Huston's film behind, or that he
might painlessly slip The African
Queen onto the projector for an hour
or so.
WHITE HUNTER, BLACK HEART
is showing at Ann Arbor 1 &2.

L7
Smell the Magic
Sub Pop

In 1988 or 1989, I forget whidh,
Chrissie Hynde (a.k.a. The Pre-
tenders) released a single, "Windows,
of the World," (a Burt Bacharach
song of all things) from the 1969,
soundtrack. Appropriately, the b-side
was a cover of the the Stooges ode
to boredom, "1969." Unfortunately;
Hynde's long-anticipated Iggy cover
was an emotionless, bored run-
through of the simple chords. ,
But if the idea of Hynde doing
some more of these covers appeals
to you, I heartily recommend the
new L7 e.p.. Unlike a lot of Sub
Pop fare, L7 play with a velocity
level reminiscent of the Ramones,
complete with handclaps, at least
some of the time. The female quartet
lays down a "fast, mean and frighten
ing" (it's only scary to those more
used to Marie Osmond) standard rock
groove (punkish, metalish, about
what you would expect from another
two guitar, keyboardless combo) that
provides an excellent backdrop for
some surfing lead guitar lines.
The only complaint is that L7 are
sticking to the usual Sub Pop re-
lease schedule and this record has butt
6 songs on it. The colored vinyl ver-
sions are probably long-gone by
now, but you can still score hipster
points by identifying the short sam-
ple that opens side one, or the local
celebrities pictured on the back.
"Thegneighbors say I jam too
loud," goes the opening track,
"S hove." If that's not a good sign,
then what is?
-Brian Jarvinen*

Clint Eastwood - a director wanting to be a good director playing a
director who was a good director - points his ammo at the "timeless
elephant."

--tore-fo - you!
. 9

Quotes of the Day
The multiply furnished but
thought-integrated complex called
space by humans occurs only as a
consequence of the imaginably re-
callable cosideration of the inside-
ness-and-outsideness-defining array
of contiguously occurring and con-
sciiously experienced time-energy
events.
-R. Buckminster Fuller in Syn-
ergetics on "space"
Life is the eternal present in the
temporal.
-R. Buckminster Fuller in Syn-
ergetics on "life"

AT T}Il

DRAMA
SEASON 1991
MnI(:HIG N ETE

Intellect is top speed, which is
instantaneous, being vastly faster
than the speed of light and all radia-
tion.
-R. Buckminster Fuller in Syn-
ergetics on "intellect"
Time is experience.
-R. Buckminster Fuller in Syn-
ergetics on "time"
Numbers are experiences.
-R. Buckminster Fuller in Syn-
ergetics on "numbers"

U of M's Student Run Dance Company

Announcing STUDENT DISCOUNT PRICES
for two of SHAKESPEARE'S FINEST!
THE ACTING COMPANY, the Nation's

/ 7&atre

Sha
t

* Fri
R(
J)rr~

V '1

Preeminent Repertory Troupe, performs
akespeare's romantic THErV /Q41
ale of star-crossed
lovers-
day, Oct 19 at 8PM e
OMEO OF
U VER9NA
H~iLARGFS NEWELL
The Bard's frothy comedy
about love and friendship
s Thursday Oct 18 at 8PM
TICKETS TO BOTH SHOWS
AVAILABLE NOW AT STUDENT
PRICE OF ONLY $9!

FREE WORKSHOP
Thursday October 18 8:00pm
Union Ballroom

IT'S NOT TOO LATE!
If you're interested in being involved
in a new fraternity at Michigan,
Theta Xi wants to talk to you!
Contact National Representative
Richard Rizzardi at the
Oxford Conference Center, at: 764-7938

Romance and waltzes on a

warm summer night

For more Info call

763-1107

4.

(A itQe

9$
*

cJ 3hgt &{/lugic

c a

r e e r P
EA19P

Musical Theatre Program
Mendelssohn Theatre
Oct. 18 - 24Oat 8 PM
Oct. 21 at 2 PM

Stephen Sondheim's sophisticated
musical comedy featuring
"Send in the Clowns"
*

0

4 414 4

Thursday
Over 60 organisations
with full time and summer
employment opportunities

October 25
Programs and services to
address key issues in your
job search and work place

Michigan Union
1:00am-4:00pm
Interest inventories, panels
and displays to generate
and explore camrrideas

El
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THE
DIFFERENCE
AT THE
TT LuP

Kick-off Activities
Wednesday, October 24

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