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March 02, 1995 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-03-02

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The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, March 2, 1995 - 3

MelRose Place

By Michael Zilberman
For the Daily
Chances are, most people have
never heard of Rashid Nugmanov and
"The Needle." Nugmanov's home-
land, Kazakhstan, isn't exactly a me-
dia empire. The director himself, how-
ever, is getting more and more recog-


sits pretty on primitive, stylish 'Needle'

(Rejection bites
Well, MelRose Place readers, it's
what you've all been waiting for: The
announcement of the winner of the
*'Win a Date with MeiRose" contest.
Congratulations to Jason, my lucky
winner. And a sincere thank-you to
everyone who entered. Due to the sheer
volume (yeah right) ofentries, Iwasnot
able to notify every applicant person-
ally. So I'd like to write a personal letter
to each of you, right here.
Dear (insert your name here):
Thank you for your application in
the "Win a Date with MelRose" con-
test. I regret to inform you that you
were not selected. (As if you hadn't
guessed that by now.)
I had hundreds and hundreds
(well, maybe not quite that many) of
entries (OK, about 25) for just one
slot (though I could be convinced to
offdr consolation prizes), and all the
applicants were extremely qualfied.
*They were men, they had pulses.
That's enough for me.)
I hope I have not dashed too many
hopes or broken too many dreams (I
know you're all sitting in a candle-lit
room, listening to the Smniths and pin-
ing away for me). I hope this does not
deteryou from future contests (I plan to
have them every week now), and I wish
you luck in your dating endeavors.
Don't you just hate rejection let-
ters? I've been getting a lot of them
lately, from various newspapers, resi-
dence halls and talk shows. (As if I
wouldn't make a fascinating talk show
guest.) Last year I received so many
that I began a mural on my dorm room
wall. It was really quite impressive.
* And while each letter said basi-
cally the same thing - you suck, we
"won't even hire you to work for us for
free - I grew to appreciate each let-
ter for its individual personality. Here
are some excerpts:
"We are always gratified when as-
piring journalists feel (our paper) is the
place at which to begin their careers,
and we appreciate your interest. ..."
Ohis one went on with flowery lan-
guage for another two paragraphs, and
never really said I didn't get the job. It
ended, "I cannot encourage your pros-
pects." All that and no real substance.
From Bill Clinton's old stomping
grounds, Little Rock, Ark.
"Please do not take this as dis-
couragement or deprecation of your
skills." Ooh, deprecation. That thar is
ome purty big word.
"We were highly impressed with
much of the work and experience of the
applicants thisyear."But not with yours.
"You have many strong points that
nodoubt will bring success if you choose
a journalism career." But not with us.
"Although your credentials are
very impressive, we currently do not
have a position that matches your
skills." I'm sorry, I thought I applied
@0 a newspaper. Did I misaddress my
application and send it to the Profes-
sional Golfers Association?
"Sorry, but you're too weird even
for my show." This from a woman
who gives air time to white trash guys
who cheat on their sisters with bearded
bisexual midgets. Go Ricki! Go Ricki!

And now, one of my personal favor-
ites, addressed to "Melissa Rose" and
igned by "Joe" - one application and
suddenly we're on a first-name basis.
"When you open a letter like this,
it's tempting to ask 'Why not me?
What did I do wrong? What should I
have done differently?' Don't do it."
Well, I wasn't going to beat myself up
until you handed me the bat.
"Throw this letter in the trash,
stick it on the wall or drop it in a
j rawer where others like it may re-
ide." So he just assumes I have other
letters like this. What effrontery!
"It is our fond hope that some of
the fine people who are disappointed
to receive this letter will one day
come back to (our paper) with a wealth

nition in Western professional circles
and is already labeled an "Asian Wim
Wenders," which is largely accurate
but probably too restrictive. "The
Needle", his feature-length debut,
was released in the US. around 1990,
but don't look for it at a Blockbuster
Video near you. It is definitely worth
digging out.
"The Needle" is a unique work, at
once primitivist and extremely styl-
ish. The plot itself is so unsophisti-
cated, I am slightly embarrassed to be
describing it. A young man named
Moro visits a large city in order to
collect some old debts from what
seems to be a small-time gang. He
stays at his acquaintance's place -
apparently, there was something be-

