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April 21, 1998 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1998-04-21

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=The film and video studies department celebrates the end of the
academic year with a special screening of student films. Check
out the best and brightest the department has to offer at a
screening of films, videos and animation by student filmmakers.
the screening begins at 4 p.m. Saturday in the East Hall auditori-

UlbeLid igan ?~ail

The Summer Daily
Daily Arts will return in the weekly Daily beginning May 4.
Throughout the summer, the Arts department will continue t3
bring you the latest in arts and entertainment
April 21,1998

Luminous Paltrow shines in electric 'Sliding'

By Bryan Lark
Daily Arts Editor
Not surprisingly, there are many sliding doors in "Sliding
Doors," the directing and screenwriting debut of actor Peter
Howitt - subway doors, elevator doors, opaque doors, plate
glass doors.

Starts Friday at
theaters everywhere

In any other film, this metaphor for
the temporary openings for opportuni-
ty in life, and your perceptions thereof,
would spread itself thin rather quickly.
But mix in a clever concept, a relent-
lessly witty script and a sparkling
Gwyneth Paltrow and "Sliding Doors"
not only spreads on well, it's also the
chunkiest of cinematic delicacies.
Sweet but not saccharin, high-con-
cept but not pretentious, effervescent
but nowhere near fluffy, "Sliding
Doors" is the rarest of romantic come-
dies =- it's romantic while actually
being comic. This refreshing
originality is supplied by

makes it to the train just as the doors slide closed in her face.
The film then asks us to humor it for a moment - actual-
ly for the entire running time - letting the action rewind,
then showing Helen making the train just as the sliding doors
close behind her.
The Helen who misses the train ends up getting mugged
and returns home at what would have been her normal time
to doting boyfriend Gerry (John Lynch). But the Helen who
makes the train ends up meeting the annoyingly charming
James (John Hannah) but spurns him just in time to catch
Gerry in a compromising position with American yup-tart
Lydia (Jeanne Tripplehorn).
The rest of the film then follows the trials of the real Helen
and the hypothetical Helen, with the line between what is
happening and what might have been becoming more and
more blurred as Helen encounters James, Lydia and Gerry in
both lives.
The film assists the viewer in discerning between the two
Helens by having the hypothetical Helen, liberated from
Gerry, chop off her deep red locks for a shorn, platinum blond

the film's thought-provoking and innovative
Sure, the plot still breaks down to girl meets
right boy while still attached to wrong boy, then
does wrong by right boy only to win right boy A
back, but "Sliding Doors" has nothing
to do with someone being gay or the
meeting at the Empire State
Building or breaking up a wedding,
as in one or every contemporary
romantic comedy.
No, "Sliding Doors" tells the
fantastical tale of London girl
Helen (Paltrow), who, upon
being fired from her job, runs to
catch the subway in the middle
of the day, something she ordi- There are no wedd
P narily would not do. Helen still enjoys himsel

Not that the film needs to provide us this service,
however. As the film progresses and reveals
many surprising developments, it becomes
clear that the Helens are two separate identities
living within one woman. Not that "Sliding
Doors" is "Sybil" or anything - it is, after
all, a romantic comedy, albeit one that
packs a considerable emotional and
philosophical punch.
Most of the credit for the film's
multifaceted success goes to
Howitt, who turned a brush with
death into this winning exami-
nation of chance and the daily
"What if"'s. Never formally
trained as either a screen-
writer or director, his words

Gwyneth Paltrow stars as Helen, a Londoner whose life splits ir
possesses a certain spontaneity that parallels the urgency of
the London locales and frantic pace of Helen's parallel
This energy is enhanced by the supporting cast, led by the
hilarious John Hannah, best known for his bittersweet por-
trayal of Matthew in "Four Weddings and a Funeral," as
James; the weaselly John Lynch as cheating Gerry; and
Jeanne Tripplehorn, who lets more than a few of her basic
instincts out as bitch-goddess Lydia.
But "Sliding Doors" belongs to Gwyneth Paltrow, her

dings and no funerals but John Hannah
f with Gwyneth Paltrow.

are sharp, funny and inci-
sive and his cinematography

'Sliding' opens Hollywood's

doors for director How

Courtesy if M ramax
n two on a fateful tube train in "Sliding Doors."
flawless British accent and both of her hairdos. The wxar
most often used to describe Paltrow is luminous and it applies
here, too, as Paltrow exudes sex appeal, vulnerability, charis-
ma and star wattage that makes her brilliant, delicious per
formance seem effortless.
Though it may seem little more than a spoonful of sugar to
many, once "Sliding Doors" opens it's plain to see that it is so"
much more than the tired genre it unfortunately inhabits 1t's
romantic comedy as complete satiation - great taste. more
filling and good 'til the last drop. Spread the word,
himself a
her in the
the insist-
at's trying
e - you
ng in it."
ig inCourtesy of M ramax
uined, as A brush with death inspired actor Peter Howitt
ow, steals to direct, produce and write "Sliding Doors.
he accent
'en native aware of any while directing, I must be hoiest.
But my writing is definitely influenced by Neil
't see the Simon. Yeah, Neil Simon, The Beatles and
he'll say, MOnty Python - I don't think you can go to far
rette will wrong."
Director, writer, actor, cheeky bloke, moron
Howitt's jaywalker, hyphenate Peter Howitt surely has
"I wasn't plenty of reasons to look on the bright side of life

