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November 28, 1990 - Image 5

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-11-28

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ARTS
Wednesday, November 28, 1990

*The Michigan Daily

Page 5

Costner
captures
*Soux
*by Mike Wilson
M idway through Dances With
Wolves, Civil War veteran John
Dunbar (Kevin Costner), encircled
by a laughing crowd, tells the story
of how he shot a buffalo to save a
child's life. The scene might seem
familiar to us from other Westerns
- yet we are reading subtitles,
Dunbar is speaking Lakota Sioux,
*and he is surrounded by Sioux Indi-
ans. In this way, Dances With
-Wolves successfully works within
the conventions of the Western
genre, while providing an unusually
accurate look at Native Americans.
Based on a novel, by Michael
Blake and directed by Costner him-
self, Dances With Wolves takes us
into the Sioux world of the 1860s
*through the story of' John Dunbar.
After an unusual turn of events
which brings Dunbar to an aban-
doned fort on the frontier, Dunbar
gradually begins to interact with the
Sioux people near him.
The pace is justifiably slow and
deliberate, making us feel the
unhurried rhythms of frontier life.
Step by step, the relationship
between Dunbar and the Sioux is
*established. At first, they exchange
R eords
Monie Love
Down To Earth
Warner Brothers
Before prefacing this review with
some vaguely sexist expression of
my desires for the Brit-turned-New
York rapper Monie Love, I hereby
resign myself to reason, pure reason,
in criticizing her album. Down To
Earth is a listenable record coming
from an exceptional rapper, plain and
simple. Along with A Tribe Called
Quest's Q-Tip, Monie Love gravi-
tates the Native Tongues posse with
a formidable personal style.
In "It's a Shame (My Sister),"
she maintains an excellent equilib-
rium between tense, purely semantic
relevance and the chaotic logic of
flowing for the sake of the flow,
"Collectably the facts should con-
clude the decision/ you caught the
brother in a terrible disposition/
that's it, pack it up/ be wise my sis-
ter, 'cause the facts keep stacking
up/ tell him to kiss the you know
what." And later in the same track as
elsewhere, she flows within already
flowing lines, always keeping a per-
fectly rhythmic line of attack, "You

Troupe examines
'Life on a Curve'

by Steve Fraiberg

Kevin Costner and Wind in His Hair interact during a buffalo hunt in a scene from Dances with Wolves. The film
eloquently explores one man's immersion into Sioux culture.

Residence Hall Repertory Theater's
hour-long show on education, "Life
on a Curve" not only makes
audiences laugh, but think. The 20-
member theater troupe, which
frequently plays to audiences of over
100 people, has been doing shows
on topics such as racism, love and
homophobia for the last six years.
Director Scott Weisssman says, "We
are trying to use live theater about
our own lives. The idea is that
people see their lives mirrored in
such a way that they feel
something."
Indeed they do.
Through the use of Campus
Creepies, which Weissman calls the
"Twilight Zone" of life at U of M,
audiences see a hilarious parody of
life in a discussion section. But this
episode, called "Death in the Discus-
sion Section" is about one student
who becomes frustrated because no
one else talks. Students should be
able to identify with this, because,
after all, who has not sat in a discus-
sion section and asked themselves,
"Why am I here?"
"I want to make people have a
chill. People laugh a lot and that is
great, but I want to make them feel a
little creepy about their lives," says
troupe member Emily Garabedian. A
fitting comment coming from the
Campus Creepy witch.
Original, insightful material like
this hits home. "We've written the
material from our own experiences
and we're just students like everyone
else," says troupe member Sharon

Oster. "The way we are portraying
these issues puts someone's mind at
ease if they see it on stage." Once a
semester, the troupe members share
their experiences which they use to
write the script. The result is both
sincere and riveting.
In "The Triathlon," characters
compete in the race for life. Partici-
pants run the final race in slow mo-
tion, as the theme from Chariots of
Fire plays in the background.
Amidst the humor are suggestions
which point to problems of the edu-
cational system. As the race pro-
gresses people are weeded out with
regards to language, ethnicity, race,
gender, financial background and so-
cial diseases like AIDS.
Another scene shows a professor
about to give students a test worth
95 percent of their grade. Attendance,
class participation and a 50-page pa-
per make up the remaining five per-
cent. A student in the center of the
room panics as a heartbeat thumps
over a speaker system. One then
hears his thoughts, so often echoed
by University students: "I can't fail,
I can't fail." Of course, in the real
world some people fail and some
don't. In conveying relevant issues
to students, the members of Resi-
dence Hall Repertory Theater are in
the group of people who don't.
LIFE ON A CURVE will be per-
formed tonight at 9 p.m. in the
Michigan Union Art Lounge (first
floor). Two more shows will take
place on Dec. S in Markley and
Dec. 12 in East Quad.

