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February 06, 1996 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-02-06

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The Michigan Daily -Tuesday, February 6, 1996 - 9

Continued from Page 8
house beyond belief. It comes to our
attention that Annie not only has to vote
not guilty," which would create a hung
jury and thus a mistrial, but she must
also persuade the other jurors to do
likewise so that the defendant is actu-
ally acquitted.
What follows shortly thereafter is a
discussion (amongst the jurors) of the
proper role of justice and the definition
of reasonable doubt. Coming as it does
in the wake of the O.J. Simpson trial,
"The Juror" could have provided a fo-
rum for intelligent discussion of perti-
nent issues. Instead, it brushes the is-
sues aside and moves on with its
"Teacher" vs. Annie plot. What started
out as atense psychological drama ends
up resorting to cat-and-mouse tactics
- in Guatemala of all places.
The problem in the second part of the
movie is that, for a thriller, it doesn't
thrill. All the suspense is crammed into
the beginning of the film, leaving noth-
ing for the end. No further tension is
created and there are no important twists,
just a standard chase. By the time we
4 et to Guatemala, we are no longer
interested in the characters anymore,
because they have nothing interesting
left to do or say. The surprising culprit
ere is screenwriter Ted Tally (who
won an Academy Award for "The Si-
lence of the Lambs"), who runs out of
ideas and turns the movie into a paint-
by-numbers thriller.

Despite its shortcomings, "The Juror"
does not fail miserably. Moore and
Baldwin rise ahove the material to create,
for the most part, interesting characters.
She is apassive woman who is forced into
action by "The Teacher," and her perfor-
mance at the finale is raw anger.
Baldwin is chilling as The Teacher,
whose psychotic obsession with Annie
is only hinted at in the beginning of the
film. His ice-blue eyes and darkly hand-
some looks are perfect for this role and
his constantly shifting behavior creates
this movie's only surprises. By the end,
we have formed a love-hate relation-
ship with him - he's a cold-blooded
murderer, but he's so damn cool.
Director Brian Gibson ("What's Love
Got To Do With It") handles the weak
story and even weaker dialogue well
enough, although there is nothing spe-
cial in his direction. His style is prosaic
but effective. For example, instead of
utilizing different facets of cinematic
technique to create suspense, he con-
stantly employs a resonating bass sound
whenever we are supposed to feel tense.
These repetitive reverberations almost
blew the subwoofers at Showcase and
knocked over my tasty beverage. Thank-
fully, they never really got annoying;
banal doesn't necessarily mean inef-
fective in film.
If anything, "The Juror" proves that
stars can carry a movie, despite its dra-
matic weaknesses. Demi Mooreand Alec
Baldwin take an overextended, pseudo-
intellectual and often unconvincing story
and turn it into a mediocre thriller with
brief glimpses of real suspense.

Continued from Page 8
With perhaps the exception of Ameri-
can director Henry Jaglom ("Last Sum-
mer in the Hamptons"), Leigh is one of
the few directors who relies on his actors
to create the story. Renowned for his
unconventional approach, even arguably
parodied in the 1988 novel, "The Buddha
of Suburbia," by HanifKureishi, Leigh is
an actor's director, and one who has his
own, very unique agenda. His style of
filmmaking fit Thewlis' slippery exuber-
ance like a glove.
"When you work with Mike Leigh,"
Thewlis said in admiration, "you have no
idea what you're getting into, because he
doesn't have a script; hejust says: 'I want
to work with you."' Thewlis found these
experiences to be "invigorating as an
actor in that you're directly part of the
make-up of the character that you play,
from feet upwards, as the film is mostly
created around what the actors impro-
vise. ... It's likebeingin adrama in itself,
just working with Mike."
An experience in a recent, soon-to-
be-released film also found the cast
improvising in front of the camera, but
Thewlis felt this time it was in a waste-
ful, disorganized manner. "It was more
like shooting live TV," he said ner-
vously. "Where they don't talk about it
much, just say 'roll' and the actors
improvise it all, provided that they stay
in character."
He admits to worrying about the out-
come of this high-profile film, yet he
enjoyed working with the ineffable
Marlon Brando. "I must say that it was
quite something to go into a full-scale
improvisation with Marlon Brando.
Kind of like going into the ring with
Mike Tyson."
He also enjoyed working with
DiCaprio in "Total Eclipse," which told
the story of Verlaine and Rimbaud's
love affair. It was his first experience
playing a real person. "It was a big
responsibility, even thoughthe real per-
son can't very well come and get me,"
he said laughing, referring to the fact
that his character, Paul Verlaine, is long
deceased. "Butthere were still plenty of
people determined that I do it right."
Despite Verlaine's prominence in
French history, Thewlis found, in his
always thorough research, farmoreinfor-
mation on Rimbaud than Verlaine. Yet,
what he did uncover was surprising: "A
lot of French people don't know that side
of Verlaine: monster, wife abuser, a vio-
lent man. He's one of the great figures in

