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November 13, 1990 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-11-13

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*The Michigan Daily

Tuesday, November 13, 1990

Page 5

Two gangsters and a mom

The new Dead?
Blues Traveler not just 'Dropping Some NYC'

I ...i v

The Krays
dir. Peter Medak
by Gregg Flaxman
T here is a scene midway
through the new gangster film
The Krays where Violet Kray
(Billie Whiteshaw) asks her twin
sons and a room full of well-
dressed Londoners to check their
shoes to see if they've trailed any-
thing onto the carpet. Everyone
checks their soles and thanks
Mrs. Kray for the tea and biscuits
she's brought; when the firm,
smiling woman leaves, the men
get down to the business of decid-
ing who to kill.
It is this bizarre and often hi-
larious juxtaposition of brutal
politics and maternal authority
that makes Peter Medak's new
gangster psychodrama unique at a
time and in a genre where it has
to be. In the wake of countless
Mafia films, The Krays will
probably be overlooked: it isn't
as expansive or hedonistic as
Goodfellas and it lacks the car-
toonish feel and humor of
Miller's Crossing. But this dis-
tinctly English rendition offers a
perverse twist on an old
Hollywood standard.{
Based on John Pearson's
book, The Profession of
Violence, The Krays is the true1
story of brothers Ronald and
Reginald Kray (Gary and Martin
Kemp respectively), from their
wartime childhood to post-war ex-I
travagance as London gangsters.
The brothers - during their
glamorous tenure and until the
present day - have been an ob-
ject of English obsession. Asked
if he knows the Beatles, Ronald'
says, "No, but I believe they1
know us."

Phillip Ridley's script deals
less with the Krays as a cultural
and national phenomenon than as
the strange result of a domineer-
ing mother and her female clan
that inspire loyalty, sensitivity,
and excessive violence in the
boys. The film is a Freudian field
day; both sons worship their
mother, yet their relationships
with women are anything but
normal. Ronald, the true psy-
chopath of the two, is homosex-
ual - an orientation which, in
the eyes of the film, is a psycho-
sexual deviance.
No gangster film has ever ap-
proached violence with such a
purely psychological slant.
Medak's film is intent on estab-
lishing the Krays' thirst for vio-
lence less as a convention of the
underworld than as a kind of re-
verse misogyny. The source of
this deflection is ultimately
Violet Kray, whose appearance
invokes the smell of mothballs,
yet whose unyielding belligerence
is, especially towards her hus-
band, almost castrating. But
Violet is also the cipher of The
Krays. She is a woman who ex-
horts her sons to strength but re-
fuses to ever ask for what purpose
that strength is used. She remains
(intentionally?) ignorant of the
depths to which her sons, who
enjoy brandishing large sabers,
have sunk.
The problem with The Krays
lies in its very originality - the
familial insights take over the
film, while the gang rivalries, the
Kray association with the
American Mafia and the internal
struggles of "The Firm" are never
explored adequately. Even psy-
chopathic rage needs a backdrop.
The only vague explanation of
how the brothers ever got into the
Mafia is provided by a ridicu-

lously short prison scene.
In this sense, Alex
Thompson's (Excalibur) photog-
raphy seems, at times, slightly
too epic for the premise of the
film. Still, The Krays is visu-
ally stunning. The violence is es-
pecially well-handled. When
Reginald savagely pummels two
men against his forest green
Jaguar, his wife Frances (Kate
Hardie) sits inside the car horri-
fied, with the music turned up
full blast, her face smeared
against the windows in agony.
Thompson and Medak make sure
the film is never boring to view.
Gary and Martin Kemp, mem-
bers of British pop band Spandau
Ballet, are chillingly effective as
the twisted twins. Gary Kemp as
the sadistic, dark, and deranged
Ronald is particularly convincing,
and his resentment of Reginald's
wife is unspoken but potent. The
two are especially good when in-
teracting with Whitelaw's tena-
cious but homey Violet.
But too often the gangsters in
general and rival gangster Cornell
(Steve Berkoff) in particular fall
into simply yelling their lines in-
discriminately while bearing their
teeth and gums to the camera, as
if the audience was comprised
solely of dental hygenists. This is
in part due to the dialogue, which
has a tendency to become trite or
inane. When Aunt Rose (Susan
Fleetwood) talks about the privi-
leged WWII soldiers who had it
good in their "gleaming planes
and tanks" compared with the
burden the English housewife
shouldered, Ridley has taken his
quasi-feminism too far. But when
it doesn't tread too far into absur-
dity, The Krays is both bizarre
and compelling.
THE KRAYS is showing at
Showcase and Briarwood.

