The Michigan Daily
Friday, October 23, 1992
Selfish i fellowship under a cold, empt sky
by Megan Abbott
Ingmar Bergman once said he views art as
"a snakeskin full of ants. The snake itself is
long since dead, eaten out from within, de-
prived of its poison; but the skin moves, filled
with busy life."
Those familiar with the Swedish film-
maker's work will find this definition apt.
Bergman's films pulse with spiritual pain and
emptiness. He finds life in his characters'
crippling sense of loss. And Bergman is per-,
haps at his most moving when he can plumb
the depths of unhappiness in the human soul,
while still offering up rich evidence of the
sustainability of the human spirit.
But Bergman does not always bring his
film's characters to this sense of hope. In
"Persona," the famed director splits the human
psyche and only finds self-destruction and
"Persona" presents us with only two main
characters. Elisabeth Vogler (Liv Ullmann) is a
well-known stage actor who has suffered a
nervous breakdown which has left her mute.
She is being attended to by Alma (Bibi Ander-
sson), a young nurse. Grateful for Elisabeth's
sympathetic ear, Alma lays her soul bare to the
actress, even revealing a personal trauma
which still haunts her years later. Slowly, it be-
comes harder to discern if the women were
once one person and are now splitting, or if
they were once two individuals who are slowly
becoming one. Lines blur and the audience is
led to question everything they see.
There are probably at least a dozen ways to
interpret the fractures and mergings of charac-
ter in "Persona." The title seems to invoke
Jungian psychiatry as well as the idea of the
"doppelganger." But Bergman does not allow
for a simple psychological reading. The role of
the artist is also crucial. The film informs us
that Elisabeth's breakdown has something to
do with her desire to reject the falseness of her
profession. She can no longer bear to pretend,
to act. In response, she shuts herself down. But
her doctor, fed up with Elisabeth's refusal to
speak, insists, "Your hiding place isn't water-
tight. Life trickles in from the outside."
"Persona" constantly forces viewers to
question their ways of seeing the two women.
Who is becoming whom? Which one is the
other's victim? The intense performances by
both the lead actors intensify this enigma. Ull-
mann, who must rely wholly on her face and
Directed and written by Ingmar Bergman;
with Liv Ullmann, Bibi Andersson and Gunnar
gesturing as the mute Elisabeth, is chillingly
effective. Andersson, who must carry nearly all
the dialogue, both moves and horrifies us. Her
Alma is capable of great violence and yet we
see how betrayed she is by Elisabeth. We
watch Elisabeth slowly drain Alma (both
literally and figuratively), as all artists draw
recklessly on others for inspiration.
But it's Bergman who, as always, is the star
of his film. He composes a blurry, dream-like
vision of the human personality. Some of it
does not work. The repetition of stigmata im-
ages, for instance, seem a bit heavy-handed
and unnecessary. But that kind of imagery is
nearly always a part of Bergman's filmic bag
of tricks. Besides, other images are so
startlingly effective that they turn one's senses
on end. For example, just when one starts to
foster hatred for Elisabeth because her silence
seems vain egotism, we see her convulse in
horror while watching Vietnamese priests
committing self-immolation. Bergman uses
this scene to scold the viewer for thinking any
psychic breakdown could be that simple and
All in all, how "Persona" comes across de-
pends on one's feelings about Bergman's films
in general. Often unrelentingly bleak, they are
hardly feel-good movies. But, in a way, there
is something cathartic about Bergman's works.
They touch down to the depths of human self-
doubt. Bergman s films suggest that we, as
humans, are bound together by this very self-
doubt. We exist, as the director once said, in
"selfish fellowship on the warm, dirty earth,
under a cold and empty sky."
PERSONA is playing in Angell Auditorium A
tonight at 7 & 10:20p.m. Tickets are $3.
What do cars, grass, buttons,
and a giant cow on wheels have
in common? The answer is
Harrod Blank's new documentary
on car art, "Wild Wheels," at the
Michigan Theater Saturday and
Sunday. The film is actually not
just about cars, but about
tackiness, artistic freedom and
America. Sounds better than a
Bill Clinton speech, and in any
case, it'll be longer than the one
he gave on Monday. Call 668-
8397 for info.
