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November 23, 1994 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1994-11-23

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'Oleanna' V

'Princess' rides into sunset.

By MELISSA ROSE BERNA RDO
David Mamet is undoubtedly one of our greatest living
playwrights. He molds his characters out of the clay and
sweat of everyday life, and turns their grit into poetry. His
plays are a verbal assault; his language is written with a
sensitive ear and a foul mouth.
But a great
SMainet lay does
not n cessr ily a
great film make.
Oleanna 1992 s "Glen-
Directed by David garry Glen Ross"
Mamet; with William was proofof that.
Now Mamet fo'-
H. Macy and lows with
Debra Eisenstadt. "Ole anna," an
adapt ation which
he wrote and directed. But transferring Mamet from stage
to screen is like changing Dante's Divine Comedy into
English; it loses something in the translation.
"Oleanna" is a two-character play; it is also a two-
character movie. Meet John, a man in his 40s, and Carol,
"woman of 20. John is a college professor; Carol is one of
his students. John's tenure has just been announ ced, and
he is (understandably) preoccupied with buying a new
house. Carol has just been notified that she is failing
John's class, and she is (understandably) frustrated and in
need of help.
What we then witness are their three encounters,
during the second of which we learn that Carol has sapped
John with a sexual harassment complaint. Through the
relationship of these two generic characters, Mamet is
making a statement on all sorts of relationships: teachers
*6d students, men and women, old and young, conserva-
tive and liberal, possibly even heterosexual and homo-
sexual. And on many levels, he succeeds.

The film moves remarkably fast, as it should. Mamet's
dialogue is a torrent of pauses, ellipses and interruptions,
which both Macy and Eisenstadt pull off brilliantly. The
college campus setting is as prototypical as it should be,
with lots of ivy and old hallowed halls. Rebecca Pidgeon
(Mamet's wife, who originated the role of Carol), has
composed somne wonderfully evocative alma mater-style
music, with Mamet's lyrics to match.
And fortunately the film is more visually enticing than
the stage version; John's large office (too large for a pro-
fessor without tenure) provides for ample playing space,
and the characters are allowed costume changes. Once in
a while an outside shot is wedged in for aesthetics' sake.
But the film's biggest flaw is its dead-end theme, a
problem which has always plagued Mamet's play. When
it played off-Broadway, the programs showed silhouettes
of Carol and of John, one of which wore a bull's eye; half
the audience had Carol with the bull's eye, the other half
had John. Mamet's point is that you can't take sides;
whichever side you take is wrong.
But his Catch-22 backfires, because he systematically
drains every last sympathetic quality from these charac-
ters. You want to hate them, but can you hate them for their
ignorance? You want to pity them, but you know they
should both know better. You want to like them, but their
actions are so reprehensible. When John beats up Carol,
you'll applaud him; she deserved it, and he deserves to
lose his job anyway. Mamet makes an unforgivable gaffe,
however, in choosing to end the film with a campus scene,
rather than panning out from his battered characters.
These two characters deserve each other. They do not,
however, deserve their own film. On stage John and Carol
come out as filthy, but on screen their faults are only
magnified. Die-hard Mamet fans will deny this to the
grave, but remember: the camera never lies.
OLEANNA is p aying at the State.

By JOSHUA RICH
For God's sake, it's a children's
movie! Why should college students
want to see it? And why should we
care?
After a long succession of ani-
mated Disney musicals which have

Echobelly hungers for success in U.S.

