Page 4-The Michigan Daily-Weekend etc.-January 21, 1993
by Megan Abbott
Some movies don't permit you to
just sit back and watch. They grab you
by the throat in a wild effort to engage
you in their dark world. 29-year-old
Quentin Tarantino's kamikaze first fea-
ture, "Reservoir Dogs," is one of those
rare cinematic experiences.
"ReservoirDogs"plummets you into
circumstances so unpleasant and dis-
tasteful that your first instinct is to wince
and to cover your eyes. But for all its
shocking violence and lowly charac-
ters, "Reservoir Dogs" concerns itself
Written and directed by Quentin
Tarantino; with Harvey Keitel,
Tim Roth, and Michael Madsen.
foremost with questions of morality
and honor among thieves.
Tarantino's artful screenplay juggles
sequential time and a string of plot
twists. "Reservoir Dogs" evolves into a
surprisingly cogent fable about a hand-
ful of crooks-for-hire. The crooks are
played by a virtual who's-who of char-
acter actors, including Harvey Keitel
("Bugsy," "The Last Temptation of
Christ"), Tim Roth ("Vincent and
Theo"), Michael Madsen ("Thelma and
Louise") and Steve Buscemi ("Barton
Brought togetherby underworld fig-
ure Joe Cabot (played by Lawrence
Tierney) and his son, Nice Guy Eddie
(Chris Penn) to intercept a diamond
shipment, these half-dozen professional
thieves are given code names to ensure
anonymity and to prevent anyone from
betraying the rest. The story, however,
turns on just such a betrayal.
Tarantino plays around with the se-
quence of events, manipulating time
freely. The motive behind this is not
sheer artiness. Instead, he uses the tech-
nique to slowly unveil each character
and his individual take on the heist (a
heist which, interestingly, we never ac-
tually see). Tarantino has explained the
structure of "Reservoir Dogs" as a way
of making the film like a book, "with
chapter headings for the various back
and forth scenes ... As the men are
previously unknown to each other and
there's no clue as to who betrayed them,
using different chapters was the only
way to know the whole story."
Apastiche of Jim Thompson's pulp-
noir novels ("The Grifters"), tough-guy
movies of the '50s (especially Samuel
Fuller movies and Stanley Kubrick's
masterful "The Killing"), and French
New Wave editing games, "Reservoir
Dogs" meshes old styles with newer
extremes of violence. This has led some
reviewers, namely Siskel and Ebert, to
charge the film with the well-worn and
cliched "style over substance" criticism.
Besides often serving as shorthand for
lazy film critics, such a criticism rings
empty unto itself. It assumes Tarantino
offers us style only for style's sake.
There is much more to it than -that.
Within each exhibition of stylistic gym-
nastics, Tarantino is giving us insights
into character, code, and message.
But Tarantino doesn't make it easy
for us. He keeps the audience on guard.
"Reservoir Dogs" challenges you to
find one, single way of viewing the
film. The first scene, with its "Mean
Streets"-style banter, leaves you laugh-
ing and determined to see the rest of the
movie as vicious black comedy. It is
then all the more startling when, in the
next scene, Tarantino throttles us into
the bloody backseat of a car, where a
man screams in horrifiedpain. Tarantino
doesn't let us rest in "Reservoir Dogs."
He forces us to interact with the film, to
But for all its shocking
violence and lowly
Dogs" concerns itself
questions of morality
and honor among
The persistent interaction between
the screen events and the audience reac-
tion reaches a feverpitch in one already-
infamous scene of, for many,
unwatchable violence. While truly ab-
horrent andadmittedly over-the-top, thisx
scene does serve a distinct purpose in
the film. Aside from revealing the true
nature of one of the characters, the
episode works to push the audience to a
stormy edge. You may find yourself
mad at Tarantino, while, at the same
time, strangely thrilled that you got
through the scene. It is as though
Tarantino is battling with you, and he
just made his most deft and vile move
- his ace in the hole. You get through
it and you are then rewarded.
And what areward"ReservoirDogs"
is. It almost seems superfluous to talk
about the performances, as the actors
involved are among the most consis-
tently accomplished in the business.
The perennially convincing Harvey
Keitel underplays as the elder states-
man of the hired crooks. He has the
weary-eyed look of a man who's seen it
all and survived. His scenes with the
beatific Tim Roth are dddly touching. If
there's any "love story" in "Reservoir
Dogs," it's between these two charac-
ters. Roth imbues his young punk char-
acter, Mr. Orange, with a cool vulner-
ability and fast-talking charm. These
two form a puzzling mentor-student
relationship which is repeatedly tested.
The cast has no weak link. Steve
Buscemi provides the dark survivalist
humor in his pragmatic Mr. Pink, while
Michael Madsen, as the lethal Mr.
Blonde, can do more with one eyebrow
than most actors can do with their entire
body. Lawrence Tierney as the gruff
ringleaderandChris Penn asthedaddy's
boy Nice Guy Eddie also impress. For
the film to work, we must believe that
these men are cold-blooded criminals,
and the down-and-dirty performances
more than convince us of that.
Butforall its gritty humor andblood-
shed, "Reservoir Dogs" is primarily
about honor. Each character has a dis-
tinct code by which he lives, even down
to the most despicable crony. Tarantino
forces us to recognize and judge every
honor code and its limits. He makes us
take sides and then complicates it fur-
ther. This process of delineating each
character's mysterious principles
reaches an inevitable, and, ironically,
very Shakespearean climax. Tarantino
passes judgment on his characters, and
on us for being taken in by them.
RESERVOIR DOGS starts Friday at
the Michigan Theater.
Face reality in 'Necessities'
Some critics think "Dogs" is style over substance but they don't get it.
