The Michigan Daily Tuesday, November 6, 1990
IHonkif you love Jesus or Montreal
does 4AD thing
Jesus of Montreal
dir. Denys Arcand
by Jen Bilik
fter playing all the standard roles,
4'here does an actor have to go but
,up? Following his debacle in I Love
®You to Death, Kevin Kline opted for
the Hamlet direction, as did Mel
Gibson, better known to most of us
as a hunk-stud or the Road Warrior.
So when Daniel Coulombe (Lothaire
-Bluteau) is asked what part he'll play
next, it seems no surprise when he
replies "Jesus. I need inspiration."
He looks like Jesus, he acts like
Jesus, and he appears and disappears
like Jesus, except that he's removed
to- contemporary Montreal with all
of the modernizations that the set-
-ting implies. Jesus of Montreal is
one of those rare exceptions in drama
where allegory works side-by-side
"with entertainment, where modern-
'ization doesn't seem like a pre-fab
-social statement compensating for
,rofundity. Director Denys Arcand
takes the concept of the morality
-play and twists it, transforms it, up-
dates it, but it works on multiple
levels both as the play-within-a-play
and as the movie's overall story.
Although it becomes increasingly
clear towards the end of the film that
..Daniel's life is meant to have a one-
:to-one metaphorical relationship
with the life of Jesus, the explicit-
ness of the comparison in no way
detracts from the film as a whole. In
the first three-quarters of the film
' Arcand shines, but the last quarter
seems rushed to fulfill its metaphor-
Daniel Coulombe arrives myste-
riously in Montreal after time spent
away travelling. He is gentle and
kind, with longish greasy hair and a
craggly beard, slender and transcen-
dent. The first quarter of the film
toys with the play-within-a-play de-
vice, and we are introduced to all of
-the movie's main characters as they
:perform various roles - ranging
'from narrating a Big Bang laser
show to over-dubbing a porn flick.
The movie itself begins with a man
overdramatizing the role of a reli-
gious martyr, and the uninitiated
viewer wonders whether the entire
movie will be so melodramatic, see-
ing as it's titled Jesus of Montreal.
Breathe a sigh of relief when the
camera pulls back to reveal a stage
and an audience, when the modern-
day society of Montreal surfaces for
the film's setting.
Daniel has been given the task of
updating the Catholic church's an-
nual staging of the traditional moral-
ity play of the life of Jesus. He wan-
ders around Montreal to collect for-
mer theater classmates, researching
Jesus' life from religious, archaeo-
logical and scientific perspectives.
The friendships between the charac-
ters are warm and convincing, and
the ensemble begins to move collec-
tively with a common goal in mind.
When we finally see the play it-
self, it justifies the French word for
"play." Staged on the grounds of a
beautiful Catholic shrine replete
with statues, tunnels, and a lake, the
production is truly a spectacle. Al-
though we're accustomed to special
effects in film, the fact that we can
see the audience standing as they
watch the performance refreshes us
to the play's wonders. It is at this
point that the various metaphors
start to pile up, thread upon thread,
threatening to reach overkill towards
the end. Typically, the characters,
especially Daniel, begin to confuse
their roles with real life.
One of the strongest characters is
perhaps that of Father Leclerc,
(Gilles Relletier) the insecure priest
who is less devout than fearful of
losing his position to be stationed as
the chaplain at an old age home in a
colder climate as a result of the un-
orthodoxy of the play he's spon-
sored. His character taps into various
traditions of fallen priests, those
who cling to the clergy for its safety
and who recognize the need for reli-
gion: "Not everybody can afford psy-
Jesus of Montreal recognizes its
own metaphorical relationships, so
even the overkill towards the end
by Michael Paul Fischer
My first memory of Warren De-
fever is one of returning home
late one night five years ago, after
spending the day at my father's
tool-and-die shop, to find that a
driveway hoops game had left my
basketball backboard broken. It
was a bit lower than regulation
- only 8 feet high, to be exact,
because it had to fit above the
garage door - still, only the tall,
skinny Defever was able to slam-
dunk on it. It wasn't a Darryl
Dawkins-style flying-glass acci-
dent, reportedly; the chunk that
came out with the hoop was made
of pressed particle-board.
