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January 21, 1993 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 1993-01-21

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The Michigan Daily-Weekend etc. -January 21,1993- Page 3

Meditating in Kenna's garden

by Charlotte Garry
Climbing the University Museum
of Art's stairs to the second floor, one's
eye is immediately caught by a haunt-
ing photograph of a gray foreboding
cloud. This image, "Dark Cloud,
Cerene Abbas, Dorset, England," is
part of the exhibition "The Cultivated
Image: Garden Photographs by
Michael Kenna." Through this evoca-
tive display, British photographer
Michael Kenna presents a very in-
triguing and unique portrait of the re-
lationship between nature and man.
Most of Kenna's prints juxtapose
the natural with the human. Whether
this juxtaposition is created through
the portrait of an object of nature, such
as a tree, perfectly cultivated and
trimmed to conform to man's vision,
or through the portrait of man-made
objects within nature, the comparison
is very disquieting. Kenna seems to be
highlighting the precarious and fragile
ties that we, as people, form with the
natural world.
"Conical Hedges, Versailles,

France" is an image that seems to
confront directly the ideal of harmony
between nature and humankind. In
this print, the pyramid-shaped hedges
float in a heaven-like atmosphere.
Kenna's prolonged exposures and in-
ventive use of light produce a misty
gray-white which languidly frames the
dark bushes. The intensely shaped
hedges therefore appear to puncture an
otherwise peaceful environment. The
extreme trimming of these bushes un-
dercuts the wild and free aspect of the
natural environment, and leaves the
viewer with a feeling of discord.
Although a physical representation
of man is absent from this photograph,
the hand of the human still echoes in
the contrived forms of the hedges. As
Bill Hennessey, curator of the exhibi-
tion phrased it, Kenna pictures "man
as present, but not present."
Since graduating from the London
College of Printing, where he special-
ized in photography, Michael Kenna
has hosted over 60 solo exhibitions
and additionally has been apartof over

110 group exhibitions. His work is
also featured in a number of public
collections at renowned museums, in-
cluding the Art Institute of Chicago
and the BibliothequeNationale in Paris.
In the garden photographs of the Uni-
versity Museum, Kenna makes use of
his European origin by employing his-
toric sites such as Bowood, Rousham,
Vaux-le-Vicomte, and Versailles to
examine the beauty of nature within
man's gardens and parks.
One such print is "Fountain of Flora,
Versailles France." This print uses a
lengthened depth of field, in conjunc-
tion with a delicate balance, to lure the
viewer into the image. The eye is drawn
inward from the dark, majestic trees
framing the print, to the shadowy, gray
trees of the background. Furthermore,
the branches pattern into a triangular
configuration which houses at its base
a marble statue of a reclining figure.
This figure, which appears at peace, is
nonetheless disquieting through its
virtual engulfment by the overshad-
owing trees. Thus, Kenna suggests a

somewhat uneasy unity between na-
ture and the human.
Unlike other landscape photogra-
phers who portray nature in a purely
aesthetic light, Kenna's photographs
convey a specific comment on nature.
Specifically, the viewer is asked to
meditate on his or her relation with the
natural world. This meditation, Bill
Hennessey speculates, along with the
mysterious atmosphere and brilliant
composition of Kenna's work, is what
makes this contemporary photogra-
pher so appealing.
THE CULTIVATED IMAGE:
GARDEN PHOTOGRAPHS BY
MICHAEL KENNA can be seen at
the University Museum ofArt
through February 28, 1993. In
addition, the University Museum of
Art is presenting a concert of
English music designed to comple-
ment the Kenna exhibition on tonight
at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12, $7 students
and are available at the University
Museum Gift Shop or by phone at
747-052.

An example of Michael Kenna's intriguing, fantastic, wonderful photos.