By Bryan Lark
Daily Arts Editor
The blokes of Monty Python once advised the
world, through song, to "Always Look on the
Bright Side of Life." In "Sliding. Doors," John
Hannah tells Gwyneth Paltrow the same. For
Peter Howitt, director and screenwriter . of
"Sliding Doors" and lifelong Monty Python fan,
the bright side of his life has never been quite so
The former actor, who has appeared in such
films as "Some Mother's Son and "In the Name
of the Father" is experiencing a renaissance of
sorts, as the novice director's film was chosen to
open this year's Sundance Film Festival in Park
City, Utah.
"Sundance was fantastic," said Howitt in a
recent interview. "I was quite nervous, I have to
say. It's six years of your life and suddenly you're
in an 1,800 seat opera house and there it is on the

screen. It's very hard to take in what it all means."
Figuring out what it all means is the point of
"Sliding Doors," as Paltrow's Helen experiences
ter life in two parallel versions to discover what
her life means. The meaning of Helen's life is
very close to Howitts own, since he based the
character of a Londoner whose life splits in two
on a chance encounter of his own, nearly being
hit by a car in London six years ago.
"It struck me I could've been killed and it
made me think how slight your life can be. Even
if I didn't get killed, my day was already slightly
different now - I had to apologize to this driver
who encountered this moron jaywalker."
Whatever he calls himself, Howitt can now be
called auteur, for his status as the creative force
behind "Doors." But Howitt confessed he really
had no idea what he was doing.,
"I wouldn't dare to give anyone advice on
directing. I don't think I'm going to win any tech-

nical awards for my great shots but that's not
what I was after. I was just after a film that makes
sense, that people enjoy and maybe have a little
think about what's going on."
Even though Howitt is modest about his appar-
ent talents, someone saw the promise of great-
ness he had in him, someone very famous. some-
one very talented, someone, well, very thin -
Gwyneth Paltrow, who loved the script and
requested a meeting with Howitt.
"I didn't choose her as much as she chose me."
Howitt said, "but I didn't think 'Oh damn, I must
work with Gwyneth. I guess I'll have to live with
her somehow."'
"I was already a fan of hers and never thought
I could get someone like Gwyneth in my film,"
Howitt continued about his leading lady. "I didn't
say, this is right for Gwyneth Paltrow, I've got to
get this to her. I wouldn't have had the audacity to
do that. I might be a bit more cheeky now, but in

those days, no way."
So cheeky, in fact, that Howitt castr
flirtatious restaurant patron called
"That was Gwyneth actually - I castI
main part and she cast me in that part. S
ed I do a little scene with her. The guy th
to hit on her, that's me. It's a quick seen
don't want to ruin your own film by bein
But "Sliding Doors" is far from r
Howitt's great script, along with Paltr
the show. Paltrow, again showing off tl
she perfected in "Emma," impressed ev
Brit Howitt.
"She does it so effortlessly - you can
wheels going around at all. And then s
'Where's my cawfee. Gimme a cigar
Aside from Paltrow, others inspired
astounding efforts on "Sliding Doors."'

Sets distract great 'West' performances

By Christopher Tkaczyk
Fine / Performing Arts Editor
This past weekend's production of "West Side Story" proved
Now talented University students are. The department of musi-
cal theater shined as all aspects of its aptitude was showcased'
within the Bernstein/Sondheim/Robbins musical.
The show's major dance numbers were captivating and com-
pelling. The Jets and Sharks sparkled in such dance gems as
"The Prologue;" "Dance at the Gym," "Cool," "America," and
"The Rumble." Robbins' brilliant choreography was given new
life and a new touch by visiting Broadway choreographer Mark
Adriene Daigneault and James Luxton gave the best perfor-
*ances of the evening as Maria and Tony. Their scenes togeth-
er were passionate and romantic. From the first few bars of
"Tonight" to the final note of"I Have a Love,' Luxton's charis-
matic tenor voice wooed not only the dainty Maria, but the
audience as well. Daigneault's surprising soprano capabilities
strove her character's beauty, and everyone understood why
Tony fell in love. "One Hand / One Heart" brought out the love
in all, as each character professes his/her vows to the other.
The supporting cast rounded off the production, making
"West Side Story" an enjoyable show altogether. While no Rita
Moreno, Erika Shannon's Anita was comical and lusty. Her
performance during "America" was an extreme climax of the
riighly ethnic song. Michael Short's Bernardo was debonair
and suave, and a believable enemy to the WASPy Jets. He and
Shannon made an excellent pair. Leading the Jets was Jeremy
Davis as Riff. Although a fine singer, Davis seemed way too
stiff to portray the head cool guy. Riff can't be nervous unless
if he knows he's about to meet his match.
The dancers during "Dance in the Gym" have to be com-

mended for their ability to pull off all the fast action. "Gee,
Officer Krupke" was hilariously entertaining. The gang of mis-
fits carried the fast-paced humor well, and threw in an occa-
sional contorted face to boot.
While Esposito's choreography was moving, the
"Somewhere" dream sequence proved to be an over-done
scene. Slightly bordering cheesy, the scent du fromage pre-
vented a dramatic reaction from the awkward goings-on. While
a very talented Jessica Murphy sang a beautiful version of

Things to Do Before You Graduate

West Side
Power Center
April 16, 1998

"Somewhere," her voice was piped in
over the theater soundsystem as a select
handful of characters danced a mid-
show ballet. While it may have worked
in the Robert Weiss film and the origi-
nal staging, this version was less than
This version of "West Side Story"
was slightly abstract, as the set design
remained simple with a mostly dark
scenes tableaued by moving staircases
and dark front shutters that replaced the
ordinary stage curtain. It would have
worked well if set designer Rob Murphy
had not tried to recreate an M.C. Escher
scene during the big "Quintet" number.

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"West Side Story" is universal and timeless not only because
of its Shakespearean themes, but mostly because of the genius
score and book. Altering a production by placing the characters
in the drab setting of a timeless abstract environment tries to
showcase the talents of its singers. While someone may have
nice performances to watch and hear, it's also captivating to
have something beautiful to look at as well.

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