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January 21, 1994 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1994-01-21

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The Michigan Daily - Friday, January 21, 1994 - 9

JIon't say farewell to 'Concubine'

By SCOTT PLAGENHOEF
"Farewell My Concubine," which
shared Palme d'or honors as best film
with "The Piano" at the past year's
Cannes film festival, displays the ur-

farewell My
Concubine
Written and Directed by Chen Kaige;
with Leslie Cheung and Zhang
gent and consuming exoticism of the
Beijing Opera and Chinese politics
by tracing the lives of two opera stars
from childhood to adulthood, both in
d out of character. In the process,
irector Chen Kaige fuses the aes-
thetics of the opera, the passion of its
players, and the history of China, into
a mysteriously wonderful and
transfixiating film.
The two opera performers, Cheng
and Duan, meet as young boys in a
ritualistically cruel boarding school
for those with ambitions of becoming
era stars. The conditioning of these
ys through such extreme suffering
and degradation rivals nothing in our
culture, save the experience of a boot
camp. Yet these children undergo this
treatment not out of a sense of duty,

but a love of opera and an acceptance
of the discipline which they believe is
necessary to perfect this meticulous
craft.
This 50-year odyssey in and out of
friendship and stardom is intertwined
with the unstable politics of 20th-
century China. The invasion and sub-
sequent expulsion of the Japanese,
the rise of Chairman Mao and com-
munism, and the terror of the Gang of
Fout's cultural revolution all take
place during the lifetimes of Cheng
and Duan. Yet it is a tribute to the
filmmaking that a work of such epic,
temporal proportion can be presented
in such conservative manner. The fluc-
tuating friendship and majesty of two
opera performers are as equal a his-
torical metaphor as all of the sprawl-
ing landscapes, countless extras, and
empty preaching which typically ac-
companies a film of historical nature.
The film never fails to be personal
despite themes so national.
The power of the opera is best
exemplified in a scene in which Cheng
flees the school. Cheng is hypnotized
by the power of the opera and the
allure of stardom when he witnesses a
performance of the role that he will
become synonymous with in adult-
hood - the delicate, subservient con-
cubine. He retreats to the beatings at

This 50-year odyssey In
and out of friendship
and stardom Is
intertwined with the
unstable politics of
20th-century China.
the opera school to emerge, along
with Duan, as the quintessential con-
cubine and her King.
The devotion of Cheng to Duan is
as honest as that of the concubine to
the King. Cheng's desire for a perfec-
tion of the opera and his
homoeroticism for his King in his
mind confuse fiction and reality, char-
acter and actor and, compounded with
Duan's marriage to an attractive pros-
titute who is both disapproving and
wary of Cheng, disrupt their artistry
and friendship.
Kaige manages to create a film of
incredible circular narrative from the
spatial relationship between the art of
two characters and the suffering of an
entire nation. Cheng and Duan's loy-
alty - to each other, to country and to
the art which they have dedicated
their lives - is ultimately tried by
Mao's Red Guard in a dramatic se-
quence in which the costumed King

"Farewell My
Concubine" shows
director Chen
Kaige's mastery of
filmmaking. In it, he
fuses the
aesthetics of the
opera, the passion
of its players, and
the history of China
- and makes an
outstanding film.
"Concubine" won
the coveted Palme
d'or medal at last
year's Cannes Film
Festival.
whelm the audience. We are touched
by their poignancy, harrowed by the
oppression and confused by a nation-
alistic and artistic fervor which is
perhaps unknown in our culturally
heterogeneous country. Yet we are
never swallowed by weighty, politi-
cal banter. One is only left in awe of
how moving an experience it must be
with knowledge and experience of
the history, language and culture of
China because of its sheerpower with-
out.
FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE is
playing at the State Theater

and his concubine are publicly tried
as artifacts of the old, pre-communist
China. This event takes place amidst
the Cultural Revolution, a youth
movement created and named by Mao
dedicated to expel all old reminders
of the former China, including its
customs, culture, and art - including
Beijing Opera. Expressions of art are
regarded as constants which will al-
ways be present despite the
sociopolitical climate. As Cheng
points out, not even the invading Japa-
nese attempted to disband the culture
of China.