"We're a nineties band now, but in ten years we'll be zeros. What are we gonna call that decade anyway?"
Blues Traveler vocalist/harmonicaist John Popper wondered.

by Andrew J. Cahn

Even in the pouring rain, hundreds
of fans stretching three blocks down
Hudson Street outside of New
York's Wetlands were waiting until

Fledgling group puts film InFocus

by Susan Uselmann
N othing can be as frustrating as
the inability to express your own
creative thoughts and ideas. At such
a large university, this is a common
dilemma, especially in the world of
film and video production.
In lieu of this inaccessibility to
student creativity and expression, a
new student film cooperative has
been formed. InFocus Filmworks is
a fledgling organization which helps
students improve their technique as
well as art form in filmmaking.
Sun-ho Lee, the coordinator of
InFocus, explains the idea behind the
group. "There is a certain sense of
isolation that helps everyone express
their ideas yet get away from the bu-
reaucratic department," says Lee.
Although only a month old, the
independent organization has grown
from its original five to approxi-
mately 50 students. Every Thursday
evening at 6 p.m. the group brain-
storms in 1008 Freize. Operating as
a social collective, the members talk

about their ideas of productions or
stories. To Lee, this is a more cre-
ative outlet than what is available
through the departments of
Communications and Film/Video.
The purpose of InFocus is to
provide production experience for
those interested in the world of film
and video. Only half of the mem-
bers, however, are actually
Film/Video majors. The group is for
everyone, just as the films they pro-
duce are for everybody to watch.
"Our primary idea is to provide a
network of people and their interests,
in which students can work as a co-
hesive group," Lee says. "It provides
an audience of peers, bringing the
real world down to a small micro-
cosm while being able to make con-
tacts for future involvements in the
film world."
Unfortunately, the organization
must presently rely purely on funds
and donations. Presently, all equip-
ment either belongs to members or
is acquired on a temporary basis. Lee
other forms of cultural expression.
In this sense, the song seems out of
But 187 and K.M.G. do engage
in an admirable feat by making
Soundgarden's Chris Cornell sound
weak when their anti-oppression
tirade leads into Cornell's compara-
tively inferior screams of "Heretic!
Burn at the stake!" from "Heretic."
This not even one of the band's bet-
ter tunes. Sonic Youth's "Titanium
Expos6" and the Junkies' cover of
Robert Johnson's "Me and the Devil
Blues" are better choices.
It might be worth the price of
purchase just to hear Concrete
Blonde's Johnette Napolatino sneer-
ingly sing one of the most truthful
verses ever recorded: "Everybody
knows that you've been faithful/
give or take a night or two/
Everybody knows you've been dis-
creet/ So many people you had to
meet/ Without your clothes." (from
Leonard Cohen's "Everybody
Knows") And as an extra added
hbnn listeners can hear Bad Brains'

hopes they will be able to get their
own equipment in the future so they
do not have to be dependent upon the
little that they have at the moment.
On the first Thursday of every
month, InFocus holds a student film
showing, the first of which occurs
on the first of November. It is open
to everyone, and features a variety of
clips from different artists. Although
presently the organization consists
only of students, Lee said she would
like to add local independent artists
to the list, as the purpose of InFocus
is to express all types of creativity:
"I want this to be the independent
film work in Ann Arbor and for it to
include everything from main stream
commercials to the avant-garde."

