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October 15, 1996 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-10-15

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10 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, October 15, 1996

Poor screenplay makes 'Ghost' invisible [

By Prashant Tamaskar
Daiy Arts writer
Set in late 19th century Africa, "The
Ghost and the Darkness" seeks to doc-
ument the terror and chaos that ensue
when forces seemingly within man's

control assert
themselves. Based
on actual events,
the film does fea-
ture moments of
true fear and sus-
pense. However,
these instances
are overshadowed
by the murky

The 1
At Briar

African and Indian workers and their
employers, everything proceeds as
planned upon Patterson's arrival in the
Tsazo River region. That is, until a
pair of hungry lions begins wreaking
havoc by attacking and devouring
workers. Rapidly,
the predators'
v I E W appetite for human
flesh increases,
Ghost and and the death toll
Darkness escalates. Stricken
* * by fear, the work-
wood & Showcase ers refuse to com-
plete the bridge
until the lions are
Enter famed wild game hunter
Remington (Michael Douglas), who is
brought in by the British government to
take care of the situation. However,
when the two lions present a far greater
challenge than the hunter expects, he
enlists the help of Patterson to defeat
the menaces. The rest of the film deals
with the resolution of the central con-
The primary reason why "The Ghost
and the Darkness" does not engross the
viewer is due to probable lack of con-

cern for the main characters. The
British Empire is in the midst of colo-
nizing the majority of Africa. The gov-
ernment is exploiting African labor to
reap the benefits of the ivory trade, and
the bridge serves as the ultimate symbol
of the Europeans' preposterous imperi-
Consequently, the bridge takes prece-
dence over human life. The lions are
causing the greatest damage by delay-
ing the completion of the connector, not
by killing faceless workers. And,
Remington is hired to prevent further
postponement instead of preventing
further bloodshed.
With the focus on the problems the
lions are causing in construction, why
should we care if these animals are
killed? What would we want to see
the bridge completed for? Moreover,
although Patterson is presented as a
fair, somewhat idealistic individual,
why would we want to see him, as the
representative of oppression, suc-
Interestingly enough, the film is at its
most intriguing during the rare
instances when it addresses the afore-
mentioned issues. That is, early on, a

key issue is the relationship between the
colonial workers and the English
employers. However, this conflict
quickly dissolves (with a feeble resolu-
tion) as the lions move to the forefront.
Once this happens the film loses its
steam. Although the lion attacks are a
bit frightening in their unpredictability,
their timing is offset by poor camera-
work. In addition, the various hunts for
the animals fail to stimulate.
Yet, to its credit, the film uses the set-
ting to its advantage. Shot on location in
South Africa, cinematographer Vilmos
Zsigmond beautifully captures the
essence of the savannah. The lush pho-
tography augments the magnificence of
the landscape, and its enormity dimin-
ishes the significance of humans in
comparison. This sets the table well for
the whole theme of man's lack of con-
But in the end, I have to admit that I
kind of wanted the lions to be victori-
ous, because I love underdogs. And,
how can you not root for something that
humbles manipulative imperialists?
After all, I never cared for the British
Empire, and consequently, I don't care
for this movie.

screenplay and the specifics
film, which ultimately lead

of the
to its

The story begins when British engi-
neer John Patterson (Val Kilmer) travels
to Africa to oversee the construction of
a bridge that will connect two parts of
an East African railway system. The
railroads, which are being built to
secure ivory trade and to "save the
Africans," will span the entire continent
and increase the already immense
power of the Empire.
Despite the tensions between

Michael Douglas is a deranged maniac.

