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March 26, 1996 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-03-26

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Uabe id jigun dlg

An anthropologist at Rackham
The brilliant and insightful Oliver Sacks reads at Rackham Amphitheatre
tonight at 7:30. Sacks is the author of "An Anthropologist on Mars,"
whose life was depicted in the film "Awakenings." Sacks' latest work
deals with some of his extraordinary patients and friends, and delves
deep into the human mind. Admission is free.

March 26, 1996


By Kelly Xintaris
Daily Arts Writer
Wit and wisdom converge in "The
White Balloon," an irresistibly simple
film that looms high above Hollywood's
current spring lineup.
Iranian director Jafar Panahi was
awarded this year's Camera D'Or and
International Critics' Prize at the Cannes
Film Festival for his impressive debut.
he White Balloon" is a gem that
lppeals to a wide range of audiences,
despite its surface simplicity. While
other films merely rehash the joys of
youth, this one suspends you in the
perspective that childhood brings.
The spunky star of the story, Razieh
(Aida Mohammadkhani), is a girl with
a mission. It's New Year's Day (March
21) in Teheran, and families buy gold-
fish and exchange presents as part of
*adition. Seven-year-old Razieh, un-
satisfied with her family's school of
skinny fish, sets her sights on a marvel-
ous goldfish she sees at the market.
The problem is that the huge, white
creature, whose four fins move as if to

Balloon' floats on screen

The White

Directed by Jafar Panahi
with Aida Mohammadkhani
At the Michigan Theater
"dance," costs 100 tomans. Her mother
tries to convince her that their own fish
are good enough, but to no avail. Be-
cause the girl has eyes that would thaw
the coldest heart, her mother finally
shells out her last bit of cash.
As she takes off with a 500 note in
her fishbowl, Razieh meets snake
charmers along the way who swindle
her out of her money.
A sympathetic old woman helps her
locate the note under the grate of a store
basement. A shopkeeper, the pet shop
owner and even a charming soldier can-
not help her, though she learns more

about adults than she probably realizes.
Immersed in Razieh's world, you want
her to get the note as much as her brave
brother, who saves the day with the
help of an Afghan balloon-seller.
Intherole ofRazieh, Mohammedkhani
glows with an innocence that stirs emo-
tions and invites reflection. Each time her
soulful eyes well up with tears, it's as if
the weight of the world were on her
shoulders. Like a modern day version of
"Little Prince," Razieh seems to know
more than the adults, despite her youthful
naivete. In the end, only Razieh soars
high on euphoria, much like the white
balloon that presumably is sold after the
final scene.
The camera follows her through a 90-
minute time span, lending a documen-
tary feel to the film. By isolating the
events in real time, Panahi allows you
to feel as if you are right next to Razieh,
plodding through the city streets. Her
small adventures are worth savoring,
for they reflect the fleeting moments of
childhood itself. Razieh moves through
the drab, debilitated cityscape like a ray
of sunshine. She and her brother form a
formidable team - at one point, they
sit on the grate in despair as if they are
waiting for Godot.
Although Razieh stops at nothing to
get her goldfish, her determination
seems admirable rather than selfish.
Screenwriter Abbas Kiarostami punc-
tuates the dialogue with a keen insight
into her way of thinking. By focusing
on every detail of how Razieh interacts
with people, Kiarostami has exposed a
time when things that now seem trivial
used to mean everything.
In the grand scheme of things, the
importance of a little girl and a fat gold-
fish is not exactly monumental. How-
ever, the story offers more than the super-
ficially "cute" nature of the tale. The sort
of wishing depicted here is relegated to
childhood and a universally human expe-
rience. Whether it was for a goldfish, a
Cabbage Patch Kid or something else
really makes no difference.
Boldly uncomplicated and delicately
refined - like the unforgettable experi-
ences of childhood - "The White Bal-
loon" will etch itself into your memory.

"Man, this telepathy thing is neat, but I sure wish we were able to talk. Oh, and nice lipstick, buddy."
assC en-Hur St scores big

Mohsen Kalifi and Aida Mohammadkhani in Jafar Panahi's "The White Balloon."

By Kristin Long
Daily Arts Writer
Taking a film of the 1920s and pre-
senting it to modern society is not an
easy task. Films of today thrive on the
blood and guts of fearless warriors; we
like our romances passionate and
steamy; we enjoy the special effects
that only modern technology can bring.
But who says films from the early years
of the motion picture industry lack any
Directed by Fred Niblo
with Ramon Novarro,
music conducted by
Gillian Anderson
At the Michigan Theater
of these elements in their own style?
"Ben-Hur," a movie that previously
premiered in 1925, is a prime example.
It was made before Hollywood created
talkies and before stunt doubles had a
great chance of surviving their roles.
Although we cannot hear what the char-
acters say verbally, we understand their
every movement and emotion.
On Saturday, the Michigan Theater
ran the original epic for the first time
with a restored score and a live orches-
tra. Under the direction of conductor
Gillian Anderson, the Michigan
Sinfonietta provided the sounds and
aural effects that replaced the emotion
ofthe actors' voices. Audiences had the
opportunity to experience a remarkable
film of yesteryear-- without the tech-
nology that often clouts the films of

