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September 11, 1998 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1998-09-11

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IM Arm Blues & Jazz Festival
The soothing romanticism of jazz hits Ann Arbor today. Mac eo
Parker plays the Michigan Theater. Bo Diddley headlines Gallup
Park tomorrow, along with Poignant Plecostemus, the Rick Roe
Quartet, Michael Ray & the Cosmic Krewe, Olu Dara, Atomic
Fireball, and Groove Collective. The Lou Donaldson Quartet plays
four shows at the Bird of Paradise.

fre kIi~T &ttog

omday in Daily Arts:
Weekend Film Reviews. After you've filled out the crossword, S
check out the reviews of all of this weekend's film releases.

September 11, 1998


Independent film moves into bad neighborhood

By Bryan Lark
Daily Arts Writer
If the six principle characters of "Your
Friends & Neighbors" were actually your
friends and neighbors, it'd be high time for a
new social circle and a new address. You'd want
to escape the assorted miscommunication,
misogyny and misjudgment inflicted upon each
other by writer-director Neil Labute's despica-
ble creations.
Similarly, you'll also want to escape Labute's
clever and high-minded yet wholly excruciat-
ing film.
Labute, responsible for last year's scathingly
frank comedy "In the Company of Men,"
mnakes his point abundantly clear early on in his
latest effort: people everywhere, i.e. your
friends and neighbors, are obsessed with sex
and will demean and betray whomever they

Your Friends
At Showcase
and State

choose to get some.
This is a valid and sexy
point for, say, the Jerry
Springer crowd, as all the
sexual obsession may
amount to the breaking of
a chair over any given
head. But in Labute's
world, this means seem-
ingly endless conversa-
tions about the nastiest of
comedic subjects.
Witty conversations
about sex? A good thing,
right? Not exactly, as the
generally nameless pro-
tagonists (They refer to

closer together, Keener growing more and
more bitter towards men and Eckhart staying
just as recklessly naive to what's going on
around him.
Then group then carries on its sexual
shenanigans to spite each other with Patric gen-
erally offending everyone.
Their stories are neatly tied together by
Labute's clever staging in repeated vignettes of
the characters studying the same painting in
Kinski's gallery. Each of the characters then
finds their conversations with Kinski going in
different directions.
Keener ends up in bed with Kinski, Patric's
pickup attempt gets mercilessly shot down,
Eckhart asks if there's a gift shop and Stiller
confronts Kinski for bedding his woman.
Another gimmick used by Labute for narra-
tive cohesion are the characters quizzing each
other on the best they've ever had.
In most cases here, the best and worst
they've ever had are present and involved with
one of their friends or enemies.
As the sex gets hot, or cold as thecase may
be and the conversation gets hotter, the players
are all solid and completely unlikable, as
intended, and are working from Labute's deli-
ciously incisive script.
But, again, it is those awkward, supposedly
realistic moments in between the refreshingly
mean-spirited bits (such as Patric's account of
the rape of a male classmate as the best he's
ever had and Keener's tirade against the very
essence that is Ben Stiller) that make the film
The aforementioned nasty bits are rather
enjoyable, though, for the sly experiment they
perform on the audience. The humor is so out-
landish and the situations so absurd you often
find yourself laughing, then quickly realize
what you're laughing at and become disgusted
with yourself as a result.
It is understandable and even commendable
that Labute experimented with the medium of
filmmaking in this purposely uncomfortable
fashion: He wants to make us laugh hysterical-
ly and then squirm uncontrollably at the atroc-
ity of these horrible John and Jane Does.

If the lauhs arc few and far between, then
there is no shortage ot squirms, courtesy of the
brilliant performances of Brenneman, who iS
the very definition of wishy-washy; Keener.
whose shallow harpy and her demands for
silence during sex are enthralling; and espe-
cially the usually wooden Patric, who has fond
the role of his career in the unfeeling, incon -
erate louse of a doctor.
Labute and company in "Your Friends &
Neighbors" have lotly aspirations of making
entertainment of. the awkward, uncomfortable
and cveryday, some of which are met. But
most of which Call as flat as the fake fetus drop-
kicked by Jason Patric midway through the
The film does, however, manage one final
comedic coup, as it is revealed in the cr
that our loathsome friends and neighbors have
rhyming names: Mary, Barry, Terri, Cheri.
Jerry and Cary.
Pretty darn funny. But moving away frow
these raunchy, chatty but annoyingly uncom-
municative "Neighbors" still seems the best
option, whatever their names.
\ , . 0

each other as "You," or infer identity with "Oh,
you're his friend," or defer names altogether
with "Please don't mention him now.") are
cursed with a severe inability to communicate.
though when they do communicate, it is often
through funny and sparklingly sadistic repar-
They talk and talk in the guys' sauna or at the
girls' hunch out but mostly have nothing to say
to the opposite sex. This makes the awkward
gaps in dialogue and pained expressions on
faces all that much more realistic, yet all the


Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Ben Stiller stars in 'Your Friends and Neighbors,' a new film by the creator of 'In the Company of Men.'

more unpleasant to experience.
The unpleasantness follows the intertwining
lives of two couples: the married, bored pair
played by Aaron Eckhart (40 lbs. heavier than
in "Men") and Amy Brenneman and the cohab-
iting, bored pair played by Catherine Keener
and Ben Stiller.

Also involved are Nastassja Kinski's comely
art gallery assistant and Jason Patric's truly evil
Eckhart and Brenneman's marrieds are old
friends of Stiller and Keener's bickering sin-
gles. The film kick starts with a strained dinner
party that finds Stiller and Brenneman drawing

C.ourtesy of Gramercy Pictures
Nastassja Kinski ties together the lives of "Your
Friends & Neighbors" as an art gallery assistant.

'U' art museum exhibits creative interpretations of dreams.

By Jennifer Cufren
For the Daily
The fascinating realm of surreal-
ist art illuminates the walls of the
University Museum of Art in a tem-
porary exhibit that will run through
October 25.
The University-owned collection
embodies a wide range of themes
within the genre of surrealism, the
abandonment of rationality and
reality invented by Andre Breton in
the1920's. Breton's new style coin-
cided with the introduction of
Freudian psychoanalysis, exploding
into an exploration of dreams, fan-
tasies and the unconscious.
Surrealism encompasses the exu-
berant as well as the disturbing, as
artists reacted to such turmoil as

war and the dehumanizing effects of
technology. Although it rejects tra-
ditional social commentary, surreal-
ist art tells a gripping and powerful
The diversity of the Museum's
exhibit reflects the experimentation
in media and materials as well as the
regional metamorphosis of surreal-
ism over time.
Several series are highlighted in
the collection, including Kurt
Seligmann's "The Myth of
Oedipus," a series of six black and
white etchings in which seemingly
bandaged figures suggest the sick-
ness of non-existence beneath the
faceless forms.
Many surrealists sought out
primitive images in their work as an

escape from the reality of their
times. This modality is evident in
"Transmutations," a series by
French artist Brassai which utilizes
photo plates as the base for draw-.
ings of expressive primitive faces
and imaginary musical instruments.
The initial photographic composi-
tion, a female nude, is visible only
in sporadic glimpses, testifying to
the surrealist technique of layered
material, as well as hidden sexual
The motif of sexuality is also
explored by many other pieces in
the exhibit, from the explicitness of
Paul Delvaux's nudes to Jean Arp's
simple, graceful
Fruit" and
Dreamscapes: "Little Torso
The Surrealist #5."

of many observers.
School of Art Sophomore Brein
Gallagher remarked of the
Kamrowski work, "I like it because
of the brilliant colors and because it
reminds me of Cubism."
Even the exhibit space itself con-
tributes to the overall sensation of
the show. A maze-like grouping of
walls in the center of the room cre-
ate a more complex space than a
typical, four walled area. Colorful
backgrounds and eclectic frames
complete the experience.
In addition to the exhibit, the
Museum will host events related to
the exhibit. On Saturday, Annette
Dixon and Carole McNamara, co-
curators of the exhibition will host a
presentation for the New Art
A docent-led tour of the exhibit is
scheduled for Sunday, and a lecture
by Prof. MatthewnBiro on Sept. 24
entitled "Fragmented Bodies and
Expanded Minds: Surrealism in
Paris Between the Wars."
Since Surrealism had a definite
performative element, University
dance and drama students, as well as
community performance artists will
entertain us in "Always for the First
Time: An Evening of Surrealist
Performance," on October 1-2.
The annual Doris Sloan Memorial
lecture will be conducted in con-
junction with this exhibition by
Emory University Professor Clark
V Poling on October 11, entitled
"Body and Self in the Surrealism of
Andre Masson."

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Museum of Art
Through October 25

David Smith's
"Tastvaat" adds
humor to the
collection with
its faux-Dutch
title derived
from "toss
twat," the
impression he
wanted to give

with his piece.
Other individual pieces such as
"The Talkative Jewels" by Magritte,
depicting a face nestled into a
human arm, or the complex Gerome
Kamrowski piece entitled
"Sensations" appeals to the senses

Courtesy of UM Museum of A
Max Ernst's 'School for Birds' Is one of the etchings on exhibit.

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