14 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, April 20, 1998
By Gerard Cohen-Vrignaud
Daily Arts Writer
Like a painter's brushstroke, "Mrs. Dalloway"
unfolds deliberately, revealing layers of colors and
textures previously unseen. Based on the Virginia
Woolf novel of the same name, "Mrs. Dalloway"
breathes new life into a frequently explored sub-
ject - London upper-class society.
"Mrs Dalloway" is not to be confused with the
numerous Merchant Ivory productions that treat
the same material. At once elegant and surprising,
the film finds unexpected complexity in the story
of Clarissa Dalloway, a woman of means and
The film runs like a stream of thoughts and
unburied memories, with chance encounters
revealing a deeper meaning.
Clarissa, played delicately by Vanessa
Redgrave, is a middle-aged woman married to a
prominent parliamentarian in early 20th-Century
The film opens a young soldier shouting as an
explosion rips his world apart. In contrast to this
brief sobering prelude, the film then continues
with the dawning of a new day, revealing Clarissa
dressed exquisitely. She spends her time planning
parties and arranging dinners, with another such
event planned for that evening.
We follow Clarissa through her day, as she
walks through the English gardens, passes old
acquaintances and smiles gloriously. Clarissa
appears carefree and the movie follows the tan-
gents of her life just as smoothly as her gait.
Staring at bouquets in a flower shop, her gaze
lefines the indescribable
finds it way to the eyes of a young man outside the
store. A veteran of the war, none other than the
soldier at the film's beginning, he looks as if trans-
fixed by memories of exploding bombs and decap-
Later, Clarissa is visited by her former beau,
Peter, who stirs up memories of young woman-
hood. Flashbacks ensue all of her encounters and
Clarissa's story is clarified.
Clarissa abandoned Peter,
uF|V||@| the one who loved her pas-
sionately for Dalloway, an
Mrs. elegant man who could pro-
Dalloway vide security and ease her
fears. Peter, on the other
hand, offered only his sense
At the State of adventure and more mod-
Clarissa, raised prudish by
her prim parents, chose the
safer choice. Yet regret does
not tinge her thoughts nor
does the movie pass any
judgment on the wealthy
woman's life. She has never suffered, as one char-
acter tells her daughter, nor will she ever.
Can knowledge, or indeed satisfaction with one's
life, be gained without pain? That question seems
to remain unanswered as "Mrs. Dalloway" ends,
ambiguously leaving us dancing with melancholy.
Those searching for greater meaning will be dis-
appointed by "Mrs. Dalloway," for indeed there is
no moral to this tale. Rather, the filmmakers have
eloquently captured an ordinary woman's story.
Clarissa sees in the young veteran's suicide an
act of courage. He has abandoned life, with its sor-
did wars and evil characters, while Clarissa enjoys
the fruits of her planning - in her party she finds
enough meaning to live on.
Clarissa spends more time thinking than she
does speaking; as she observes her party, sa
smiles inwardly at her success. She wishes t
make others happy to live, she says to her hus-
Every flower, champagne-filled glass and sump-
tuous appointment contributes to the perfection of
the party. Yet the event lasts but a brief moment,
returning all its guests to reality.
Clarissa lives an escapist fantasy - her parties
help her avoid the questions of life. The young vet-
eran's death, her love for Peter, her ambiguous
relationship with her woman friend, her feelings
for her husband -- all these concerns can#a
ignored with the planning of the party.
Redgrave offers a subtle performance, showing
the older woman's attention and concern for every
detail of the party. Her expressions gracefully sup-
plement the voice-overs that indicate what she is
The ensemble cast is also marvelous, including
a notable performance by Rupert Graves, who
plays the young veteran. His bloody visions com-
pare starkly to the calm and ephemeral Mv
"Mrs. Dalloway" takes the viewer on a ride
through life. Ambiguous and subtle, the film
somehow manages to define an indescribable
something that cannot be explained in words.
Courtesy of Miramax
Vanessa Redgrave stdrs as the titular lady in the film adaptation of Virginia
Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway," also starring Natasha McElhone and Rupert Graves.
The Daily is like a
box of chocolates
... you never know
what you're going
to get. Call 76-W
DA I LY for more
'Cattle Killings' tackles spirituality, love and racism
* 1002 PONTIAC TR. U
The Cattle Killings
John Edgar Wideman
John Edgar Wideman, two-time
PEN/Faulkner Award winner and National
Book Award nominee, has published a new
novel tackling spirituality, racism and love --
heavy topics for most writers, but well-mapped
ground for this talented Pennsylvainia native.
"Cattle Killing," Wideman's newest book, is
centered on the historical annihilation of the
Xhosa tribe's herd of cattle in an attempt to
ward off European domination.
Directed by a prophecy, the Xhosas murder
their cows, hoping to end the plague and
destruction visited on them by their new
European colonizers. In doing so, however, the
Xhosa people destroy their food supply and,
unaided by the Europeans, are enslaved or
starve to death.