SMiming to the Bible
DAYTONA frm $109
EARN BIG $$$$ AND FREE TRAVEL
Organize a student group
to one of our holiday locations!
by Jason Carroll
Only the naive think that all their problems will be solved
once they fall in love and get married. But those of us in
reality know that this kind of thing only happens in musicals,
not in real life. Problems with married life and motherhood
are exemplified in the Purple Rose Theatre's production of
"Necessities." "Necessities" is the intriguing story of a
young, successful film producer, Zelda Kelly (Marilyn Mays).
"Zelda is trapped beneath glamour and wealth ... politically
incorrect," noted Elizabeth Kaiser who plays one of the
young mothers that Zelda interviews.
Zelda has just been informed that she is infertile and she
decides to adopt a child as a solution to her failing marriage
and mid-life crisis. "All the characters show that the lead
character is just like everyone else, and I think that's impor-
tant," Kaiser explained. After exhausting efforts at various
adoption agencies, Zelda decides to accept her lawyer's
advice and seek a private adoption.
Her search brings her to Phoenix where she places a
newspaper ad to buy a child. The rest of the story covers
Zelda's interviews with potential adoptive mothers and
highlights the emotional conflict between Zelda and her
husband, Danny (Wayne David Parker).
Since the show deals with many sensitive issues Kaiser
explained the difficulty involved in preparing for her role.
"The context of the text is very intriguing, I want to think of
every aspectof the character... she is instinctively intelligent
but doesn't have the capacity to use it."
As an added incentive, "Necessities"'playwright Velina
Hasu Houston will be working with the cast the entire week
before the opening performance. This gives the viewers a
rare chance to see a production of the play the way the
playwright actually intended it to be performed and bring
reality to the stage.
NECESSITIES will be performed Jan. 22 - Mar. 7 at the
Purple Rose Theatre, 137 Park St., Chelsea. Perfor-
mances are Wed.- Sat. at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 and 7p.m.
Tickets are $14-$25 and reservations are strongly
encouraged as seating is limited. Call 475-7902 for info.
by Laura Alantas
The conventional perception of the
art of mime includes a white-faced,
red-lipped character, chronically
trapped in an invisible box, out of touch
with reality. But then there is Michael
Lee's mime drama "DREAMLIGHT,"
a drama, done in mime, relating the
Biblical story of Joseph and Mary to
the issue of today's homeless.
While "DREAMLIGHT' portrays
the struggles of Joseph and Mary, cre-
ator Michael Lee has updated the tradi-
tional tale to the modern day. Instead of
having a donkey carry their goods, they
own a shopping cart. Instead of seeking
refuge atan inn, they turn toa homeless
shelter. Instead of encountering King
Herod, they encounter a slumlord. All
of these modern adaptations focus the
story on the plight of today's homeless.
To further highlight the relevance
of the story of Joseph and Mary to
today's homeless, Lee has enlisted the
talents of homeless persons from
Detroit's Cass Corridor as performers.
On the invitation of a church in down-
town Detroit, Lee planned to doa small
project involving the local community.
"That small, one day project mush-
roomed into afour month project," Lee
said. Being a student of performance
theater, he had already written
"DREAMLIGHT" and decided to
adapt it for his new company of
actors."If you think of theater as being
a big circle," Lee explained, "the actor
is in the very center surrounded by
smallercircles thatrepresent costumes,
words, music, sets, et cetera. If you
take away the little circles, you can still
have theater. You can't do a show,
though, without an actor. Mime drama
begins from that premise." With this
complete reliance on the actor and his
talents, Lee concluded that, "corporeal
mime is pure acting." With the dedica-
tion of the actors, Lee decided the com-
pany, which includes not only home-
less people but also professional ac-
tors, needed more formal training. As
a professional mime artist and one-
time student of Marcel Marceau, Lee
took his company away to a training
camp for a week to sharpen the
Finding people tojoin his new com-
pany, DREAMLIGHT Theatre Com-
pany, was initially difficult. "I pulled
teeth. I twisted arms. I encouraged. I
coaxed. I persuaded. I hoodwinked
them right in," Lee said of his recruit-
ing techniques which he practiced at
shelters and soup kitchens. By the end
ofthecompany's four-monthrun, how-
ever, the actors were so dedicated to
their work that they decided to keep
Lee finds that his actors bring their
personal experiences from living on
the streets to their performances: "This
show is the reality of the inner city."
But the actors also bring their experi-
ences from the theater world to their
everyday lives. "Itdoesn'ttakecreativ-
ity to survive. It does take creativity to
change your living situation," saidLee.
"I can show them the doorway, but I
can't shove them through."
Although Lee admitted that the
show uses a "very sad" story as its
basis, he emphasized that it does con-
tain some humor and, "in the end, Jo-
seph does find hope, the possibility of
"The theme is todream," Lee ex-
plained. "My actorsare trying todojust
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Black lites, Posters,. Music tees A-Z (A C/DC - Zappa)
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_1 340 1/2 S. STATE (upstairs) 994-3888Open 7 Days
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DREAMLI GHT ill beperformed
January 21- 23 at 8 p.m and
January 24 at 2 p.m. and 6:30p.m. at
the Performance Network. Tickets
are $10 general admission, $8
students. Call 663-0681.
We hope "Necessities" is better than "Possessed: the Dracula Musical."
Join us on
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Spend 10 exciting months working side by side
with the people of Israel on the program that gives you the
most opportunities to explore Israeli life.
Study Hebrew on a Kibbutz
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or moshav in the Arava
WOMEN IN FILM SERIES 1993
Well known producer of made-for-television movies
and Broadway productions, Nederlander has recently
produced the revival of West Side Story
and Dorfman's Death and the Maiden on Broadway.
She will screen and discuss Orpheus Descending,
We're taping a live
Come be part of our
Your opnions and ideas
off on selected