Burton's genius:' Returns'

(Note: P. O. V. is a technical film
term which stands for a point-of view-
shot. This is when the shotis taken from
ihe point-of-view of a particular actor in
. a film.)
Critics generally agree that 1992
was a pretty dull year for big studio
;filmmaking, which means business as
;usual in Los Angeles. This may have to
do with Hollywood's penchant for
,blockbusters, or huge summer hits like

"Lethal Weapon 3" and "Aliens." This
explains why talented serious filmmak-
ers like John Sayles and James Ivory are
.forced out on the fringe when it comes
,to financial backing. Though their films
'may be the most accomplished, they
show little promise of breaking the hun-
dred-million dollar mark, the definition
of a runaway hit.
This is what makes "Batman Re-
turns," the biggest blockbuster of them
all (the top grosser of 1992) such agreat
joke. It's a blockbuster that satirizes
blockbusters. It's director Tim Burton
laughing at the very idea of Thn Burton
getting eighty million dollars to make a
movie. "Batman Returns" is set up
around the following premise: what
would happen if all the losers and geeks
forced out on the fringe, traditionally
shut out of power positions, suddenly
took over the world?
That's what happens in "Batman
Returns," a modernist answer to the
question above. The result is beautiful
chaos, something on theorderofapaint-
ing by Hieromonyus Bosch or Salvador
In the "real world" plot of "Batman
Returns," Warner Brothers gives direc-
tor Tim Burton, that demented freak
behind the truly original and artistic
"Frankenweenie," "Beetlejuice," and
"Edward Scissorhands," license to run
wild with his imagination, by bringing
him back once again to helm a summer
blockbuster. However, instead of a tra-
ditional shoot-'em-up, good-guy-bad-
guy superhero action flick, Burton pro-
duces a dark, brooding maze of a film
whose hero is difficult to discern. Is it
that computer geek Batman (Michael
Keaton), with the personality of a block
of wood? Or how about Catwoman
(Michelle Pfeiffer), a viciously lonely
secretary who couldn't get a date to
watch Saturday Night Live? And then
there's the Penguin (Danny DeVito), a
disgusting half-human half-monster
who has lost his parents.

Can you imagine the studio head's
reaction? "We're stuck with this su-
perhero movie about a bunch of losers!
There's never been anything like this
ever!" Precisely.
Bucking the trend of obvious, cli-
ched plots common to most summer
movies, Burton chooses to opt for no
consistent plot whatsoever, in the con-
ventional sense of the word. Burton's
intentional disdain for aplot that makes
straightforward narrative sense is evi-
dent when Selina Kyle, Catwoman's
alter ego, gets pushed off the top of a
skyscraper to her death and is revived
by troop of wild cats who lick her
wounds. We get a series of thrill-o-
minute set pieces and memorable mo-
ments, like when Catwoman intro-
duces herself to Batman and Penguin
with a soft "Meow" (at which point a
department store blows up behind her).
Instead of spending his eighty mil-
lion on big guns and hot butts (see
"Lethal Weapon" series), Burton uses
his loot to give us startling, hypnotic
images of Penguin floating down a
sewer canal on a giant rubber-ducky,
Catwoman with her "A Clockwork
Orange"-like snarl, brandishing her
whip on whoever gets in her way, and
circus freaks pelting innocent people
with machine gun fire.
It's an unconventional movie
alright, yet the style suits the story,
which features a set of unconventional
superheros who while battling with
one another, asone wouldexpectin the
blockbuster genre, unexpectedly battle
with their souls. Batman, a lonely mil-
lionaire, tormented by having to keep
his true identity a secret, wants a cos-
mic connection with another human
being. Catwoman would also like a
little attention, as well as to have her
voice heard for a change. And the
Many people find this movie bor-
ing. This may have to do with the fact
that audiences went into the movie
expecting typical summer film fare,
waited for the plot to kick in and were
disappointed when it never did. The
plot, however inconsistent and hard to
follow as it may be, is beside the point.
What makes "Batman Returns" excit-
ing is the way Tun Burton manages to
surprise you with his style, careening
wildy between "this is just ajoke" and
dead seriousness. When you thinkhe's
just joking, as in Selina Kyle's pathetic
attempt to participate in Schrek's
(Christopher Walken) meeting at the
beginning of the film, Burton sud-
denly pulls a straight bit, showing
Selina's very real and bitter loneliness
when she comes home from work that
evening. Pfeiffer matches Burton ev-
ery step of the way, blending the real-