tween them a while ago, but now she
is passive and restrained. Maybe, too
restrained. Moro promptly discovers
that someone has got her hooked on
morphine (to use a slangy Russian
expression, she's "sitting on a needle",
which might explain the title). Moro
becomes obsessed with the idea of
saving the girl, taking her on a long
trip South in an attempt to distract
her. Eventually, he fails the task and,
upon his return to the city, beats the
living hell out of the people who got
her hooked - an act as pointless as it
is spectacular.
"The Needle" is not a drug movie.
The most intriguing thing about it is
that while it's hardly your average
shoot-'em-up, it also lacks the grim
self-importance of "experimental"
cinema. Nugmanov is clearly not com-
fortable with Hollywood conventions,
but instead of opposing them with
incoherent screenwriting and proudly
amateurish direction, he wisely
chooses the path traveled by Roger
Ebert in "Beyond The Valley Of The
Dolls" and now Quentin Tarantino:
he struggles with hackneyed cliches
by turning out a movie chock full of
them, an ultra-Hollywood narrative
that gleefully undermines itself every
step of the way.
Let's begin with the protagonist.
In what could be considered a nod to
Wenders, Nugmanov cast a rock
singer, Victor Tsoy, to play Moro.

Tsoy, something of a cross between
Bono and Michael Stipe minus mes-
sianic posturing, proved to he a ter-
rific actor - in what was his first and
last screen appearance, not counting a
cameo as himself in Soloviev's
"ASSA"( a year later, he died in a
bizarre car crash). Tsoy plays Moro
as a anti-romantic hero to end all
heroes - laconic, alone, clad in
'The Needle 'is a
unique work, at
once primitivist
and extremely
black - and takes every feature to the
extreme. When asked "Who in the
hell are you?" Moro meditates a sec-
ond, then shrugs. The audience knows
nothing of his past or future and settles
for watching the present. Moro's first
scene is a triumph of post modernist
mock-romanticism: He appears as a
tiny black dot at the end of an ab-
surdly symmetrical alley, keeps walk-
ing until he fills up the screen, stops
and lights a cigarette. At this point,
the flame of his match renders the
entire frame orange, the sky and the
cityscape included.
Throughout the film, the author is
one step ahead of the unsuspecting

viewer in a way that might remind
you of the French New Wave. For
instance, the obligatory showdown
between Moro and the bad guys is
weirdly interrupted in the very begin-
ning. Turns out, it is saved for a rainy
day: After the movie's sad ending,
which takes place a year later, an off
screen voice suddenly chimes in: "Hey
kids, want some more?" and we are
presented with the rest of the action
sequence in all of its glory. Nugmanov
acidly pretends to console a sensa-
tion-hungry viewer, he assumes that
most of us have learned to precept a
good fighting scene as something self-
sufficient, plot be damned. He's right,
of course. And to top this off,
Nugmanov uses Tsoy's Asian fea-
tures to pay a tongue-in-cheek tribute
to Bruce Lee: Moro leaves the scene
with four instantly recognizable par-
allel scratches on his face, lifted di-
rectly from "Enter The Dragon."
Amazingly enough, the movie
manages not to lock itself in its too-
many-hours-at-a-video-store mock-
ery: for all its "spot the reference"
games, "The Needle" remains
strangely lyrical, even serene at
times. Nugmanov employs slightly
surrealist lighting and misce-en-
scene to create a slowed-down,
sleepy world for Moro to inhabit.
"The Needle" is the only film I've
ever scene that makes a visual poem
out of the snowfall, shooting di-

rectly from the ground up, with
snowflakes gradually obscuring the
camera lens. The use of outdoor
locations is remarkable, especially
the stunning image of the dried-up
Aral sea where the hero takes a
walk: Miles and miles of cracked
dry soil with ships left rusting on it.
Thejokey soundtrack, assembled
with Tsoy's help, provides an inevi-
table ironic counterpoint to roman-
tic visuals. In the city sequences, it
is stuffed with random soundbites
- children's radio broadcasts,
learning tapes (those are especially
funny and annoying at once), lite-
FM schmaltz. The desert scenes, on
the other hand, are blissfully quiet.
The dialogue is very spare and
drowned out by noises; in the world.
of "The Needle," people either un-
derstand each other without words
or don't have much to say.
Whether you are intrigued, ap-
palled or just plain bored by
Nugmanov's trademarks-slowed-
down fractured narration, subtle
send-ups - "The Needle" is worth
experiencing.Whatever your general
reaction, the image of a black ship
stuck in the middle of a desert, snow-
flakes melting on the camera lens,
the unbearably hooky chorus pf
Tsoy's song in the credits will most
likely linger in your mind long after
you've forgotten how to spell the
name of Nugmanov's homeland.