Now I find out that this high-
school acquaintance has a new al-
bum released on British label
4AD. Along with The Pixies and
a couple others, Defever's group,
called His Name is Alive, are the
only Americans in an exclusive
club of labelmates which includes
The Cocteau Twins, Dead Can
Dance and This Mortal Coil.
It kinda makes you wonder.
While this guy from Livonia is
getting rave reviews.in England's
Melody Maker, what the hell is
he still doing putzing around here
in the middle of Michigan? The
21-year old musician/mastermind
of Livonia, His Name is Alive's
debut album, is still living with
his parents in that archetypal, De-
troit-area suburb. Livonia -
which the Maker called "a very
rare, raw beauty indeed," - was
recorded mostly in Warren's
Livonia invites immediate
comparisons to both the Cocteaus
and DCD, but in a radically unfo-
cused way, it's far more experi-
mental. Ethereal and otherwordly,
but also given to abrasive fits of
instrumentation, the album fea-
tures vague, spiritually questing
lyrics sung by collaborators Karin
Oliver and Angela Carozzo. Lis-
tening to Livonia is like taking a
glass boat down a vast chasm,
under stalactites of jagged, glis-
tening effects, amidst cathedral
voices whose Gregorian cadences
echo out of Plato's cave.
So how did this gangly kid
end up scoring Detroit's biggest
alternative music breakthrough in
ages? "We just sent him a cas-
sette," Defever says of Ivo Watts-
Russell, the proprietor of 4AD.
His success was not re-
ally an overnight one, though.
The versatile Defever had earlier
cut his touring teeth as bassist for
the notorious "hardcore-rocka-
billy" outfit Elvis Hitler.
What does Defever think about
His Name is Alive's instant fame
across the Atlantic? "It seems like
that country is just kind of
goofy," reflects Defever. "Like we
were in the alternative Top Ten
for a month - but it's totally
unscientific. I don't think its re-
ally meaningful." Released June
25th in the U.K., Livonia (still
an import here) is soon to be li-
censed in Germany, Japan and
Spain. But even though he's as-
sembled a five-piece band for a
free showcase gig tonight at Ann
Arbor's Blind Pig, Defever is
wary of accepting an offer of a
$50,000 advance to tour Britain.
Apparently, he's settled where he
is right now.
HIS NAME IS ALIVE perform a
free show tonight at 9 p.m. at the
He looks like Jesus. He smells like Jesus. By God, it is Jesus as played
by Lothaire Bluteau.
maintains the tone of the beginning.
Its allegory is matched by the beauty
and relevance of its setting and char-
acters, so that it never subjects the
viewer to mioral didacticism or con-
JESUS OF MONTREAL is playing
at the Ann Arbor 1 & 2, in French
with English subtitles.
Aside from being one of the
"highest-charting debut albums in
"British history (it entered straight at
#1), The Christians - the 1988
bow of brothers Garry and Russell
hristian - stood out as the
decade's most successful effort to
; revitalize male message soul in the
grand Motown tradition.
Instrumentalist Henry Priestman
:wrote lyrics of an almost
* unfathomably idealistic communal
spirit, but backed the brothers'
husky, flexible harmonies with
synth bass and electronic rhythms.
The way The Christians maintained
an organic sense of uplift in that
modern context was remarkable.
On their follow-up, though, The
Christians (re-formed after the
temporary departure of lead singer
Garry) enlisted producer Laurie
Latham to replace the electronics in
their sound. The result throughout
Colour all too often amounts to
arrangements over-laden with
esoteric sitar-twangs and superfluous
production effects; even the blurry
fretless bass used on most tracks
serves to obscure punctual strength
of the brothers' phenomenal vocals.
But the best, most clearly focused
songs restate the group's peerless
virtues, from the protest funk of
"All Talk" to their moody magnum
opus "Words," an classic,
atmospheric epic of apology. And
when their voices ascend to the
words, "Since she said she loved me/
I'm in heaven,"" in "Greenbank
Drive," The Christians may make
you feel quite the same way.
-Michael Paul Fischer
WRITE FOR ARTS!!! CALL 763-0379!!!!
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