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February 16, 1993 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-02-16

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TeMcia DaTusay* I , Febrary1 ,3 agS

Ferrara's able work is not just trash

by Michael Thompson _
With just about every up-and-coming filmmaker
being compared to either Woody Allen or Martin
Scorsese, it's no surprise that New York is the place
to be. Even the seemingly tame-hearted Hal Hartley
has his characters move and manipulate in Long
Island. So why should Abel Ferrarabe any different?
Iknow what you're thinking, Abel who? Wasn't
Abel the one that got axed by his brother in the Bible?
Well, yes, but this is a different Abel and he's not
even close to being dead or gone.
Ferrara is probably best known right now for his
controversial film "Bad Lieutenant." Although vir-
tually no one in Michigan has seen this film because
its NC-17 rating makes distribution so tough, the
movie has won a lot of critical praise. It stars Harvey
Keitel of "Reservoir Dogs" fame as a very nasty
New York cop.
But "Bad Lieutenant" isn't the only film Ferrara
has made. He's been around since the early eighties
and he's got some quality, some trash and some
quality trash under his belt.
An earlier Ferrara film is a little gem called "Ms.
45." This quaint story involves a young woman who
gets raped twice in the same hour and then goes on
a killing spree. Ferrara borrows heavily from "Taxi
Driver" and a few other films, but the movie never
seems like a rip-off. The central character is in so
much pain throughout the film that we sit and stare
at her with sympathy and terror. Ferrara conveys
what she is, a survivor with a gun and a willingness
to use it.
Ferrara is not without the ability to exploit,
however. "Fear City" and "Cat Chaser" are films
best left unwatched and probably even unreleased.

The shameless nudity in both of these films makes
one wonder where the angry smart director of "Ms.
45" went.
But then again Ferrara has more than one good
movie behind him. "China Girl" is a clever modern-
ization of "Romeo and Juliet." The script balances
themes of racism, love, interracial romance and
general hate without bogging the viewer down in a
quagmire of guilt. The film is no masterpiece, but it
has its moments.'
Ferrara seems to enjoy complicated characters.
He's interested in the idea of good people doing bad
or questionable things, such as in "Ms. 45."
"Crime Story," the pilot for the short-lived but
critically-acclaimed TV show, continues this theme
Good actors, or rather lack of
them, seem to be Ferrara's big
hang-up of the past.
with its central character Mike Turello, probably the
angriest cop in the world. One of his lines has him
warn a criminal, "If anything happens to those
people I'm going to find what you love and kill it.
Your mother, your father, your dog. Whatever it is,
, it's dead." Happy stuff, huh?
Even in Ferrara's "King of New York," the main
character is a good-hearted drug dealer who just
wants tobuildahospital. This vastly underrated film
was saved by Ferrara and actor Christopher Walken,
who managed to make something memorable from
the depths of a tired and weak formula (after all, how
many more films can there be about confused,
somewhat good gangsters?). Ferrara's slick direc-

tion is complimented by Walken's chilling perfor-
mance as a man with seemingly good intentions, but
who is never trustworthy.
Ferrara knows how to use good actors. He lets
Zoe Tarmerlis' face tell the entire story in "Ms. 45."
She doesn't speak one word throughout the film. In
"King of New York," Ferrara pulls a tremendous
performance out of Larry Fishburne; he plays the
antithesis of his "Boyz in the Hood" character.
Good actors, or rather lack of them, seem to be
Ferrara's big hang-upof the past. With a castas weak
as this (Tom Berenger, Melanie Griffith and Billy
Dee Williams), "Fear City" couldn't have been good
if Quentin Tarantino directed and wrote it.
But now Ferrara has Harvey Keitel. "Bad Lieu-
tenant" is supposedly Keitel's penultimate perfor-
mance. Ferrara co-wrote this film with "Ms. 45"
screenwriter Zoe Lund. The film features vicious
crimes, vicious characters and the hope for redemp-
tion. Whoa, this is Abel Ferrara right, not Scorsese?
Keitel will also be in Ferrara's new film "Snake
Eyes." But it's not like that's ever going to be
released here, either.
So who exactly is Abel Ferrara? Is he an un-
known art film director? Does he just make trash
films? Or has he just got the same first name as the
guy who got killed in the Bible? Although he's made
six movies, it's almost too early to tell who Ferrara
is. However, now that he has a real actor riding
around with him, along with some critical clout,
maybe we'll be able to figure out the scope of
Ferrara's talents. But probably only on video.
So be original andrentaFerrarafilm tonight. You
might like it or you might hate it, but I guarantee that
it will stick with you for days afterward.

