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October 09, 1992 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1992-10-09

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The Michigan Daily - Friday, October 9, 1992 - Page 9

All aboard
a surreal
tram* of
thought
by Megan Abbott

The 'Big Picture'
of sibling ribaldry

"Zentropa" is one of those
movies which will simultaneously
0remind you of a dozen different
other films and nothing else you've
ever seen before.
Filmed in black and white (with
occasional color) and set largely on
a train, "Zentropa" (originally titled
"Europa") can best be described as a
hybrid of "The Cabinet of Doctor
Caligari," WWII spy movies, and a
late-night "Twilight Zone" episode.
However, at the same time, much of
Zentropa
Directed by Lars Von Trier; written by
Trier and Niels Vorsel; with Jean-Marc
Barr, Barbara Sukowa, Udo Kier,
narrated by Max von Sydow.
"Zentropa" is as dizzyingly innova-
tive and enigmatic as a disturbing
nightmare.
The movie is the story of a young
American man who arrives in Ger-
many soon after World War II. He is
set up with a job as a night conduc-
tor for the Zentropa train lines. Im-
mediately caught up in a miasma of
post-war political intrigue and ex-
tremist fringe groups, the conduc-
tor's life spins quickly out of con-
trol.
Every once in awhile, a voice-
over frames the story developments.
Max Von Sydow provides this nar-
ration with a seductive voice that
lures the viewer into a state of near-
hypnosis. This effective technique
enhances the dream-like time/space
1Denholm Elliott dies
Denholm Elliott died of AIDS
Tuesday. He was 70 years old.
1 The British actor, who is proba-
bly best known to American audi-
ences for his roles in "Trading
Places" and "Indiana Jones and the
Last Crusade," appeared in several
films, stage plays, and several televi-
sion series. His best performances,
however, were in the Merchant Ivory
adaptations of the E. M. Forster nov-
els "Maurice" and "A Room with a
View" (for which he won an Oscar
nominat ion).
Elliott was known bringing a
light comic touch to his typical roles,
the old flustered Englishman with a
heart of gold. As Mr. Emerson in "A
Room with a View," perhaps his
best performance, he played the kind
of guy you'd want for a grandfather,
not always with it, but always
benevolent and full of a winning
childlike innocence. When his char-
acter convinces the young woman,
Lucy Honeychurch, to go after her
man, Elliott makes you want to stand
up and cheer.
Elliott may not be one of the
most well-known English actors in
the United States, but his presence is
greatly missed.
- Aaron Hamburger

by Melissa Rose Bernardo
Imagine Bette Midler, the Sup-
remes, and the Andrews Sisters all
rolled up into one trio. Then add an
acoustic guitar and a few hundred
three- to eight-year-olds. The result
is perhaps the hottest new group of
children's singers of the decade -
the Chenille Sisters.
Seven years ago, Connie Huber
and Grace Morand were in a band in
their hometown of Ann Arbor when
they invited Cheryl Dowdy to join in
for a few numbers. The former hair-
dresser, speech pathologist, and li-
brarian discovered that their music
could mold generations. They were
able to "mix nostalgia and folk with
new attitudes and harmonies," said
Linda Siglin of the Office of Major
Events.
Currently, the Chenilles have two
children's recordings. Their first, "I-
2-3 For Kids," was named one of the
top three children's albums of 1989
by the National Association of
Independent Record Distributors.
Their newer release, "The Big
Picture and Other Songs For Kids,"
is currently being celebrated by their
national concert tour. In addition to
these two recordings, the Chenilles
have four recordings for older audi-
ences, including one with James

Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band
scheduled for release in November.
Siglin explained that the
Chenilles' repertoire includes both
well-known songs like "The Hokey
Pokey" and original songs, like "I'd
Like to Visit the Moon." She
characterized their songs as both
educational and fun. "The Chenilles
know their kids," said Siglin. "They
don't choose songs that are above or
below them." There is one number,
"The hrmnony Song," in which the
trio picks kids from the audience and
brings them on stage to sing along
with them.
Siglin believes that the Chenilles
concert is an ideal learning experi-
ence for budding educators. She
feels that anyone who wants to work
with or have children would benefit
from their innovative approach.
As a thank you to Ann Arbor res-,
idents, the Chenille Sisters are plan-
ning to donate 20 cassettes of "The
Big Picture and Other Songs For
Kids" to area libraries, including
Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Brighton.
THE BIG PICTURE SONGS FOR
KIS will be presented at the Power
Center Sunday, October 11, at 1 and
3:30 p.m. Tickets are $9 and are
available at all TicketMaster outlets.

t
4
d

It ain't Salvadore Dali, but we suppose that it can't get more surrealistic than this bizzare, funeral-by-phone image.

relations in the film. How many
hours, weeks, or months pass during
the film is difficult to know. The
characters' physical location is often
left uncertain.
"Zentropa"'s world is a foggy,
nocturnal puzzle where violence and
a sense of doom pervade the atmo-
sphere as if the whole world were
slowly submersed in water, with
nowhere to surface for air. Indeed,
images of submersion and claustro-
phobia dominate the visionary trek
of "Zentropa."
However, all of this surrealism
and the sometimes impenetrable plot
of "Zentropa" often serve to distance
viewers when they should be en-
gulfed. Other times, the pacing lags
and viewers feel trapped in the visu-
ally impressive but occasionally
emotionally uninvolving scenario. If
only a bit shorter and tighter,
"Zentropa" could have kept its spi-
raling, nightmare-like momentum.

In fact, the closing scenes of
"Zentropa" push forward at a fever-
ish pitch. We move from seeing the
conductor as a stunned observer to
an entirely different person. Sud-
denly, in the final quarter of the
film, "Zentropa" experiences a vio-
lent coup in tone. Out of the sleepy,
frustrating unraveling of the first
three-quarters comes a wildly unex-
pected turn of events full of dark
humor and a kind of whiplash ni-
hilism. Perhaps this is so thrilling
because of the overlong immersion
into a sleep-walking dream world.
But it works.
Technically, "Zentropa" is not to
be beaten (it won the Prix du Tech-
nique at. Cannes). However, how one
eventually feels about the film may
depend on how its heavy symbolism
resonates to the individual viewer.
For example, the eponymous train
line has more metaphors attached to
it during the course of the film than

"Moby Dick." But whether one sees
"Zentropa" as a political dissection
of European powers or as a study of
psychological isolationism or virtu-
ally anything else will depend on the
viewer. The film, rather democrati-
cally, leaves things quite open.
ZENTROPA starts today at the
Michigan Theater.

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FREE SNEAK PREVIEW
WE DARE YOU TO SAY HIS NAME FIVE TIMES.

CANDYMAN
FROM THE CHILLING IMAGINATION OF CLIVE BARKER
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