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February 09, 1993 - Image 5

Resource type:
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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-02-09

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ARTS

Th ichgaDily uesayFebuay 9199*Pae

Suggestive 'Sommersby' soars

by Jon Altshul
"Sommersby," like Steve Martin's "Roxanne,"
lends credence to the theory that movie remakes are
only successful if they originally starred Gerard
Depardieu.
Sommersby
Directed by Jon Amiel; written by
Nicholas Meyer and Sarah Kernochan;
with Richard Gere and Jodie Foster.
Sure, "Roxanne" was released a full three years
before Depardieu's "Cyrano De Bergerac" found its
way into American movie houses, but most domes-
tic audiences are as likely to remember the great
French actor's elongated shnozzle as they are to
remember the "Punky Brewster" theme song (hint:
"Every time I turn around...")
By the same token, "Sommersby," which is
based on Depardieu's earlier picture "The Return of
Martin Guerre," is no anomaly to this rule. Surpass-
ing the original in both poignancy and accessibility,
the film touches the depths of the heart, while stirring
the cerebrum to the point of utter despair.

Starring Jodie Foster as Laurel Sommersby and
Richard Gere as her sojourning husband Jack, the
picture resonates with a distinctly American chime.
Post-Civil War Tennessee, for example, replaces
16th-century France as the film's setting. And in-
deed, the Reconstruction milieu grippingly depicts a
land and a community that have been raped by both
destructive farming and iniquitous moral practices.
The soil is infertile and both whites and Blacks are
without the most primitive sense of ancestry or
identity.
The film begins with Jack returning to Tennessee
after a seven-year stint in the Confederate army -
or so we are led to believe. Proud, graceful and
loving, he reunites with his wife, rekindles their
formerly loveless relationship and puts it upon him-
self to resurrect, both morally and economically, the
town in which he was born.
Vine Hill is infested with Klansmen and broken
marriages, and only Sommersby, with his impas-
sionedlaugh and tireless ambition, can save thetown
from its inevitable extinction.
Gere, for his part, is the perfect hero. Acting
always within himself, he demands the audience's

empathy, and his performance is too powerful for us
to object. Foster, meanwhile, holds her own next to
Gere, though her unconvincing Southern accent
seems to have been picked up from watching too
many "Green Acres" reruns.
But things are not always as they seem. Subtle
hints suggest that Jack is not who he claims to be, but
is, rather, a nearly fool-proof impostor. Director Jon
Amiel presents his clues so nonchalantly that we are
never sure what to make of them until the picture's
conclusion. Hence, the audience sits in suspense,
never truly sure what is literally transpiring on the
screen until the final 40 minutes.
The story concludes with a stunning courtroom
scene. Gere delivers perhaps the most captivating
raison d'etre monologues ever, crossing over previ-
ously unchallenged boundaries between actor and
audience. Is he speaking to a courtroom, or to us?
The end result is a picture that greatly respects its
viewer. We are allowed to burrow deep within in the
world of Jack Sommersby, until we are set loose,
forced to search outside of ourselves for the very
same answers that plague the protagonist.
SOMMERSBY is playing at Showcase.

Beefy Richard Gere stands amidst the corn dreaming of Jodie Foster.

Faculty perform eclectic mix

Stephens

Th Faith Healers
Lido
Elektra
From the opening track ("This
Tune"), Th Faith Healers' credo is more
than apparent: Booze-powered,
guitamoize agitpop at it's most glori-
ous.
"Lido"possessesan appealing spon-
taneity rarely seen in these overpro-
duced times. Each track starts out with
a (very) loose structure that eventually
grows, mutates andexplodesinto some-
thing entirely different by song's end.
Cuts like "AWord of Advice"and "Don't
Jones Me" whip chameleon-like through
countless locales before crashing reck-
lessly into some wonderfully messy
conclusion.
Discordantguitars scratch'n' scream
over industrial-strength rhythms, while
Roxanne Stephen's mantric vocals blur
the whole thing beyond the point of no
return. Ranging from textural musings
to full-tilt caterwauls, Stephen's throat
crosses zip codes and time zones.
Many will see Th Faith Healers'
anarchic megablasts to be derived from
'the punk rock' aesthetic; Perhaps, but
that would be doing this love(less) tribe
a great disservice. Their freeform and
exploratory improvisations (the epic
"Spin 1/2" churns for over 9 minutes)
owe as much to Patti Smith and Televi-

sion as '77 D.I.Y. nihilism.
As ear-pleasing as it is uncompro-
mising, "Lido" is an (un)stylish and
(im)perfectly executed step away from
the latest Thurston Moore signings and
overblown "Next Big Things."
And we like that.
Th Faith Healers will blow your mind
at the Blind Pig (208S. First) tonight,
with Paul K opening the show.
Tickets are a mere $5 (in advance)
and doors open at 9:30.
-Scott Sterling
Le Mystere des Voix
Bulgares
From Bulgaria With Love
Mesa Records
Since their discovery by 4AD's Ivo
five years ago, this Bulgarian female
vocal ensemble has gained attention in
recent years for their haunting folk
melodies. They became such a novelty
that they toured America, even playing
the Tonight Show with a cute rendition
of "Oh Susanna."
Now it appears this cute, populariz-
ing impulse has gone too far. "From
Bulgaria with Love" is the Voix
Bulgares' sell-out. The otherworldly
vocals are drowned in a dance club beat
on songs with names like "Guns and
Paprika" or "Bulgarian Rhapsody." The
album comes off as the worst kind of
Top-40 synth pop, complete with a rap
on one track. "From Bulgaria With
Love" presumes, according to the liner
notes, to "leave the usual separation
between classical and pop far behind";
if this is the result, I'll take my pop
music on the side, thank you.
-Michael John Wilson
The Johnny Nocturne
Band
Wailin' Daddy
Bullseye Blues
According to the liner notes, the
Johnny Nocturne Band has been knock-
ing them dead on the West Coast since
their formation in 1990. Maybe the band
ignites in a live performance, because
there is nothing on "Wailin' Daddy"
that gives any indication that they could