they could get in to see their favorite
band, Blues Traveler, one night at
the end of this past summer. A set
they played while opening for Little
Feat absolutely blew me away a
week before, but when I saw that
line I realized that I would have to
wait to see them play a full show.
Needless to say, when I heard that
they were planning to play at an
Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity party
Saturday night, I decided that some-
how I was going to weasel my way
in there. Thank you, Michigan
When Blues Traveler took the
stage at 9 p.m., these four sloppily-
dressed New Yorkers immediately hit
the tightly-packed crowd with the
improvisational grooves that earned
them respect after the release of their
self-titled debut album. Of the un-
predictable changes present in many
of their numbers, guitarist Chan
Kinchla explained, "It just comes
from a lot of the different riffs we
like to us. It's fun to surprise people
and jar the rhythm like that. It keeps
things shakin'."
In the front of the band was
singer/harmonica player John

Popper, who wore around his neck
one of those multi-compartment
ammo holders, in which he stored
not only his harps, but also what he
called "anti-personnel grenades"
which he said would be activated
later in the evening. Although
Popper's singing and harp playing is
featured in practically each of Blues
Traveler's songs, in a nearly 30-
minute version of their song "Sweet
Talkin' Hippie" the band stopped
playing so the vocalist could let
loose on his own.
Deep into his solo, Popper put
the harmonica away and simply
made percussive noises with his
mouth while directing the fans to
clap along with him. Incidentally, he
is so capable on his instrument that
he can argue with a soundman on
stage while playing and not miss a
beat. Eventually, the band re-entered,
following the beat created by the
Throughout the night, there did
not seem to be any pre-set formula
for the show. As drummer Brendan
Hill explained, "We take a different
approach to every show, and try to
give the people something different
every night." The songs they do play
are determined by bassist Bobby
Sheehan. Why is this? "It sort of
just occurred," Sheehan said. With
their synthesis of improvisational
blues with heavy funk, many fans
feel Blues Traveler sound like a cross
between Living Colour and the

About this analogy, John said, "I
think we sound more like a combi-
nation of that new band from New
York who sing that song 'Cult of
Personality,' and that real old band
[who sing] 'Truckin."'
"Actually," he continued, "the
New Yorkers say we are a garage
band attempt at our appreciation of
jazz through the reality of rock 'n'
roll. I think Elvis said it best when
he said, 'huh!"'
There were some technical prob-
lems with the show, such as a power
failure which quite ironically pre-
vented the band from playing acous-
tic numbers. But when they con-
cluded the show at one a.m. with a
funky version of "The Battle Hymn
of the Republic" and a double-time
"Johnny B. Goode," none of mem-
bers of either Alpha Epsilon Pi or
Sigma Chi, who produced the show,
as well as the others who attended
via invitations or various clandestine
ways were disappointed.
In the words of Alpha Epsilon Pi
member Jeff Jacobs, "These guys are
such a cool band, and my kids are
gonna be listening to them. When I
tell them that they played at my
house in college, they're gonna say,
'Dad, you're so cool!'" As for the
band's outlook on their future, as
they say in their tune "But
Anyway," "I see a new day dawning/
I like to sleep late, oh well, but

- w 1 IIRT HE0
Health Care Clinic of Ann Arbor
3012 Packard " 971-1970 THE

Mom AMIL i

Various Artists
Pump Up the Volume
Like so many other movies these
*days, perhaps the strongest point of
Pump Up the Volume (with the ob-
vious exception of Christian Slater's
voice) is the soundtrack. Hey,
Soundgarden and the Cowboy
Junkies got billing right alongside
Slater in the movie's advertisements.
Poor co-star Samantha Mathis was
left for unknown.
Not that either of these bands de-
serve this attribution when it is
Above the Law's "Freedom of
Speech," and Bad Brains' version of
"Kick out the Jams" that make the
album. Like the majority of the
tunes on the soundtrack, "Freedom
of Speech" is not an. unreleased
track. Unlike the other tunes on the
soundtrack, "Freedom of Speech" ac-
tually has something to do with the
That's because the song, like the
mmvP ise nhnt nttemntc to shut


igma Phi Epsilon
3-on-3 Basketball
Friday, November 16
$100 team /first prize
$50 team/second prize
Larry 663-8234
Matt 769-6372

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in the
University of Michigan
Student Telephone Directory.
ust show student I.D.)


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