By HEATHER PHARES
"It's the land of plenty," Sonya
Aurora-Madan, the vocalist/lyricist
of London's hot band Echobelly said
bout America from her hotel in Man-
hattan. She laughed, and then ex-
plained, "I've only seen New York. I
really love it, but it's bloody noisy!"
The success of Echobelly's ter-
rific debut album "Everybody's Got
One" in their home country now brings
the quintet (which, along with Au-
rora-Madan, consists of guitarist
Glenn Johansson, bassist Alex
*Keyser, guitarist Debbie Smith and
drummer Andy Henderson) to the US
to demonstrate what the buzz is about.
As for the hype, Aurora-Madan
said dismissively, "It's entirely cre-
ated by the media." She admitted,
however, that "no matter what any-
body says, people read the British
press when they're on the lookout for
new talent. But it's very political and
ased on who's sleeping with who. If
ou get too wrapped up in the media,
you lose track of what you're doing.
Good reviews are always nice. But I
value more what the actual punters
(fans) have to say, the people who
buy our records and go to our shows."
The endless Smiths comparisons
also bother Aurora-Madan. She
sighed, with some irritation, "the
Smiths were one of the most impor-
&ant British bands of the '80s, and to
be compared to them is definitely a
compliment. But I don't think we

have that much in common. But it's
necessary in the beginning to make
such comparisons."
It's true that the Smiths compari-
sons don't hold water. While both
bands tend toward swooning melo-
dies and dry, incisive lyrics, Echobelly
is definitely a '90s phenomenon. The
band compares favorably to the UN
in terms of diversity. Though
Henderson and Keyser are white En-
glishmen,Johansson is from Sweden,
Smith is jokingly referred to within
the band as the "token Black lesbian"
and Aurora-Madan is a first-genera-
tion English citizen of Indian descent.
Aurora-Madan explained how this
diverse group of people formed a band:
"I bumped into Glen at a club in
London;he was in a band that thought
they were going to be the next Beatles.
When they broke up, I told him I'd
like to have a go at writing lyrics.
Andy played with PJ Harvey in
Bristol, we met Alex through mutual
friends, and we were a four-piece for
a while," she said. "Earlier this year,
Glen broke his arm and Debbie, who
used to play with Curve, had been
coming to see our shows for a while,
and she knew all of the songs. So we
asked her to fill in for Glen, which she
did for two months. After that, we
asked her to join."
Surprisingly, the hard part of be-
ginning the band was deciding upon a
name. Aurora-Madan recalled: "I
wanted something that would convey

a feeling, as opposed to a definite
meaning. I feel that creative people,
no matter what field they are in, have
a hunger, a feeling that spurs them on.
So from hunger, 'Echo-belly."'
And as to where she gets the ideas
for songs like "Give Her A Gun" and
"I Can't Imagine The World Without
Me," she said, "it's very eclectic. I
consider myself a bit of a voyeur. I
don't only write about my own expe-
riences." For example, in her own
words, the song "Give Her A Gun" is
about "the feminist movement and
how people are concentrating on pe-
ripheral issues like whether or not
women should play guitar."
Aurora-Madan especially takes
pride in their live shows. "We're a lot
more aggressive, really. I think people
think our music makes more sense
live. It surprises them," she said.
And with this tour, Echobelly takes
the first steps into the international
rock arena. As for the band's plans
into next year, Aurora-Madan said,
"we're touring America and Japan,
and then writing songs for the new
album. Next spring we're touring the
US for two months. Whatever we do,
it's going to be busy." But, as ex-
pected, Echobelly looks forward to a
full plate.
ECHOBELLY is appearing at
Industry in Detroit on Sunday,
November 27. The show is 18+,
doors open at 8 p.m. and tickets are
a measly $5. Call (810) 334-1999.

