Thursday, October.24, 1991 .
The Michig an Daily
Director Sayles is biggest asset
and liability of City of Hope
. City of Hope
dir. John Sayles
by Gabriel Feldberg.
mately intertwine the lives of no
less than three dozen characters. As
these characters all scramble to
cover their own self-interests, the
essential corruption of city politics
touches each one of them. Virtually
every character makes at least one
compromise that hurts someone
else, yet their ethical dilemmas are
so complex that they can't really be
blamed. It's- the moral dirt of City
.As the writer, director and editor
of the new movie City of hope, John
Sayles (The Brother from Another
Planet, EightMen.Out) can take all
the credit and all the blame. His
story. of urban decay and resurgence
is impressively honest and so-
phisticated, yet his visual style of-
.ten undercuts the tale's genius.
. The incredibly intricate plot un-
folds in the fictional metropolis of
Hudson City, New Jersey. Its first
complications begin when Nick
(Vincent Spano) walks off his job at
-his father's construction site and
ends up as an accomplice in a bun-
.gled robbery attempt. Nick's in-
volvement in the break-in ultimately
entangles every unscrupulous mu-
nicipal institution, from the fire de-
partment to the mayor's office to the
Just down the block from the
robbery, after being unnecessarily
harassed by a pair of white cops, two
Black teens attack a white man
- jogging through a park. When an Al
Sharpton type makes a case for the
boys' innocence, the city's poor eth-
nic relations explode into virulent
These two separate crimes ulti-
chorus, a homeless man kicks
through the streets of Hudson City
shouting, "We need help." The film
looks a little silly when, after one
character delivers the secret of how
to survive in the U.S., Sayles cuts to
a classroom full of second-graders
singing "America the Beautiful."
And the very end of the movie is so
shallowly deep that it threatens to
Sayles' visual style further un-
dercuts the film's authenticity. In
order to suggest the seamless real-
ity of actual time and space, he
spends much of the movie's first
hour. trying to make us watch the ac-
tion as we do real life - without
cuts between camera angles. In the
film's opening shot, for example,
the camera wanders through a con-
struction site to eavesdrop on four
different conversations. Although a
simple, almost imperceptible cut
could carry our attention from one
conversation to the next, the camera
spins disorientingly through the un-
finished skyscraper in order to keep
up with each word and gesture. Soon
the camera becomes a kinetic.dis-
traction: watching its meanderings
becomes as much of a game as hunt-
ing for- the only splice in Alfred
Robert Richardson's cinematog-
raphy is just as unnaturally natural:
his conspicuous simulations of real-
See HOPE, Page 8
Brian Ritchie, Gordon Gano and Victor DeLdrenzo (pictured from left to right in younger, leaner days) are the .
ViolentFemmes. And they wonder why they can't get just one fuck.
L. - -O
by Annette Petruso
think it's something people don't consider, you
know? I think they just figure, 'Oh, this band has three,
this band has four.' I don't think they notice the differ-
ence," explains Brian Ritchie, bassist of the trio called
the Violent Femmes. "And the thing I figured out is
that it's the least amount of people you need to really
make a band.
"There's -a lot of subtlety that happens in a three-
piece band.... As far as I can tell, and this is my opin-
ion... it comes from hearing the other.two... (T)here's
something special about a three piece; there's constant:
give and take... I think that format is the most sponta-
neous, (the) most quick response that you can make
with the music."
Ritchie should know. The Femmes are literally a
stripped-down, basic band that makes eccentrically bit-
ing, mostly acoustic music.
It all started in Milwaukee, Wisconsin about 10
years ago, where the Femmes literally had to play on,
the streets because the only gigs they could get were in
this little coffee house called Beneath It All. The
band's self-titled debut was released a couple of years
later, virtually defining many fans' memories of their,
own teenage years.
"That's been expressed to us on many occasions,"
Ritchie says. "We don't perceive it as, 'That album af-
fected people.' It's usually the band that's affected
people. Our live show is much more potent than any of
'our albums, anyway..
"Our job as musicians is to just make the music that
we want to. It's a matter of fluke, and there's no way
of knowing what people are going to respond to or not
Chills 'n' thrill
respond to. All of our albums have been successful..
That albui happens to be most successful, but in terms
of material success. It's a pleasure playing the songs..
from the first album. because a lot of them are really
open-ended. We can change them around and do differ-
ent- arrangements every night, and it's*a lot of fun that
With its uncommon mix of acoustic (and a little
electric) bass and guitar, the Femmes create an easily
identifiable noise. On. that foundation, Victor DeLo-
renzo's sparse drumming style and songwriter Gordon
Gano's sorrowful, high-pitched, adolescent, croon (a
parody of. angst, or is this real?)- stand -out. These
qualities haven't changed much since Violent Femmes
debuted. The albums in between the band's first record
and its latest, Why Do Birds Sing?, experimented,
building on different musical possibilities. But Why
marks a return.to acoustic riffs, very similar to those
on the first album. It also features some of the country
stuff first explored in depth on hlallowed Ground.
"It's the same place. It is us. Basically, except for
Blind Leading the Naked, all our albums have been
made the same way. We practice the songs, play them a
bit live, and then go into the studio and record them,"
explains Ritchie. "We really didn't change our method
that much this time. We record the songs live- the
vocals; the guitar, the bass and the drums. And if it
needs something else like keyboards or an extra guitar.
or some background vocals, things like that, we record
The first track on the album -sings the praises* of"
"American Music" with the question, "Do you- like
American music?" When asked the same, Ritchie re-
See FEMMES, Page 8
s with the USO
of hope that makes the people in it
brutally human. And since there are
no particularly glamorous stars in
in' the film, the personalities in-
volved appear all the more real.