Daring young folk ...
Have you always yearned to
travel to China, but just never had
the cash? Try "Parade of Dynas-
ties," a performance by the
Shanghai Acrobats and Dance
Theatre tonight at 8 p.m. at the
Power Center. Call 764-2538 for
Two of the most renowned
=young violin soloists in the world
have played in Ann Arbor and
Detroit this month. This remark-
able trend started by Midori and
Mutter continues with the
Cho-Liang Lin. He will perform
the Brahms Violin Concerto,
accompanied by conductor
Dmitri Kitaenko and the Frank-
furt Radio Symphony Orchestra.
The electrifying exuberance of
Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony will
be balanced by the detached
passion and beauty of the
Passacaglia by Anton Webern.
The concert will be at Hill
Auditorium on Sunday, at 4 p.m.
Tickets are $14 to $40. Call 764-
2538 for info.
by Michelle Weger
Emo Phillips is naked. I'm 0)t4
sure whether he always talks to th'
press while in the buff, but it woutd
n't surprise me. And anyway, this iV'
just a telephone interview. "See, I-
I think of my body as a temple," he-
explained, "or at least as a relative1
well-managed Presbyterian youtlh
center." This gave me quite a visuaI-f
image to work with, but I quic1i
learned not to take anything Emii6"
had to say too seriously. A
He said he's excited about con'M
ing to Ann Arbor - his last stat f.
here was around 1989. "Ann Arbor
- people are very smart there -
it's like a hotbed of intellectualisiif.'
(A) lot of coffee and espresso. Blak"
clothing manufacturers make a fW
tune there. It's a wonderful plac.
I'll probably just take my KierkV.7t
egaard and sit in the espresso cafe ...
with a fake goatee. You know!"
The last time he was here, h
paid a visit to the Hands On mu-
seum. "I asked if they had a brea',
exhibit, but they don't ... (it's) a fun
Phillips was a former Univrsiy
of Illinois student. He didn't actuallV
graduate though, "that's for sissies.'
"See, when I was in college, I u
- I came very close to being a nerd;v
except, well, there was that madbn
requirement, you know. They didn't
accept me at all. You can try to dress-
like one of 'em, but unless you kno
a bit about math, they spot you rig~f
The Chicago native started 1iW
comedy about 16 years ago when e
showed up for open mike night at
local club. "The first time I saw it
(the club), there was a sign that sald
'Open Mike Night,' and I though it
was an autopsy."
I asked whether he's always'
thought of himself as funny. "Oh:
I've always made people laugh, like
if I fell, or they beat me up, you
know?" He admits to being scared in
the beginning, "At first there was
only like three people in the audi-
ence," he said. "I used to do shows
to six people or five people, or three
people by the end of the show, bii I
just kept at it." 1
Opening for Phillips at the Main'
street show is Ira Novos, whom Emo:
has known for about 10 years. No
vos' act centers around his keyboard.
"I try to help him get on the road
with me, 'cause he's very funny and
it's the only way I'll get the money
back that he owes me."
If you've seen this guy live or ip
one of his HBO appearances, yo4
can't help but wonder exactly from
which planet he originated. I ask
him how closely his own personality
resembled that of his stage persona.
Phillips' answer was unusually e
straightforward, possibly for the first
time tonight, "I try to be real on s
stage. I trynt gtoput on any effect a
whatsoever. I want the audience to
see within myself, just to see my
deepest thoughts. It's just a very
painful thing for me, but I do it as an
emotional catharsis, just to help
others be more like me."
It didn't take long for his com-
ments to return to the fictional and
bizarre. "I wrote a book; it's a very,
serious book ... it explains, the mys- 4
teries of sex to young children in a
Professor T. Viswanathan will be performing on the classical instrument, the "venu," or "murali," a bamboo flute, in a free recital Sunday evening.
See the Bharathanatyam techique
Spic-Macay brings Indian classical dance and music to a Rackham
by Alexandra Beller
What are the chances that there will be two
Classical Indian Dance concerts in one week-
end? Pretty good if you're around for this one.