Ironically, these attempts by the
communists to eliminate all that is not
true to their political nature is similar
to American Red Scare tactics and
attempts to cleanse our nations of
communists. However, even the para-
noia of McCarthyism, the Palmer
Raids or any other fanatical, anti-
communist expression in American
history cannot compare to the absur-
dity of this oppression. Their crime
was opera.
Despite the historical and politi-
cal tones of the film, Director Chen
Kaige never allows them to over-

'U' doctoral candidate puts 'neo-retro'

wist on Georg Bichner'
By KAREN LEE Knopf. "After performing a sort of
When Georg Buchner died in introduction, the audience will call
1837, at the age of 23, he left behind out what scene they want to see next.
four unfinished drafts of a play about They'll do this after every one until an
a man who murders his lover. That hour is up, at which point they'll see
play was "Woyzek." His brother and an ending."
his fiancee, not wishing to publish an Ordinarily, the play is thought of
incomplete work, allowed it to lan- as a tragedy of the human existence,
guish in a drawer until the mid-1880s. in which its hero "has all these events
I Since then, directors and adapters thrown athim,"Knopf remarked. "Our
have had a field day with "Woyzek." 'Woyzek' will instead have all these
Robert Knopf, a Ph.D. candidate in styles thrown at him. The production
theater, has directed and adapted his has almost become a lampoon of the
own version of the tragedy called play's history."
"Neo-Retro-Woyzek" for the Late Some might have seen a work-
Night series at the Performance Net- shop production of "Neo-Retro-
work. "Everyone has done their own Woyzek" this summer in the Arena
'Woyzek,"' said Knopf. "No one can
figure out the order of the scenes, so SPRING
fhey piece them together in all sorts of
ifferent ways." PANAMA CIT 1
"And no one knows either what
theatrical style was intended," he con- eShell Island Party Cruise
tinued. "Some think it's naturalistic, 650' Gulf Beach Frontage
others realistic, a few believe it's ex- 2 Outdoor Swimming Pools
1 Indoor Heated Pool
pressionistic. It's been done as an Restaurant, 2 & 3 Room Suites
opera and as a circus. It's been per-
formed on a set that looks like a huge SANDPIPER-BEACON RESER
megaphone, and on one that is inside 17403 Front Beach Road1
a boxing ring. One production ran Panama City Beach, FL 32413
hrough all four drafts of the script,
with the first moving fastest and then
slowing down with each successive ALOHA ENTERTAINMI
draft."
Knopf, however, has figured out STATE THEA
in his production how to reconcile the on State St. at Liber * 994
problems of order and style. Every
scene is done in a different style, from
vaudevillian to expressionistic to Farew ell L
MTV to silent movie, and they are -
ferformed in the order that the audi- Daily at 4:0
ence wants to see them. All 22 scenes,
or at least as many as possible, will be
squeezed into an hour. Hence, the S h ort
slogan "20 scenes in 20 styles in 60
minutes." Cuts
"We'll give the audience a menu
of the different scenes," explained Daily at 9:30

'Woyzek'
Theatre at the Frieze Building. Knopf
and his company felt that the audi-
ence did enjoy the performance, but 5
p.m. was not the time for this type of
a show.
"We are looking for people who
want a weird, late-night sort of expe-
rience," he declared in explaining the
I 1 p.m. show time. "This is not for the
meek."
NEO-RETRO-WOYZEK will be
performed January 21, 22, 28 and
29 at Performance Network (408
West Washington). The perfor-
mances begin at 11 p.m. Tickets are
PA Y-WHAT-YOU-CAN, suggested
$7. Call 663-0681.
BREAK
IEICH, FLORIDA

THlE SEVENTEENTH
ANN ARBOR
FESTIVAL
Saturday, Jan. 29
Hill Auditorium
Ann Arbor OIQ" PM
A Fund Raiser for THE ARK
Program subjet to c& g.

