The Michigan Daily - Monday, December 9, 1991 - Page 7
Jane Campion directs unsweetened Angel
An Angel at My Table
dir. Jane Campion
by Aaron Hamburger
In French, the word for genius, geniale, can also mean insane.
Psychologists who study brilliant but mad geniuses often wonder whether
the madness of certain artists is real, or merely a popular misconception. In
the case of New Zealand author Janet Frame, the misdiagnosis of
schizophrenia led to eight years of hell in a mental asylum.
Frame recorded her remarkable story in a three-part autobiography,
which, though she has written several excellent novels and short stories,
may be her greatest work. Frame's asset as a writer is her startlingly frank,
direct style. Without the use of melodrama or "artsy" flourishes, Frame
simply relates a thorough and fascinating account of her life.
Director Jane Campion (Sweetie) strives to recreate Frame's simple
style in her film version of Frame's autobiography, An Angel at My Table.
In stark contrast to current films like My Girl and The Doctor, Angel is
disarmingly unsentimental. Campion shows a series of experiences which
comprise Frame's life without telling her audience how to react. The film,
however, evokes pity and fear - the classic elements of tragedy - due to
the natural power of the material.
As a child, Frame was separated from her peers by her shy nature, her
quiet intelligence and her mass of shaggy red curly hair. Campion uses
Frame's huge curls as an effective, immediate symbol of her separation
from the mainstream.
When she went to college, Frame became increasingly withdrawn, hid-
ing herself and all traces of her existence, even her sanitary napkins, from
those around her. The death of Frame's sister, as wells as various financial
and career worries, led to a nervous breakdown, which a pompous psychol-
ogy professor misinterpreted as schizophrenia.
Frame was subjected to eight years of electro-schock therapy in a mental
asylum and was on the verge of having a lobotomy when her collection of
short stories, The Lagoon, was published and won a literary award. Frame
was released from the hospital, and she published her first novel and re-
ceived a literary grant to travel to Europe, where she had her first love af-
fair and recovered from her harrowing years in the asylum.
Unlike Jodie Foster's recent Little Man Tate, which also deals with a
creative genius' existentialist separation from the world, Angel does not
resort to a slapdash happy ending in which the hero learns to become an av-
erage Joe, perfectly happy and surrounded by loads of friends. Frame ulti-
mately realizes that she can never have a "normal" life because of her ge-
nius, but she learns to accept this and find her own unique realm of con-
Frame is played by three actresses, who play the author at different
stages of her life. Alexia Keogh (Young Janet), Karen Fergusson (Teenage
Janet) and Kerry Fox (Adult Janet) are all excellent, and all bear an un-
canny resemblance to one another. Fox is especially good, and manages to
show Frame's inner feelings, which she hides from the world under layers
of shyness and fear. The rest of the cast, who only have small supporting
roles, shine as well, briefly but completely illuminating each character
which Frame encounters over the course of her life.
Campion's imaginative direction is matched by her arresting visual
style. Angel is filled with original and captivating images which linger
long after the film is over. Though Angel is a bit too long, and a few scenes
are so subtle that they become unintelligible, on the whole, this film re-
veals the promise of the future career of its outstanding director.
AN ANGEL AT MY TABLE is playing at the Ann Arbor I & 2
Continued from page 5
"You never know it until you read
it." Martin just takes good roles as
they come, with no pretensions to
genius. He even admits, "I still.
think I'm fairly new as an actor. I've
In Father of the Bride,
there are plenty of
hilarious scenes that
only Steve Martin
could do. Yet what
stands out just as
much are the sober,
natural moments of
family life ... His
performance is so
truthful, so sincere,
that it brings to mind
the actor who
originally played the
Father of the Bride:
the great Spencer
been doing it about eleven years in
film, and I have a lot to learn."
In the craft of the Hollywood
comedy, Martin will be fondly re-
membered as one of the great ones.
And he's got decades of work ahead
of him. But if he died tomorrow,
what would Martin want his epi
taph to read? "Boy, wat he rich."
FAThER OF THE BRIDE op
December 20 and GRAM
CANYON opens December 25.
Continued from page 5
was great because it brought back a
classic villain in Kahn, a perfect foil
for Kirk, quoting literature while
battling with the Enterprise
("From hell's heart I stab at thee.")
Kirk's rival in Star Trek VI, Klingon
General Chang (Christopher Plum-
mer), can barely speak without
quoting Shakespeare. This is another
classic villain, expressing his admi-
ration for Kirk as a fellow warrior,
and saying "Cry 'Havoc' and let slip
the dogs of war" and "I am as con-
stant as the northern star" while
firing on the Enterprise.
This film is touted as the last
Star Trek movie - really. While
groans of disbelief are justified, this
really does seem like the end. The
crew is about to be deactivated at
the end of the film, there's a sappy
monologue by Kirk about the next
crew to take over the Enterprise, the
treaty with the Klingons is the link
needed to join the world of Kirk
with the world of Picard, and
Scotty and Uhura won't fit into
their uniforms at the rate they're
going. Besides, the next film would
be odd-numbered, and it would be
heart-breaking to end the series with
a movie as bad as Star Trek V instead
of a classic like Star Trek VI. But
then again ...
STAR TREK VI is playing at
Briarwood and Showcase.
Continued from page 5
"I Spit On You" has the most
memorable title - slightly more
memorable than the rest of the
songs in general. It has a good beat
and a cool synthesized bass line. The
drumming sounds vaguely like Nine
Inch Nails' "Head Like A Hole,"
while the bass has the style of New
Order. But on a second note, what
makes the cut good is its similarity
to other bands' songs. And on this
song, the vocals are especially
phlegm-coated. In a way, the song
personifies the Swamp Terrorists, as
it is danceable and harsh, yet uncre-
ative and full of murky ooze.
Magnet To Steele
Claiming to incorporate influ-
ences from opera, classical music
and the hard rock super-groups Led
Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, Chrissy
Steele has cut a debut album which
leaves the listener wondering how.
If Bach had anything to do with this,
he's probably glad to be dead.
On the album, Steele works with
primarily two sounds, a crude Pat
Benetar imitation and a convincing
replication of Brian Johnson's
AC/DC vocals. In either case, she
seems to lack any quality which sep-
arates her from a thousand other
hard rockers. There are a couple of
tracks in which Steele lets down her
"rough and ready" vocal facade. The
effort is appreciable, but again,
somewhat short of fantastic.
Comprised of simple guitar riffs
and solos, music on the album is
sufficient back up for the solo
artist. A single hard rock style is
present over every track on the al-
bum, despite intros to one or two
songs which utilize keyboards and
effects that have a Steve
Stevens/Billy Idol ring to them.
These, too, fall back on Steele's hard
rock formula. Lyrically, there isn't
a song included which doesn't fit
the love song or broken heart mol4,
After 11 tracks, this becomes tir-
ingly apparent. Given such noble in-
fluences, Magnet To Steele has a lpt
to live up to. -David Groves
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