Not only is Sharon Lowen performing as part
of the Guest Artist Series sponsored by the
Dance Building, but there will be another cele-
bration of Classical Indian dance and music at
Rackham Auditorium this weekend sponsored
by Spic-Macay, a non-profit group consisting
mainly of students.
Spic-Macay, formed in 1977 in India, is
aimed at improving cultural awareness among
the younger generations through the beauty of
Classical music and dance. They have off-
shoots around the U.S. at various universities
and help educate and enlighten young Amer-
icans as well as second generation Indians.
One of their most important functions is to en-
dorse and support visiting artists from India for
guest lectures, demonstrations, and concerts.
Such is their function for the two free per-
formances this weekend. Friday's will be a
celebration of Classical dance featuring
renowned soloist Chitra Visweran, her three
musicians and a live orchestra. Visweran will
be performing in the technique of
Bharathanatyam, a strictly defined Classical
Indian technique which is growing more popu-
lar in the U.S. It incorporates narrative gesture
with focused, isolated and subtle bodywork.
This technique, which is from the South of
India, includes both "Nritta," the "rhythmic"
aspect and "Natya," the emotional or expres-
sive part. The dance may incorporate a narra-
tive, as in some Ballets, and emotional, and
personally expressive characteristics as well.
The form is lush and hypnotic, with the
essence of worship and reverence retained
from the ancient days when it was a Temple
"The bottom line," said the star of Sunday's
flute performance, "is to preserve our native
tradition." Professor T. Viswanathan is noted
throughout India, America, and Canada for his
excellence and precision. Recipient of the U.S.
National Heritage Fellowship, he is the head of
the South Indian music program at Wesleyan
University. He will be performing on the Clas-
sical instrument, the "venu," or "murali," a
Both concerts are free, but that, according
to coordinator Guru Shankar, has nothing to do
with the quality of the performers. "They are
free because we wanted to make them accessi-
ble to the students. What we are all about is
exposing young people to the finest arts and
The SPIC-MA CAY performances are Rackham
Auditorium, Friday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at S
p.m. Admission is free. Special passes which
guarantee good seating are available at Seva
and Ticketmaster. Call 769-7765.
September Dances promise pure artistic movement
by Stacey Mayesh backgrounds and styles of the chore- be lighter and more humorous than pieces. In Steward's piece, entitled of isolation and lone
"Eclectic ... electric ... an eye-
(ul," said Maureen Janson, one of
ight contemporary choreographers
Invited to participate in the 12th
rendition of September Dances, an
annual performance designed to
showcase local choreographers and
dancers. This season, eight choreog-
r"phers have collaborated to create a
-.,v .. .,n.-. - 'rich ak nra nrn fan ,r
ographers and dancers result in an
explosively colorful mosaic of self-
Janson describes her solo piece,
entitled "North Meets East in the
Westsouth," as a theatrical juxtaposi-
tion of technical and pedestrian
moves. She uses the rapid exchange
of tense vs. relaxed movements to
nt wiant a inr, ,.' h it, ,i r..r n rf
usual. Her piece is set to a driving,
electric guitar score composed by
Steev Hise, a local musician and
graduate of the University. His mu-
sic is resplendent with originality,
high energy, and computerized, ma-
Terri Sarris, a television and
video production lecturer, will pre-
mie.r n.o rtn :-n:n. rn onia n.:an t
"I Think It Feels Nice," he explores
the human body's response to mem-
ory. VanAmburg, a Madison, Wis-
consin based choreographer, will re-
turn to Ann Arbor (the good old
maize and blue is his alma mater) for
a special appearance in his new en-
semble called "Quincunx." The solo,
accompanied by a Witold Lu-
.aoln.,'nl-. ,nlan.- oaa.,- ,..
working with chance procedure, will
perform his duet, "Multiple Expo-
Due to the artists' diverse styles,
techniques, and sources of inspira-
tion, September Dances' varied pro-
gram offers an ideal introduction to,
dance performance. If you have yet
to experience the mystique of being
1 A - - 1.