"* FEA URiIG
*> MICHELLE SHOCKED
RICHARD THOMPSON \
BELAFLECK&
THE FLECKTONES t's-
JIMMIE DALE GILMORE
* TISH HINOJOSA pl
DAVID r' :::i: C: ' j
. BROZA / f.
. CHERYL WHEE&
THE HOUSE BAND
SECOND OPINION
DEADBEAT SOCIETY
* Tickets on sale at the
* Michigan Union ticket office,
* Herb David Guitar Studio,
* Schoolkid's Records
* (after Jan. 1), and all
* Ticketmaster outlets.
* Charge by phone
* at 763-TKTS
Sponsored by: 4
Ann A ^"rb
INN

VATIONS
488-8828

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u Concubine
0 7:00 9:45
REMAINS OF
THE DAY
Daily at 4:00 7:00

A TRUE STORY FROM THE DIRECTOR OF "MY LEFT FOOT"

DANIEL DAY-LEWIS

EMMA THOMPSON

The Dean of the Graduate School
invites you to attend a celebratory symposium
to welcome the publication of
HUMILIATION
And Other Essays on Honor, Social
Discomfort, and Violence
(Cornell University Press, 1993)
by
PROFESSOR WILLIAM I. MILLER
University of Michigan Law School
Monday, January 24, 1994
7:30 p.m.
Rackham Amphitheatre
(4th Floor. Rackham Building)

"A BRILLIANT FILM.
RIVETING.
Daniel DayLewis gives another
dazzling rformance in what is
so farI herole of his career."
Janet Maslin, NEW YOR TIMES
"A GRIPPING TALE.
AN IMPASSIONED
MOVIE.
Daniel DayLewis's Gerry Conlon
is a rich creation"
-David Ansen NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE
"DANIEL DAY-LEWIS
IS BRILLIANT,
A splendid ensemble of actors and
some of the year's most skillfully
kinetic filmmaking."
-TIME MAGAZINE
"ONE OF THE
TEN BEST FILMS
OF THlE YEAR"
INVCLlJBIN:
-TIME MAGAZINE
-Joel Sieel GOOD MORNING AMERICA
-Peter Rainer, LOS ANGELES TIMES
-NATIONAL BOAR!) OF REVIEW
-Rod Lure, LOS ANGELES MAGAZINE
-Jay Carr, BOSTON GLOBE
-Jet Craig SIXTY SECOND PREVIEW
-Bob Campbell1, NEWHIOUSE NEWS SERVICE
-Carrie E teke, PHIILADELPIA INQUIRER
-Dan Dicola. SUNDAY GAZETTE
-Ulz Brau,. TORONTO SUN
-Robert Denerstein, ROCKY MTN. NEWS
-Marshall Fine, GANNETT NEWS SERVICE
Hiowie Movshoitz, DENVER POST
-Judy Gerstel. DETROIT FREE PRESS
-Robert Osborne, HIOLLYWOOD) REPORTER
-Math lber, BIi, OSTON GLOBER

"THIS ISA FILM YOU
MUST SEE. ONE OF
MY TEN BEST OF'9e
It deserves Oscars.
Daniel Day-Lewis is gret."
,Joel SiegelGOOD MORNING AMERICA
"TWO TmIU SUP.
A powerful thriller,"
SISKEL & EBERT
"A POLITICALLY
CHARGED;'FUGI'TIVE'.
Craeker jack viseral flmmng
Daniel Day-Lewis gives an
extrordinauily Dieing performance."
GKenneth Turin.LOS ANGELES TIMES
"A POWERFUL,
MOVIE.
Daniel Day"Lewis gives one of
his finest performances."
-Jeffrey Lyons. SNEAK PREVIEWS I CNBC
"DANIEL DAYLEWIS
GIVES A GREAT
PERFORMACE.
Not content to bask In his golenm
reviews for IThe Last Of The h1ntMohAn AA&Iiin s',WW

I

I I

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