The Swan
Princess
Directed by Richard Rich;
voices of Jack
Palance and
John Cleese.
become the craze of a generation,
here comes a cartoon fairy tale. Yet, it
is produced by a private company
entirely separate from that multi-bil-
lion-dollar family entertainment jug-
gernaut. Interestingly enough, "The
Swan Princess" opened on the same
day as the re-release of Disney's insta-
Classic, "The Lion King" (can you
feel the love tonight ... well, can
you?). But to paraphrase Lloyd Bent-
sen: "I knew 'The Lion King,' and let
me tell you, you are no 'Lion King'!"
Nevertheless, "The Swan Prin-
cess" provides its viewers with sub-
lime, hand-drawn figures and scen-
ery, a decent soundtrack and an un-
original, yet engaging love story.
Loosely-based on "Swan Lake," this
film allows children - and really
ONLY young children - to experi-
ence a story sans hatred, violence or
any adult themes (although the title
character is guilty of some open-
mouthed kissing). And these quali-
ties are something that even the most
tame Disney features can't offer.
Princess Odette and Prince Derek
(names clearly not taken off the same
page as Simba or Mufasa) are from
neighboring kingdoms in fairy tale
land. They are lifelong friends who
decide to get married, but break up
when the oh-so-suave Derek can't
summon the words to tell his be-
trothed that he loves her.
So while he contemplates the rea-
sons for his decision to marry Odette,
the evil Rothbart kidnaps the princess
and turns her into a swan (hey, she
could have become something worse,
like an MSU student or something).
And, of course, the only way to break
the spell is for Derek to profess his
undying and eternal love for the pre-
cious maiden.
In the midst of all this fantasy
romance stuff, the characters break
into song. In many cases, this transi-
tion-less jump seems inappropriate
and stilted, yet the film's entirely for-
gettable songs do provide a nice break
in its predictable action. Written by
Broadway lyricist David Zippel, and
composed by Lex de Azevedo, the
movie's six musical numbers are a
nice supplement to its animated pre-

sentation. But they in no way amend
the basic cartoon love story song con-
stitution; music in a film like this
should be sappy romantic ballads
thrown together with an occasional
bubble gum doo-wop selection.
Therefore, considering the banal
story and ordinary score, the voices of
the characters are the true highlights
of this film. JackPalance ("City Slick-
ers") leads the way with his voice of
the sinister, conniving Rothbart, lend-
ing a bit of humor to the otherwise
despicable character (check out the
one-armed push-ups Palance's
Rothbart performs).
Also amusing are the voices pro-
vided for Odette's animal friends
whom she meets after becoming a
bird. John Cleese ("A Fish Called
Wanda") is the frog, Jean-Bob, who
believes that he will become a prince
if kissed by a woman. And the lethar-

gic turtle, Speed, is hilariously per-
formed by comedian Steven "K-
BILLY's Super Sounds of the '70s"
Wright. These two team up to help
Odette reunite with her prince, as well
as provide the audience with the most
entertaining and original dialogue in
the movie.
So why should we want to watch
"The Swan Princess," and why should
we care? Little kids may love it, but
this movie is simply not geared to a
college-age audience, like the even
more loosely-based Quentin
Tarantino adaptation of "Swan Lake"
- "Reservoir Dogs." Then again, if
Tarantino films are all you ever see
(attention Daily staffers), why not ask
yourself when you last saw a "G"-
rated movie? After all, kids' movies
are cool.
THE SWAN PRINCESS is now
playing at Showcase.

:

I

Into the Woods, it's time to go, it might be all in vain I know ...

'

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Steel Pulse regains their roots

By BEN EWY
Grammy award winning reggae
band Steel Pulse, one of the most well
known and respected reggae bands,
has recently come under criticism for
"forgetting their roots" in their recent
albums. Their new album, "Vex," re-
turns to the politically motivated and
Rastafarian influenced music that their
audiences expect of them.
The golden-voiced Rastafarian
poet David Hinds explained why Steel
Pulse have returned to their roots.
"The return came after doing our 'Vic-
tims' album," he said, "which was
probably our most commercial album
to date. We decided the record com-

panies couldn't tell us what to do and
we decided to do what we do best:
jamming and talking about Babylon."
"Steel Pulse has never really had
any trouble having their records
signed," he explained. "The problem
is that once we get signed, the compa-
nies want us to take a certain ap-
proach to appeal to certain audiences
- like adding a more R&B feel."
"After the success of the live 'Cen-
tennial' album we were allowed to
work by ourselves," said Hinds, "be-
cause the company decided that the
people wanted to hear us the way we
were. We were able to create the type
See STEEL, Page 7

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