Lara Flynn Boyle and Timothy Hutton whisper sweet nothings.
D iap ointin'Temp
is worst t ype of fihn

by Chris Lepley _
"The Temp," a new thriller set in the
"corporate jungle," is the most disap-
pointing film of the year, surpassing
even the Madonna debacle "Body of
It's hard to be disappointed if your
expectations aren't high to begin with,
and though "The Temp" isn't on many
The Temp
Directed by Tom Holland; written by
Kevin Falls; with Timothy Hutton, Lara
Flynn Boyle and Faye Dunaway.
people's "must-see" list, the first two-
thirds of the 'film are well-acted and
tension-filled. Intrigue upon intrigue
builds up to what is not only a disap-
pointing climax, but an almost indeci-
pherable one as well.
Timothy Hutton, sporting perhaps
thebesthaircutofhiscareer since "Taps,"
stars as PeterDerns, amarketing execu-
tive for a baked goods company called
"Mrs. Appleby's." Peter's secretary,
Lance, has to rush off to help his wife
deliver a baby, and a temporary is as-
signed. Enter Kris Bolin (Lara Flynn
Boyle, last seen in "Wayne's World"
and "Where the Day Takes You"), a
competent, smartand very sexy woman
who knows how to kiss ass to get what
she wants.
Dwight Schultz, of "Star Trek: The
Next Generation" and "The A-Team"
fame, is the corporations vice-president
and residentrealist/neurotic, and Steven
Weber (from "Wings"- the TV show,
not the first film to ever win a Best
Picture Oscar) plays Brad Montroe,
Peter's best friend and toughest com-
Surprisingly, "The Temp" almost
shapes up to be the most honest and
direct film about women's roles in cor-
porate America made in recent years
(especially in comparison to fluff like

"Working Girl" - Lara Flynn Boyle is
no Melanie Griffith, thank God). Kris
wears a wedding ring to fend off unwel-
come advances, most noticeably from
disgusting slimeball Jack Hartsell
(Oliver Platt of "Flatliners") and inves-
tigates other job options while she's
working for Peter, knowing that her
position is only temporary.
Lance, thankfully for the plot, is an
idiot who can't operate a simple office
paper shredder without losing various
pieces of his anatomy. Exit Lance, re-
enterKris. People start dying, but there's
really nothing suspicious about their
deaths. Peter tries to point the finger at
Kris, who is promoted because of one
untimely demise, but just ends up look-
ing like an idiot. Of course Peter, who
has been dumped by his wife, is in
therapy for paranoia, so Kris looks
squeaky clean next to him.
Faye Dunaway is Charlene Towne,
the president of Mrs. Appleby's.
Charlene is hard as nails, and very simi-
lar to Dunaway's character in "Net-
work," which won her a Best Actress
Oscar. Her performance in "The Temp"
is incredible and completely wasted by
the contrived ending.
In addition, "The Temp" follows
another disturbing trend in recent films:
the "women-who-masturbate-must-be-
evil-killers" paradigm, last seen in
"Body of Evidence." The question is,
are all sexually aware women possible
serial killers? Is it the masturbation it-
self which causes them to become kill-
ers, or is masturbation just something
only criminally insane women do?
"The Temp" is two-thirds great act-
ing, great suspense and a few grotesque
special-effects. Unfortunately, the other
one-third of the recipe is pure unadul-
terated garbage. As a whole, the film is
like biting into an especially delicious
cookie and finding a big hunk of glass
THE TEMP is playing at Briaiwood-
and Showcase.