The honesty of City of Hope
sputters, however, because its direc-
tor often tries to be really pro-
found. Like a ridiculously obvious
by Nima Hodaei
Jeff Woods, Missionary Stew's
keyboard player; has a theory on
why so much of today's pop music is
useless. "I think when you talk
about those bands who are superfi-'
cial," Woods explains, "what
they're .doing is that, they might
have a sincere starting point from
which they write the songs, but
what they.do is try to soften up all
the edges to gain acceptance -from
the widest audience possible. Lyri-
cally, we pretty much~ let Dion
(Roddy, the lead singer) say what it
is he wants to say. We're not in peo-
ple's faces about it."
Woods and his "non-superficial"
Stew mates - Todd Kulman on
drums, Chris Gallivan on guitar,
Todd Ruthruff on the .bass guitar
and Roddy - are a breath of fresh.
air in an otherwise stale pop music
Classified as a' modern rock/pop
band, Missionary Stew draws its
influences from 'such assorted roots
as classical, folk and rock. All five
band members have been involved in
music in some form or another for
most of their lives. From Gallivan's
days. in the church choir to Woods'
work with local Detroit sym-
phonies, Stew's musical expertise is
apparent. This musical ability
carries over to the band's songs,
which are simple and concise in
lyrics, yet rhythmically rich in
guitars, with a layer of keyboards
and drums producing a very full ef-
"We always thought -that any
record we did had to be so com-
pletely uniform. We thought if we
hit on one song that sounded good,
we had to do ten more like that,"
University Symphony Orchestra
October 22, 1991
An opera overture is often used
as an appetizer before the main mu-
sical course, though the overture se-
lected for the USO concert Tuesday
evening was a bit heavy to serve that
purpose. Cindy Egolf-Sham. Rao be-
gan with the overture to Gluck's
Iphiginie en Aulide, a grandiose
Classical French opera overture. The
latter 18th century brought efforts
to make- opera more dramatically
coherent. True to Gluck's part in
these reforms, the overture is not
designed to stand alone, but is an
. integral part of the opera. The
audience half expected a curtain to.
go up on the first act at the end after
Egolf-Sham Rao's phrasing and con-
trol brought it off with greatness.
Conducted by Ricardo Averbach,
Alexander Yossifov's Pagdne the
Sorceress brought Halloween
chills. The piece opened with a mys-
terious, beautifully played viola
solo: Suddenly it became a duet, and
then the full group joined in. The
conductor didn't use the score, pre-
ferring to focus all of his attention
on cuing the musicians - very nec-
essary in a piece like this. In spite of
everyone's best efforts, there was
tricky unison pizzicato section
where the strings weren't quite to-
gether. But the wild lurching-Dance
of 'the Witches with its tricky'
rhythms and unusual sound effects
produced a suitably creepy atmosh-
-pere. A delightful perforniance and
very well done.
The Orchestra' gave' their all for'
the Copland Symphony No. 3 when'
Gustav Meier took the podium. The
symphony in the 20th century has a
legacy stretching back to Beethoven,
through the likes of Shostakovich
and Mahler, and .shades of these
masters resounded.in Copland's ex-.
pansive symphonic gesture.
At first, the leisurely pace of the
music' belied the 'weightiness of the
piece, as the wide-ranging melody
evoked the wide open spaces of the'
countryside. And the sudden out-
burst of the second movement was.
followed by .the hauntingly delicate
opening of the third. The closing,
however, was an unrelenting assault
on the listeners m its' energy and-
The famous bold intervals of the
Fanfare for the Common Man were
gently introduced in. the wood-
winds, but from then on there was.
no respite. Along with the striking
cyclic return of thematic material,.
the profusion of intervals of a
fourth and fifth throughout .the-
-symphony was summed up pas-
sionately in the main theme of the
fourth movement. The audience lay
spellbound as everything in the au-
ditorium vibrated under the impact
of the drums. If the brass choir.
wasn't entirely in control of their
parts, this was forgotten in the rush
to the thrilling conclusion.
Missionary Stew consists of these beautiful angelic musicians. They're
loved by everyone they encounter. But hey, can they tap dance?
Woods says. "But now, there's no
rules to what we do. Whatever type
of song we do just has to be done as
cleanly and professionally as possi-
ble." If you listen to the band's de-
but album, Childhood, clean is un-
mistakably the feel of it. These boys
seem about as pure as they come.
But if Missionary Stew comes
across as way too wholesome, the
reason may lie in the fact that all of
the band members grew up in deeply
religious settings. However, Woods
points out that the band is defi-
nitely not a Christian rock group.
"You could say that (we are
Christians in a rock band)," he says.
"But a lot of the personal commit-
ments (to religion) vary."
Idylls, the follow-up album to
Childhood, appears once more to
play upon the unblemished, profes-
sional image, of this band. "Idylls
sounds a lot more autonomous (than
Childhood)," Woods says. "With
this one we used a live horn section.
If we think a song should be a pop,
acoustic, 'Smiths-ish' song, then we
do it full blast. We try to put the
elements in there that should be-
long there, and then just drop it. We
See STEW, Page 8
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