Scatterbrained 'Celestial Clockwork' fails to entice its audiences

By Neal C. Carruth
Daily Arts Wrter
Fina Torres has created a visually
stimulating, but ultimately disappoint-
ing and vacuous urban fantasy that
transplants the fairy tale of Cinderella
to the hyperaestheticized, intellectually
eclectic and multicultural setting of
modern Paris. "Celestial Clockwork"
bustles with so much energy and possi-
bility and so many interesting faces that
it comes as no surprise when it fails to
sustain its own promise.
Sadly, it's a scatterbrained attempt at

farce that only manages to drive a
wedge between the audience and those
characters with whom some empathy
might exist.
The story begins
when a young
Venezuelan, Ana
Mendoza, leaves her
betrothed at the altarW
to pursue an opera
career in Paris,
inspired by her idol
Maria Callas. She arrives in France,
overwhelmed and exhilarated by her

newfound freedom. Initially, Ana lives
with a group of Venezuelan aliens and a
sinister performance / video artist

At Michigan Theater
ancient Russian
(Michel Bebrane).

named Celeste
( A r i e l I e
To develop her
heavenly voice
and hone her
operatic skills,
Ana enlists the
services of an
named Grigorieff
In addition, Ana's

path crosses with those of a harried and
neurotic Lacanian psychoanalyst
named Alcanie (Evelyne Didi), and
Toutou (Hidegar Barcia Madriz), a
Bantu witch doctor.
Ana also discovers that the renowned
film director Italo Medici (Lluis
Homar) is searching for the lead in his
slated film version of Rossini's "La
Cenerentola." Of course, a comedy of
errors ensues as Ana tries to get an audi-
tion with Medici and is continually
thwarted, either by her cosmic bad luck
or by the efforts of the none-too-subtly-
named Celeste.
Torres does not juggle these volatile
elements very well. She clearly has a
fine understanding of the various
milieus that serve as the objects of her
derision: psychoanalytic practice, the

film industry and the art world. The
problem resides in the fact that her use
of social satire cuts inconsistently deep.
For example, psychoanalysis is
viciously satirized in the person of
Alcanie, who consults with her clients
over a video screen and balances her
checkbook while they yammer on about
their hang-ups and insecurities.
Then, there are characters, like
Grigorieff, Ana and Armand (Frederic
Longbois), with whom Torres seems to
expect that we will connect on an emo-
tional plane. Essentially, to unpack an
old cliche, Torres can't have her cake
and eat it too. She doesn't succeed in
maintaining islands of authenticity in a
swirling sea of satire.
Some of the satire is pretty good,
though. One of the best characters is

I In - 1 1




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Celeste, who represents something of
an amalgam of Warhol and Madonna.
Her hallucinatory, self-indulgent a
videos form an amusing visual contra
to the dew-fresh and unspoiled images
of Ana. Dombasle turns on the sexual
charm full throttle and provides an
arresting performance.
Also amusing is Madriz as Toutou.
He brings an authority and ease to his
performance. In one of the film's best
passages, Toutou and Alcanie swap
therapies and methods, discovering that
there's not much of a diffrenf
between psychoanalysis and voodoo.
As for the star, Gil isn't given much
of a chance to shine, though she does
radiate an appealing and ineffable
warmth. All the same, most of my
attention was drawn to the vociferous
and colorful peripheral characters. One
begins to lose interest in Ana's quest to
be a great opera star, and we never get
a feel her motivation or interior strug-
It was recently reported that Dsn*'
has bought the English-language
remake rights to "Celestial Clockwork.'
Apparently, Hollywood will not ,only
remake quality films that come out of
Europe ("La Femme Nikita" becomes
"Point of No Return"), but they will
even pick up Europe's refuse.
Continued from Page 9
effective had it been closer to 30 min-
utes. There was a great deal of variety
in what was being done with the
objects on the stage, but there was a
monotony in the movement and.gener-
al mood of the piece.
The overall show was very in-depth,
perhaps too much so. The audience had
difficulty understanding the meaning
behind all of the events happening (
stage simply because there was
much meaning intended. Behind every
action there was a reason for that
action, which furthered what was being
illustrated by the artist, but in one sit-
ting it was difficult to comprehend the
entire message intended.



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