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January 09, 1998 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1998-01-09

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, January 9, 1998

'Amistad' docks with intense spirit

By Laura Flyer
Daily Arts Writer
; What better man than director Steven
Spielberg to bring
to light the brutali- _ _ __
ty and horror of a RI
historically
oppressed social 0
group, as he did
with "Schindler's
List."
Now, amidst a
more obscure yet extremely significant
historical event, Spielberg gives the
world "Amistad," a serious film on past
injustices that hits a soft spot in our
hearts, although perhaps taking the
melodrama one step too far.
The intriguing plot and weight of his-,
torical and moral importance is what
keeps "Amistad" afloat.
Screenwriter David Franzoni takes
n6chances, but does not withhold any-
thing either.
-The plot unfolds on a stormy night in
1839, aboard "La Amistad." Enslaved
blacks free themselves from a multitude
of chains and proceed to murder the
Cuban crewmen who captured them for
prbspective trade.
:With two white men spared of their
lives, the blacks erred in their judgment
of trusting them to steer the ship

m

towards their homeland, Africa. Instead,
they land on the shores of Connecticut,
where they are captured once again and
tried in court.
At first, the fate
V I E W of the slaves hangs
on a dispute over
Amistad ownership and
property rights.
*** The dispute ensues
At Showcase as the strong pow-
ers of the land
argue whether these slaves are from
Africa or Cuba,
and whether this
"merchandise"
could be regarded
as a group of
human beings,
with individual,4
inalienable rights
as stated in the :
Declaration of
Independence.
The over-
whelming powers
of the executive
branch headed by
the staunchly
conservative Steven Spielbergd
President Martin Hopkins in "Amists
Van Buren repeal
the case all the way to the Supreme

ir
.ad.

Court. John Quincy Adams (Anthony
Hopkins) defends Cinque (Djimon
Hounsou), the respectable leader of the
Mende tribe, and in an eloquent open-
ing statement, demonstrates amazing
insight into the future slavery issue by
remarking that this case is the first step
toward a larger division between the
Northern and Southern states and an
inevitable Civil War.
Hopkins' performance is divine, and
Hounsou is brilliant as well. Matthew
McConaughey, who defends the Mende
before begging
for help from
Adams at the fed-
eral level, carries
his role well, but
doesn't shine.
Also failing to
light up the
screen is Morgan
Freeman, playing
a fervent aboli-
tionist who helps
McConaughey
with the case.
But fervent is
far from his pre-
ects Anthony sentation of his
." character, espe-
cially during
repeated confrontations with Cinque
during which he remains stagnant and
almost seemingly insensitive to the
struggle.
Spielberg creates a natural buildup of
events, but he slightly muddles the tone
of the movie. He produces a flashback
as Cinque recounts the atrocious acts
that were committed on the ship to
McConaughey.
Fifty blacks linked by chains were
tossed overboard by the white men,
leaving the audience with a shocking
feeling.
A true weakness in "Amistad" is the
insistence in showing that the right-
eousness in the freedom for these
enslaved blacks, which is further justi-
fied by their reverence for Christianity.
We are to feel that these oppressed
blacks have reason to be freed because
not only are they human beings with
individual rights, but they uphold
Christian values.
Through and through, however,
"Amistad" brings to light a significant
turning point in history and an interest-
ing controversy that led to the end of
slavery.

John Coltrane's charisma, musical capabilities and even some of his flaws can be heard on the latest compilation of his work.
Box-set captures Coltrane talent
John Coltrane jumps in halfway through the song. Nonetheless, he k p the
The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard pace moving and the audience happy.
Still on the second gig, but on the third CD, the traditiona
Recordings "Greensleeves" stands out as a lesson in why Coltrane'is-
Impulse Records highly touted. Here, he takes a sometimes boring, folky ~
and gives it new life. Although many know the general melody
of the tune, Coltrane keeps the listener interested and enter
By the end of 1961, saxophonist John Coltrane was creating tained.
sounds that were so far in the vanguard that it seemed either his But on the third CD, a big production decision tumn thi:
popularity would explode or he would physically blow up. exciting and creative expression into more of a monotonou
Thank goodness, all that erunted was his reputation. In sound.

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