French literature, so it'll be interesting to
see how that film goes down there, whether
they see it as sacrilege oras a falling of one
of their heroes."
Of DiCaprio, his co-star, Thewlis
said: "He's a very funny guy, a kid. very
young and his attitude is very unpreten-
tious. That film was pretty dark, intense
stuff to get your head around but leo
just made if fun. Everyday was a good
Thewlis is no stranger to the dark and
intense. It is safe to say that - perhaps
with the exception of "Life is Sweet" and
"BlackBeauty,"he has always been drawn
to the more feral, visceral roles, the kind
you can sink your teeth into. "I just find
thesekinds ofrolesmore interesting, more
complex. It just gives the actors more
room to be creative. If you're playing
someone who has many facets, you can
hopefully bring to the role something that
is more interesting."
However, unless playing one-dimen-
sional, psychotic madmen, the darker
roles also tend to be the less commer-
cial ones, such as Verlaine in "Total
Eclipse" or Johnny in "Naked."
However, this is not something that
bothers him. "The less money involved
in the production, the more the people
working on the film want to create some-
thing that has some value, has some
integrity," he said. "Sometimes the qual-
ity of a work can suffer when there is
more money around and less artistic
control. Often, the director will then be
less involved in making decisions, and
I don't think that that's really condu-
cive to good filmmaking."
Thewlis is aware that certain upcom-
ing films that he's involved with have
very high-budgets and could potentially
fall into that category.
He admits that sometimes, when do-
ing this kind of work, he will say to
himself: "This is work, but why am I
doing it? Is it because of the money? Is
that what all this is for? ... If I'm being
a whore, then why? Is it prestige? Is it to
work with certain people?" He laughs
lightly, then allows: "I'm still question-
ing myself about that."
While he doesn't necessarily place
himself in a category with other Brit-
ish-import actors, like Daniel Day-
Lewis or Gary Oldman, he does ac-
knowledge that if British actors want to
make it in film, they need to come to
America. British films tend to be few
and far between, in terms of high pro-
file. In fact, he compares the British
cinema to the American independent
cinema - high quality, low profile.
"Most English actors who have some

Director Figgis to visit the Michigan Theater
Can you name the 1987 film in which Nicolas Cage starred with Holly
Hunter? If so, you can receive a pass for two to a special presentationoaf
the acclaimed film, "Leaving Las Vegas," on Wednesday night at the
Michigan Theater. Just stop by the Daily Arts office in the Student
Publications Building, 420 Maynard St., second floor, after noon today to
pick up your ticket. What's more, the director of the film, Mike Figgiswill
be on hand to present his movie about a suicidal alcoholic, a glamorous
prostitute and the touching bond the two form. Figgis is the director of
other films such as "Internal Affairs" and "The Browning Version," and-he
is a favorite to be nominated for the Best Director Academy Award this
year. He will be available after the show for an informal reception in which
audience members may have a chance to meet and converse with him:

kind of career over here ... have done
one thing that has gained the attention
of the American agents, producers, di-
rectors," he observed.
For Leigh that was "Naked" and it
has changed his life irreparably.
"Before I did 'Naked,' I was offered a
part in a British television series that I
really wanted to do. It. was between me
and another actor and it was given to the
other actor," he remembers. "I felt like
'Awww shit. I've blown it, I'm unlucky,
nothing ever goes right,' and like, two
weeks later I got offered the part in what

was to become 'Naked.' If I had gotten
that show, I wouldn't be here today."
Whether it was fate or luck, he's not
sure. "Incidentally," he chuckled, "it
turned out to be a very mediocre TV
series. Here I was cursing myself and
thinking that I'd missed my chance, but
it was all for thebest."
Ultimately, he doesn't believsthat
American audiences, or any auditnce
shouldknow toomuch abouthim. "They
should know nothing about me," he
said dryly. "They should forget about
me and just watch the film."

Keep reading the Daily Arts section for
more contests and free giveaways.

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