modern day.
Although watching "Ben-Hur" was
truly a remarkable experience, the
gap between themes of today and
yesterday was quite obvious. For
those unfamiliar with the plot, it ex-
amines the life of a Jewish man of
biblical times, Ben-Hur (Ramon
Novarro), who is caught in a bitter
struggle between the Roman conquer-
ors and his people.
As the Romans enter his city, Ben-
Hur is reunited with an old friend,
Messala (Francis Bushman), who de-
fends the enemy. Throughout the film,
the two clash as they defend theirhonor.
A man exiled from his beloved village,
Ben-Hur encounters his share of ro-
mance, brutality and victory as he
searches for his forgotten mother and
A majority of the scenes are in the
classic black and white fashion; due
to high costs at the time, only scenes
that depicted events from the Bible
were shown in color, to enhance the
effect. Each Technicolor scene was
made possible through the welding
of two thin strips of film using intri-
cate artistry.
The cinematography of the film is
amazing - true work ahead of its
time. The classic is known for its as-
tounding work in a sea battle and for
the ever-famous chariot race, which
both exemplify the finest in Holly-
wood productions of the 1920s.
Perhaps one of the most notable as-
pects of the presentation is the musical
score. Using various sources, Gillian
Anderson recreated the original sounds
to reinstall the effects of the film from
its first release. She collaborates the
sound effects with visual images, pre-

serving its vintage persona. The sym-
phony filled the void ofthe actors' voices
with comparable emotion and tension.
Because verbal communication be-
tween the stars was absent; their body
language told the complete tale of their
feelings. The subtle, yet occasionally
overemphasized movements, revealed
more than a descriptive conversation
ever could.
The hardest part of watching this film
was recognizing that films from the day
of Rudolph Valentino just have a differ-
ent tone than ones from the day of
Sylvester Stallone. Without changing
one's perspective when viewing such a
masterpiece, realizing its true value can
be a bit of a challenge.
The film, which, given inflation, cost
proportionally more than the recent
Kevin Costner release "Waterworld,"
made a phenomenal presentation in its
original and recent run. "Ben-Hur" re-
veals that films of old aren't entirely
sentimental fluff that only older genera-
tions can appreciate. It is a classic, to be
revered by moviegoers of all ages. It
tells a tale of thrilling romance, bitter
revenge and classic filmmaking without
ever saying a word.

'Braveheat takes Oscars by storm

By Joshua Rich
Daily Arts Editor
After nearly 20 years in and out of the
Hollywood mainstream, Mel Gibson
finally has tangible proof that he's
wined the respect of his peers. His
riod epic, "Braveheart," nominated
for 10 Academy Awards, won a total of
five - including Best Picture.
"Like most directors, now what I really
want to do is act," Gibson quipped when
accepting the Best Director Oscar.
He first arrived on stage to present the
award for Best Foreign Language film to
the Netherlands' "Antonia's Line." This
win was one ofthe few surprises in a night
that honored many worthy nominees.
The art house phenomenon, "Restora-
on," began the evening with victories in
Costume Design and Art Direction.
"Braveheart"'s deserving man-behind-
the-camera, John Toll, took home the
coveted cinematography statuette.
Disappointing, however, were the few
accolades given to some of the year's
most acclaimed films. "Apollo 13," with
nine nominations, won two prizes -
for Sound and Editing. Both longshot
ndidate "Babe" and heavy favorite
Sense and Sensibility," with seven
nominations each, took home only one
Oscar- "Babe" for Visual Effects and
"Sense and Sensibility" for Adapted
Screenplay, as written by virtual shoo-
in, actress Emma Thompson.
That was to be the only grand praise
given to the film adaptation of Jane
Austen's classic novel that triumphed in
many previous award contests this year.
Thompson, was edged-out ofthe Best

Actress category by perennial nominee
Susan Sarandon forTim Robbins' mov-
ing death row drama, "Dead Man Walk-
ing." Unfortunately, Sarandon's was
the only award her film received.
Favorite Nicolas Cage won the Acad-
emy Award for Best Actor - also the
only award his film, the acclaimed
"Leaving Las Vegas" received.
As it turned out, the greatest sur-
prises arrived in the early stages of the
program - a tight, well-written and
intelligently conceived affair produced
by Quincy Jones and hosted by one-
time winner Whoopi Goldberg.
Mira Sorvino ("Mighty Aphrodite")
shocked many with her triumph in the
Best Supporting Actress category.
Similarly surprising was the victory of
relative longshots, Kevin Spacey for Best
Supporting Actor and Christopher
McQuarrie for Best Original Screenplay,
both for "The Usual Suspects." Nomi-
nated for only two awards, the indepen-
dent film that was the rage of the film
scene in 1995 won in both categories.
When receiving his prize, Spacey
joyously proclaimed: "For me, Keyser
Soze - the man who pulls the strings
who gives us breath - is Bryan
Singer, the director of this film." He
was, of course, referring to the enig-
matic figure who dominated Singer's

new-age masterpiece.
With that, and all the other mysteries of
the evening solved, Hollywood and film
fans alike could sleep soundly, knowing
that worthy filmmakers are appreciated
and - though some have doubted it -
excellence in movies still thrives.

One Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020
(212) 581-3040 /(800} 2231516
Mention this ad for Special
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and you may find the answer to that nagging question.

Actor Nicolas Cage covets his Oscar.

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Paris .............................610
Fran fu t...............68


Sometimes going to class
just isn't enough.


on Days:
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