10 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, January 21, 1994
'Oak'takes us on a journey through real life...
..but escalating tragedies strip Pintilie's plot of credibility
READ THIS SCRAWL
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By SARAH STEWART
Successful new films such as "The
Piano" and "Schindler's List" are
proof that audiences are willing to
substitute light-hearted entertainment
Written and directed by Lucian
Pintilie; with Maia Morgenstern and
for several hours of often disturbing
intensity. "The Oak," directed by
former Romanian exile Lucian
Pintilie, may lack the Hollywood
sparkle of these films, but it is none-
theless equally absurd and shocking
in its effort to reveal the catastrophic
tendencies of real life.
From the perspective of middle-
class America, "The Oak" is an ex-
ample of life at its worst. At the begin-
ning, a ground-level camera captures
a polluted lot in Bucharest, not unlike
those seen in countless films depict-
ing inner-city America, and guides
the audience to the even more pol-
luted apartment of Nela (Maia
Morgenstern), a schoolteacher, and
her ill father (Virgil Andriescu). Once
inside the apartment, the camera scans
the aftermath of Nela's poverty while
she and her father watch old home
movies from the bed. The absence of
dialogue adds to the disastrous sur-
roundings and magnifies Nela's
gradually violent response to the si-
lent death of her father that has just
Although her father's death is only
the first of several increasingly trau-
matic incidents which comprise "The
Oak"'s plot, Pintilie uses this initial
situation to present one of the more
graphic images of the film. After de-
bating how to dispose of her father's
remains, Nela chooses cremation, and
the audience is treated to an insider's
look at the gruesome incineration of
his hand. Corpse imagery appears
again later in the film and seems to
question the value of an individual's
life both before and after death.
While the bulk of the movie re-
volves around Nela and her mild re-
sponses to otherwise momentous
events, the rest focuses on Mitica
immediate companion following the
gang rape which does little to deter
her from her new home away from
Bucharest. Pintilie characterizes
Mitica as a man who takes advantage
of his status as aRomanian surgeon to
rebelliously perform surgery on Titi
(Ionel Mahailescu), a beloved patient
the authorities would rather see dead.
At the same time, he creates a believ-
able and complex relationship be-
tween Nela and Mitica amidst the
chaotic effort to overcome the au-
thority that condemned Mitica for
Titi's surgery. Both Morgenstern and
Vasilescu play their parts well, with
Mitica appropriately surfacing as the
more vibrant character.
As the stone-faced Nela,
Morgenstern rarely breaks a smile.
Fortunately, Pintilie provides brief
but necessary humor in the form of
Mitica's assistant (Magda Catone).
She is funny doing whatever Mitica
insists she do, while her bright lip-
stick makes her something of an ab-
surdity in contrast to the worn appear-
ance of Nela.
As the film progresses, the viewer
surprisingly becomes as accepting of
Nela and Mitica's fates as they are.
As they travel with the body of Titi to
bury him in his native village, their
journey appears mundane rather than
unusual and points to the relative na-
ture of disaster. By the end, Nela and
Mitica witness ultimate disaster, and
Pintilie steadfastly provides no ex-
THE OAK is playing at the
Bela Fleck and the
Three Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
After losing keyboardist Howard
Levy and opting not to replace him,
the Flecktones' first release as a trio
sounds a bit flat. Of course, the
songwriting and musicianship are
still there, but missing are the
frantic, mind-boggling melodies
that graced past releases and
became the band's trademark. This
trademark shows up in a tamer
incarnation on some songs. It
seems, however, that the Flecktones
have taken the departure of Levy as
a signal to create music congruent
with the public's perception of jazz
fusion - light and unenergetic.
Unlike the hungry Flecktones
that blew the roof off of "The
Tonight Show" with masterful
musicianship, this recording makes
use of simpler melodies improvised
upon with less abandon. Yet the
songs are still nicely structured and
occasionally show off the talents of
the band. Their country influences
don't shine through enough, but
when they do, the band is at its best.
"Monkey See" is the best example
of Bela's country influences and it
really cooks. New age tunes
including "Vix 9" and "The Drift"
sparkle with mood and melody. "At
Last We Meet Again" doesn't fit
into any of these categories, but is a
beautiful song nonetheless. There is
also a cheesy rap attempt called
"The Message" which has a
politically correct unity theme.
This CD is filled with some
really tasty, uplifting fusion that
probably won't get much attention
because of Bela Fleck and the
Flecktones' perceived departure
from their original style. It's
definitely worth a listen.
Scrawl, an uncompromising all-female band from Ohio, has managed to
defy the simplistic labels of "foxcore" and "riot grrrl" to create some of the
most intense and personal music being made since 1985. Problems with
record labels and distribution have made their work hard to find at best,
but now the entire Ann Arbor area has the opportunity to see Scrawl churn
out their honest and resolute songs; they will be appearing at The Blind Pig
on Saturday. After years of touring with such alternative music luminaries
as the Meat Puppets, Afghan Whigs and Sugar, their country-tinged, too-
personal-to-be-punk music is at its finest. This is especially evident on
their latest album, "Velvet Hammer," released on the women-run,
independent Simple Machines label. Recorded with their favorite producer,
the notorious Steve Albini, "Velvet Hammer" is filled with intimate, dirgey
yet somehow life affirming songs such as "Your Mother Wants to Know,"
"Tell Me Now, Boy," and "Remember That Day." The record is some of
Albini's best work since he produced the Breeders' brilliant debut "Pod"
and the Pixies' "Surfer Rosa"; the intricate, unique harmonies that
guitarist Marcy Mays and bassist Sue Harshe achieve should sound even S
better live on the Blind Pig's stage. Opening for them are local favorites
The Restroom Poets, and tickets are $5 in advance. Doors open at 9:30
p.m. Come and see what all the noise is about.
Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington,
Count Basie, Jelly Roll Morton,
John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk,
Wynton Marsalis & others
Michigan Union Ticket Office & UMS Burton Tower Box Office
presented by UM Major Events & University Musical Society
5TH AVE. AT LIBER1E PIANO (R) - Fri: 4:55, 7:25, 9:457-
Sat, Sun: 12:25, 2:40, 4:55, 7:25, 9:45
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Sat, Sun: 12:15, 2:30, 4:45, 7:10, 9:35
BARGAIN MATINEES $3.50 BEFORE 6 PM
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Present this coupon with purchased ticket thru 2/1194
L ... .............. ..... .
"A DAZZLER! SELDOM DO WE GET FILMS
SO BRIGHT AND SO COMI.
-Dennis Cunningham, CBS-TV
"STOCKARD CHANNING'S DRY, COMIC PERFORMANCE
IS OSCAR CALIBRE BRILLIANT."
.SusanG ranger, CRN& AMERICAN MOVIE CLASSICS
with Stockard Channing as its hilariously brittle heroine.
Donald Sutherland is a great comic asset."
.Janet Maslin, THE NEW YORK TIMES
"SHARPLY HILARIOUS AND POIGNANT."
-Joanna Langfield, THE MOVIE MINUTE
"IT'S HIGH COMEDY THAT BRISTLES WITH WIT AND STYLE."
-Jack Kroll, NEWSWEEK
-Bruce Williamson, PLAYBOY
"AN EXCELLENT MOVIE. OSCAR TAKE NOTE."
-Joel Siegel, ABC-TV
-Marshall Fine, GANNETT SUBURBAN NEWSPAPERS
"ASTONISHINGLY ACCOMPLISHED PERFORMANCE
BY WILL SMITH."
-Michael Medved, NEW YORK POST
SToCKARD CHANNING WILL SMITH DONALD SUTHERLAND
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