get the place jumping. Strengthened by
the addition of Brenda Boykin, a tal-
ented if slightly restrained vocalist, the
Johnny Nocturne Band (led by tenor
saxophonistJohn Firmin) hearkens back
to the days ofhorn-dominated, big band
jump blues. The entire band has obvi-
ously spent a great deal of time pouring
over old blues and jazz albums, learning
every note on every record. Conse-
quently, the performances are too stud-
ied, almost slavish in their devotion -
There isn't a single spontaneous mo-
ment on the album. The sterile produc-
tion doesn'thelp matters either. Perhaps
on their next release, the Johnny Noc-
turne Band will loosen up and have
some fun, because they have the talent
to produce a great record.
-Tom Erlewine
Furry Lewis
Fourth and Beale
Lucky Seven
By the time Furry Lewis recorded
the material that became "Fourth and
Beale," his best days were well past
him. All of his finest sides were solo
acoustic performances in the 1920s, but
Lewis was enjoying a sizable role in the
Blues Revival of the late 60s. He was all
over the place - on TV, movies, even
rock androll tours - when this was taped
in 1969. Sitting in bed with his acoustic
guitar, his wooden leg taken off, Furry
Lewis exceeds all expectations by turn-
ing in a charming, revelatory set of nine
songs. "Fourth and Beale" is not casual
listening, it is an oral history. Most of
the performances are ragged, with shifts
in tempo and flubbed guitar lines, but
that is an intrinsic part of the album's
success. What you are hearing is pure
blues, without overdubs or Lewis's dis-
tracting penchant for showmanship. The
version of "John Henry" included here
is one of the best recorded of the stan-
dard, and the seven-minute original
"Goin' Back to Gary" is spellbinding.
But so is the entire album. Because of
the intimacy of the setting and Lewis's
open, generous performances, "Fourth
and Beale" may stand as the definitive
statement of his late 60s revival.
-Tom Erlewine

by Kirk Wetters
The University faculty recital on Sunday was remarkable
for its eclectic and exciting program. The three pieces
performed, all composed in this century, reflected diverse
influences from jazz, folk and popular styles.
Faculty Artists Concert
Rackham Auditorium
February 7, 1993
The performance of Bela Bartok's "Contrasts" for clari-
net, violin and piano was practically flawless. The piece's
harmonic complexity and technical challenges never led the
musicians to overlook the music's good-natured folk style
and charm. All of the melodies were richly characterized, and
clarinetist Fred Ormand's virtuosity was especially impres-
sive.
The main work on the program, William Walton's "Fa-
cade," also requires phenomenal virtuosity and is in many
ways more challenging even than Bartok. The piece is made
up of 21 nonsensical but satirical poems by Edith Sitwell,
which are read by two narrators and accompanied by a six-
member ensemble.
The piece's demands on the narrators are astounding.
They must have a perfect command of English and its

inflections, as well as a strong rhythmic and musical sense.
The poetry is read with the rhythm and tempo (often very
fast) set by the music, but within these restrictions the
narrators must maintain a natural and dramatic reading. Also,
the style of the poetry and its interpretation should fit the style
of the music, so that if the music swings, the narrator needs
to swing his voice with it.
Leslie Guinn was excellent in his narration, always
following the sense of the words and the music. Rosemary
Russell was unfortunately much less ideal. Her delivery was
often stiff and monotonous, and she seemed uneasy with the
flamboyant dramatic gestures required by the comical, ab-
surd poetry. The accompanying ensemble, directed by H.
Robert Reynolds, was always alert, and the players seemed
to relish their parts.
Ralph Vaughn Williams' song cycle for tenor, piano and
string quartet, "On Wenlock Edge," was also given a strong
performance. Vaughn Williams' hauntingly romantic set-
tings of six poems by A. E. Hausman were dramatically
interpreted by tenor George Shirley. A sweeter, more lyrical
voice mighthave been more successful, butShirley'sbaritonal
texture made the songs seem especially profound. The
instrumentalists also contributed sensitive, committed per-
formances. Shirley's occasional vocal strain and tendency to
bellow were the only flaws in this excellent rendition.

Due to high demand, our supply of 1992-1993
Student Directories ran out a few weeks ago.
We just received a new shipment and have resumed
ozver-the-counter and Department sales.

Summer Session. Why Wot? Boutder. Where

Efse!

" Enjoy the relaxed, comfortable atmosphere of the Boulder campus
" Choose from over 500 courses
" Select from five-, eight-, and ten-week terms or intensive courses
" Have time to work, travel, or just have fun in the beautiful Rocky
Mountains
Plan now to make the Summer of 1993 a Boulder one!
Term A: June 7- July 9
Term B: July 13 - August 13
TermC: June 7 -July 30
Term D: June 7 - August 13
Shorter, intensive courses also available.
Yes, send me the free 1993 CU-Boulder Summer Session Catalog.
Name
Address

Nothing Like The Sun...
If you're like most of the world, you have absolutely no idea who the hell
Paul K is - And like most of the world, you're worse off because of it.
This ex-Detroiter is a victim of "Alex Chilton" disease - Cited as a seminal
musical influence by everyone and their post-mod brother (the Afghan
Whias orav to this man), vet virtually unknown on his own merit. After nearly

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