ism of her performance in "Frankie and
Johnny" with the campy vamping of
Madonna's turn in "Dick Tracy."
If"Batman Returns" only had Pfeiffer
as Catwoman it would be enough. How-
ever the film features breathtaking image
after image, incredible set design, and a
lush score by Danny Elfman (and a darn
good song by Siouxie and the Banshees).
If imitation is the sincerest form of
flattery, then Burton is one of
Hollywood's most admired directors.
Sacred cow Francis Ford Coppola re-
cently, without success, tried to imitate
Burton'smix ofhumor,pathos, and weird-
ness (evident in many of Burton's films
before "Batman Returns") with "Bram
Stoker's Dracula." Even Scorsese tries to
mix high camp with high seriousness in
"Cape Fear." But where Burton manages
to mix contrasting moods into an origi-
nal, offbeat tone that envelopes his films,
Scorsese just goes over the top,
If you didn't like "Batman Returns,"
too bad, there's sure to be another entry in
the Bat-series. After all, Burton winds up
his film in true blockbuster fashion, a
very quick shot of Catwoman which
reads: Sequel Forthcoming.

I

by John R. Rybock
The verdict on the film "Chaplin"
appears to be in. While the movie itself
is weak overall, Robert Downey Jr.
captures Chaplin perfectly. But why
make amovie about "TheLittle Tramp?"
The answer lies in the mastery of one of
Charlie Chaplin's greatest films, "The
Great Dictator."

spoofing one of this century's most
infamous leaders, Adolph Hitler. From
his ridiculous mock-German rantings
to the equally ridiculous translation,
Chaplin's writing and performance are
outstanding. Hynkel is so maniacal and
power-hungry that it is comical until
you remember that Hynkel is based on
a true dictator.
However, it is through his portrayal
of the Jewish barber that Charlie Chaplin
shines. There is the seemingly requisite
humor, such as a shave and haircut
timed to the music on the radio. How-
ever, beyond the trademark cane and
waddle, Chaplin is able to show a great
depth of emotion. All the tragedy de-
serving of a character in a Nazi Ger-
many-esque country is there. Chaplin
not only hits your funny bone, but also
tugs on your heart strings.
On the side of the Ghetto Jews is
Shultz, ahigh ranking officer in Hynkel's
army. Shultz owes his life to the barber,
who guided him to safety in the First
World War. Reginald Gardiner's por-
trayal of Shultz gives us a man who has
devoted his life to Tomania, only to
realize that the current ruler will bring
nothing but harm to the nation.

Paulette Goddard, as Hannah, is fine:
while going along for the ride as the
always-required love interest for the
hero. But the non-Chaplin performance
that truly shines is Jack Oakie as
Napaloni, the leader of nearby Bacteria.
Oakie's performance as a dictator at
odds with Hynkel, over who gets to
invade a shared neighbor, is a classic
spoof of Mussolini, ranking right up
there with, well ... Chaplin's Hynkel.
The ending brings "The Speech" on
how everyone should get along peace-
fully. It is a common type of ending, but
Chaplinpulls itoff well. Chaplin'swords
and delivery leaves one in a cheery
mood, believing there is hope for both
the world and this nation. Corny? Yes,
Effective? Also a resounding "yes."
"The Great Dictator" is a very ap:
propriate piece to remember a great
career by. Not only does Chaplin make
use of many genres - comedy, melo-
drama, political message films - but
he uses them extremely well, and in
balance with each other. It brings a
whole new meaning to the quote "I
laughed. Icried. Itbecameapart of me.,
THE GREAT DICTATOR is availabl6
at Liberty Street Video.

Robert Downey Jr. makes a very convincing Chaplin. What's next, Jean-Claude Van Damme actually acts?
Miss the movie, catch the vleo
._ . s __ _ I

In this 1940 film, which Chaplin
both wrote and directed, Chaplin shows
almost his entire range. Though it is
certainly not the first anti-war film to
come out of Hollywood, it is one of the
'best, and most biting satires. Here
Chaplin takes on dual roles as both a
Jewish barber in Tomania, and also as
that fictional nation's fascist dictator,
Hynkel.
As H ynkel, Chaplin is dead-on in

Pfeiffer

a

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C

Hey Wolverines! 250
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