coffee and attempt to communicate;
eventually, in a pivotal scene,
Dunbar gains their trust by alerting
them to an oncoming buffalo herd.
At this point Dances With
Wolves begins to have the effect of
a foreign film, as Dunbar becomes
slowly accepted by the tribe and
learns their language. The film takes
us into a world with which we are
unfamiliar, and the dialogue occurs
in the Lakota Sioux language with
English subtitles. A white woman
adopted by the tribe named Stands
With A Fist (Mary McDonnell)
teaches Dunbar to speak the lan-
guage, while she relearns English
from him.
Together with Dunbar, we come
to understand the Sioux culture and
grow fond of members of the tribe,
like Wind In His Hair (Rodney
Grant) and the chief. Ten Bears

(Floyd Red Crow Westerman). The
fierce savages we see scalp a white
man early in the film become real
human beings whose behavior we
now understand. And knowing the
eventual fate of the Sioux nation, we
feel pity for these individuals and
their endangered culture.
This view of the Sioux is the
film's greatest success, and its effec-
tiveness can be largely attributed to
the fine cast. As the American sol-
dier attracted to the Sioux people,
Costner is completely sincere and at
ease with his new friends.
More important is the cast of
Native American actors and extras,
including Westerman. Graham
Greene (not the author) as Kicking
Bird, Dunbar's first friend and
mentor, is especially likeable and
ironically humorous. Authenticity of
location, culture and performances

create a deep sense of realism. Even
a wolf. that Dunbar dubs "Two
Socks" gives a great performance.
Despite its innovations in the
genre, the film preserves the con-
ventions of the Western film. The
inevitable landscape scenes (shot on
location in South Dakota) are unde-
niably beautiful, especially on the
wide Cinemascope screen. The thun-
dering roar of a herd of thousands of
buffalo is also impressive. Lasting
three hours, the film might be called
an epic; but the script wisely re-
mains focused on Dunbar's personal
story, rather than attempts to make a
film that rewrites the history of Na-
tive Americans.
The problems with Dances With
Wolves' lie with plot and credibil-
ity. The opening sequence in which
Dunbar inadvertently becomes a war
See WOLVES, Page 7

been kissed, dissed, listed as a dumb
one/ I hope he likes sad songs, he's
gonna hum one."
In "Swiney Swiney," Monie
joins her fellow Native Tongues es-
pousing the virtues of vegetarianism
along the same lines as BDP's
"Beef," or A Tribe Called Quest's
"Ham and Eggs." She spares not a
grisly detail about the consumption
of the "big, pink scavenger," "Look
in the pan, see how it squirms and
pops/ and think of how the four-
legged frump eats slop/ roll around
in mud, suck it up, spit it out/ snort
and grunt through the ugly lookin'
snout." De La Soul contribute to
rhythmic couplets like, "Love the
swine, lick it up, lick it up/ drop a
little on the floor, pick it up, pick it
up," shouting, "Lick my endpipes!"
Let the musical onslaught against
meat continue onward.
Monie Love has been widely
discussed (actually, over-discussed)
for leaving the rap scene in England,
whatever that might consist of. But
her decision to work with musicians
from that country is a costly one, as
Andy Cox and David Steele are not

exactly known for the most searing
grooves with FYC or The English
Beat. For example, "Monie In The
Middle" just barely ingratiates with
an expendable beat, unprovocative
organ playing by Cox and surpris-
ingly tame guitar by guest-player
Bootsy Collins.
There are some displays of bril-
liance in Down To Earth. "Pups

Lickin' Bone," written for Monie's
female "competition," is an unortho-
dox groove fueled by a vaguely in-
cendiary bassline with flute and
rhythm guitar. "Swiney Swiney,"
with slamming beats by the Jungle
Brothers' Afrika, bounces back and
forth between measures with a key-
board hit keeping the pace.
See RECORDS, Page 7 Residence Hall Repertory Theater members prepare to educate.

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