This actual event, however, plays a very
small role in the novel's chronicle of black life.
Wideman explores inter-racial relationships,
religious conviction forced on African cultures
by European colonizers, loss of faith, blindness
(both literal and metaphorical) and the emo-
tional wreckage left by slavery.
Spanning more than 200 pages, "The Cattle
Killing" attempts no explanations, no judg-
ments, none of the bravada sone victims hide
behind when detailing their experiences.
Instead, Wideman approches
his subjects with a bare
lyrical approach, touching
his prose .with a tangled
series of metaphors and leav-
ing the reader to experience
his story, not just read it.
Wideman's various narrators
(who shift both sexes and races
seamlessly, forcing the reader to
abandon preconceptions about either
to follow the thread of the story) face
frightening truths about themselves.
Lamenting his own enslavement, one of
Wideman's characters admits his desire for an
effortless relief: "In the darkness, the quiet of
the room (pumpkin breath wheezing, part of
the quiet, the figure against which the ground
of quiet defines itself), he wishes to be a white
man. Holds the wish long enough for it to
become a wet intimacy his tongue traces inside
his pursed mouth, inside his lower lip, against
his teeth, the sour, vacant spaces where teeth
once rooted. A wish he could whisper aloud --
wouldn't you be one of them if you could ... "
Wideman allows another of his enslaved
characters to vent his fierce hatred with a hor-
rifying and brilliant internal explosion.
He writes, "They forget the flesh
and blood beneath their airs and
their finery, forget they are
women just as surely as I'll be a
man someday whether dressed
in rags or king's robes, a
, man the day I rip the
clothes off their bodies
and stuff my truth
between their legs."
Shifting from narrator
to narrator, Wideman also
tclls stories through the voices of black
women, white women, free and enslaved peo-
ple, rich and poor.
The white slave owner is given the need he
has tojustify his actions to his slaves, presenting
them with gifts and assuming their forgiveness.
The brave and lonely voice of a poor white
maid who has run away with a rich black man
grows stronger and stronger, only to turn into
ashes on the page when angry villagers burn
down the home she and her lover share. Blind
women and men litter the pages, encouraging
Wideman's wordplay with sensuality as well as
accusing his readers with their own metaphoris-
In the same instance, Wideman lifts away
notions of guilt, asking for a reckoning and
redemption, a request for one's blindness
hide the color of one's skin rather than the
humanity beneath it.
After obliterating barriers between time,
races, languages, nationalities, sexes and class-
es with his dazzling onslaught of metaphors,
Wideman explains the reasons for his ambigu-
ity and his view of the ultimate-harmony -he
sees in the notes of every human being. He
writes, "Tell me, finally, what is a man. What
is a woman. Aren't we lovers first, spirits shar-
ing an uncharted space, a space our stories te@
a space chanted, written'upon again and again,
yet one story never quite erased by the next,
each story saving the space, saving itself, sav-
ing us. If someone is listening."
All prose should be this good.
- Amy D. Hayes
Check out Oakland University and
get ahead of the game next fall.
Need a general education course? A course in your major? At Oakland University you can
choose from more than 1,000 spring or summer classes offered at our beautiful, convenient
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ply for spring classes is April 24. Last date to apply for summer classes is June 19.
We're opening 'Doors!'
Miramax Films and Paramount Pictures, not to 4
mention Daily Arts, are presenting a special
sneak previews of Peter Howitt's "Sliding Doors,"
starring Gwyneth Paltrow. This charming roman-
tic comedies follows a British lass as her life liter-
ally splits in two when the subway's sliding doors
close in her face. Exploring the nature of fate
and the consequences of one's everyday actions,
"Sliding Doors" will be screened tomorrow
evening, lust stop b and pick up your pass for
two in the Student Publications Building today
after noon. Supplies limited.
On Saturday, April 25th you can bring your old furniture,
clothing, unused toiletries, unopened food, and recyclables to...
" The cor' er Tf *air4 and Thompson
" The corner ofWiilard ad South Forest
"Hard" furniture (desks, file'cabints, chairslofts, bookshe
Buildin materials & R*usehold fixtures i usable conditio
Recyclable materials (ahuinun, glass, plaic, and cardboa
It's an EASY wary to have a "green" moveout!!!
We 11 see you there...
Sposoed y licikn Rcyles Rcyle nntA~bo.& heUnierit Gruns ad ast Dl Itw.n
Think Success. Think Oakland University.
spring session: May 4 - June 24 9 1998 summer session: June 30 - August 19
1998 Law Schoof Prep Program
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
If you have been accepted to law school.. .
... this program is for you!
You have spent thousands of dollars on college. You are about to
spend thousands more on law school. Make it count by attending
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Imagine the advantage of:
* attending a program based on materials and preparation
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" understanding the basic legal concepts involved in each
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Ye S. I am interested in finding out more about
Oakland Iniversitv's snring and summer session classes.
/^ -~t A 1 -1
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