Iron City Houserockers
Pumping Iron & Sweating
Steel: The Best of Iron City
Rhino Records
Joe Grushecky and the
End of the Century
Razor & Tie
Chances are you've never heard of
Joe Grushecky. His band, Iron City
Houserockers, never made it much far-
ther than their home state of Pennsylva-
nia while they recorded during the late
70s and early 80s. This is quite a shame,
because over the course of four albums
they produced some the finest, hardest
rock and roll of their era. All of their
albums have been out of print for years,
but thankfully Rhino Records has as-
sembled "Pumping Iron & Sweating
Steel," an excellent 18-song collection
that gives this forgotten band their due.
Grushecky and the Houserockers
hail from the blue-collar world of
Pittsburgh's steel factories and banged
out blue-collar music - straight ahead,
three-chord rock and roll. None of the
Houserockers were anything approach-
ing virtuosos, and Grushecky's voice
was extremely limited - flat and edgy
with a one and a half octave range.
Although they were essentially a bar
band, Iron City Houserockers injected
their music with the same venom that
fueled punk rock. Grushecky was also
gifted with songwriting skills that
eclipsed other bands of his genre. His
tales of the working class were full of
the hopelessnessof blue-collar life, from
nights in the bars todays in the factories;
this is despair masquerading as good-

time music. With their second album,
"Have A Good Time (But Get Out
Alive)" (1980), the Iron City
Houserockers's sound tightened into a
driving, muscular roar. Considering the
strength of the six songs from "Have A
Good Tune" included here, it's hard to
believe the album didn't sell. These are
the songs that form the heart of the
compilation; the rage of "Have A Good
Time (But Get Out Alive)" and
"B londie," and the melancholiaof"Rock
Ola" and "Old Man Bar" equal the
songs Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty
and Bob Seger had out at the same time.
Yet fame and fortune eluded the,
band. As the cover photo illustrates,
Iron City Houserockers did not fit into
None of the
Houserockers were
anything approaching
virtuosos, and
Grushecky's voice was
extremely limited - flat
and edgy ...
the fashion conscious early 80s. Twenty-
one days after the release of their fourth
album, MCA Records dropped the band
and they slipped away from public
memory. "Pumping Iron & Sweating
Steel" should help Iron City
Houserockersearn the respectthey never
got when they were recording.
Grushecky quitrecording in the mid-
80s, only to return a few years later; his
latest album, "End of the Century," was
released in the fall of 1992. On End of
the Century" Grushecky's music is no
longer burning with anger. Seemingly
accepting the fact that he will never be

a star, Grushecky has begun to write
sadder songs that are smaller in scope;
the title track and "Bad Dream" speak
more directly and clearly to arecession
plagued audience than anything on
Springsteen's new albums. Hopefully,
someone will hear him this time.
-Tom Erlewine
The Memphis Horns
Flame Out
Lucky Seven
Throughout their career the Mem-
phis Horns (Wayne Jackson and An-
drew Love) have graced some of the
finest soul/R&B singles of their era.
Jackson and Love have played on ev-
erything from Otis Redding's "Try A
Little Tenderness" to Peter Gabriel's
"Sledgehammer"; in short, these guys
helped write the book on how to play
soul. An all-instrumental effort by the
duo naturally stirs up hopes of a sizzling
Memphis soul / funk / R&B session -
songs that cook like the classic Stax /
Volt instrumentals of the '60s ("Green
Onions," "Last Night," "Soul Finger"
and countless others), singles that the
Memphis Horns themselves played on.
None of the excitement of those records
appears on Flame Out. Instead of Mem-
phis grit, Jackson and Love churn out
smooth, lazy grooves - music for an
evening at an upscale urban restaurant,
not for dancing. The original composi-
tions fall flat, often sounding like some-
one neglected to write a melody and the
covers ("Let's Stay Together," "These
Arms of Mine," "Gee Whiz") can't
hope to match the originals. As a matter
of fact, it's a good idea to stick with
those old Stax / Volt records.
-Tom Erlewine

In the Name of Suffering
Century Media
I don't think you'll be seeing these
boys at church. Despite the fact that the
lyrics on this album are completely
unintelligible, the ample scattering of
the f-word makes Eyehategod's feel-
ings perfectly clear. (As if their name
left anly doubt.)
"In the Name of Suffering" is one
incredibly long, unimpressive guitar solo
and singular drum pattern, divided only
by such moronic titles as "Man is Too
Ignorant to Exist" and "Hit a Girl." Very
nice. "Godsong" offers the only variety
in terms of music, but it's impossible to
listen to the whole thing through, due to
its unsettling, malicious lyrics. "I'm
God and I've killed everybody ... the
public's a bunch of assholes." No, I'll
tell you who the assholes are.
Lyrical content aside, the singer's
voice is a torture all its own. When he
doesn't sound like he's in the middle of
puking, which is generally the case, he
sounds like a toilet flushing. Now there's
an idea. Flush this album like the shit it
-Kristen Knudsen


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