How to fail in film without trying

By Alexandra Twin
Daily Film Editor
Some guys have all the luck.
Chevy Chase is not one of those
While the star of the new "Man of
the House" has had his share of ups -
he was an original cast member of
"Saturday Night Live," back when
the show still had balls, and he is
technically not yet completely bald
- his subsequent career has been
marked by a fBurry of projects that a
kind critic might call "mild comedies"
and that I would call "duds."
Yet, who can forget the bumbling
but well-meaning dad in the "Vaca-
tion" movies? ("Hey look kids, Big
Ben.") The bumbling, wacky news-
paperman in the "Fletch" epics. The
bumbling dork in the "Caddyshack"
movies. Yet, more importantly, who
can remember the plots of any of
those movies? And lastly, who would
want to?
"Three Amigos" (1986) anyone?
No, apparently not, for that film fell
flatter than most of the Chev's previ-
ous films combined. It also marked a
significant transition for Chase, as he
moved away from the somewhat con-
fusing successes of "Deal of the Cen-
tury" (1983) and the first
"Caddyshack," "Fletch" and "Vaca-
tion" movies and on towards memo-
rable comic romps such as "Funny
Farm" (1988), "The Couch Trip"

(1988) and "Nothing But Trouble"
(1991), pathetic attempts at regaining
past glories, such as "Caddyshack 2"
(1988), Fletch Lives (1989) and
Christmas Vacation (1989) and of
course, last year's riotous "Cops and
Robbersons." I know one person who
saw "Cops and Robbersons." Do you?
The question on all Chase fans'
lips must surely be, what went wrong?
Although in light of his less than
stellar career, a more accurate ques-
tion might be, what went more wrong'?
Was it the receding hair line? The
ever expanding paunch? The love
handles that nobody wanted to love?
The insistence on playing bumbling
fools? The choice of Dan Akroyd as a
perpetual co-star? The misguided
skinny dipping scene with Christie
Brinkley in "Vacation"?
Perhaps a little of each. However
the main cause for the swoop in
Chase's career can probably be attrib-
uted to a little old film released in
1985 called "Follow That Bird." Yes,
that's right, the Sesame Street Movie.
Chevy was there and things haven't
been the same since.
"Memoirs of an Invisible Man"
teamed the chunky Chevy up with the
listless, monosyllabic, although al-
ways babalicious Daryl Hannah, for a
foray into the life of the invisible.
While the film proved to be a mild hit,
it did very little to boost Chase's sag-
ging career. In fact, not unlike Chase's

career, the character he played was
quickly disappearing from the world's
An attempt at busting into the late-
night arena found chase losing in the
ratings to everyone from Conan
O'Brien to the home shopping net-
work. Yet all is not lost, for the
fortysomething actor-comedian golfer
extraordinaire is back with yet an-
other goofy comedy and this one's
sure to be a winner. "Man of the
House" is a warnfamily drama where
Chevy plays dad to a little tow-headed
kid. One can only assume that, true to
form, mayhem and madness will en-
sue. Oh, the joy. It's no "Fletch," but
it can't be worse than "Caddyshack
2." Or can it? Some guys have all the

Next semester, what's outside your residence hall window can
be more than just an attractive view. When you study abroad
with Beaver College, you come to understand another culture
in a way no tourist can. Whether you prefer to frequent the
haunts of Dublin's famous writers, explore the ancient sites of
Athens, sample the plaza nightlife of Guadalajara, devour
Sachertortes in Viennese coffeehouses or watch the sun set
over Oxford's dreaming spires, the views you'll return with are


Stop by and see a Jostens representative


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