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November 02, 1998 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1998-11-02

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8A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, November 2, 1998

'Pupil' fails in
addressing issues

Rachel's renders.
unique melodies

By Laura Flyer
Daily Arts Writer
Ian McKellen and Brad Renfro, two
actors with praiseworthy talent, have
unfortunately wasted their energy as
stars in Bryan Singer's latest film,
"Apt Pupil." Based on Stephen King's
novella, this emotionally disturbing
film serves little
purpose other
than to present a
depressing view
of the unavoid-
Apt Pupil able existence of
** evil that is passed
At Brarwoo down from one
and snowsd generation to the
A psychologi-
cal battle
between two
twisted individu-
als offers some
element of
intrigue to the film, but ultimately
never answers the deep, troubling
question initially raised about the
forces that propel people to commit

brutal, unjustified violence.
Raised by two middle-class, conser-
vative parents, Todd Bowden (Brad
Renfro) excels in school, but stumbles
upon the Holocaust, a subject of inter-
est that baffles him. What's not shown
or taught in the classroom is what he
craves to learn about: the most horrify-
ing details about the process of exter-
Todd, by chance, encounters a Nazi
war criminal, Kurt Dussander (Ian
McKellen), whom he blackmails by
promising not to produce the incrimi-
nating evidence of his atrocities so
long as Kurt dregs up his past in order
to, in detail, describe the horrid acts
committed in the concentration camps.
At first, Kurt accepts the'fact that he is
being victimized by a young kid. Soon,
however, the tables turn, and the old
man realizes that Todd, after spending
a considerable amount of time with
him, is just as culpable as he is by not
turning him in in the first place.
"Apt Pupil" traces the downward spi-
ral of Todd's life, from one of academic
achievement in school, to a point where

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Dussander (Ian McKellen) and Todd (Brad Renfro) discuss Dussander's actions dur-
ing World War II In the film "Apt Pupil."
his future is jeopardized. The tales from sonalities?
Kurt begin to terrorize Todd (in the only Blackmail also becomes an unre-
scenes that hint at Stephen King's influ- solved issue. Todd, having learned
ence). Todd has nightmares and, in one from Kurt how to manipulate others,
scene, a hallucination in the shower tries his new skills by blackmailing his
room at school of being surrounded by guidance counselor (David
the sickly, skeletal prisoners of World Schwimmer). What does this say about
War 11. Furthermore, Kurt's stories the art of deception, and is this sup-
shape an evil side to Todd, as his stoic, posed to relate to, in any way, the
unfeeling personality emerges when he spread of evil by Nazi criminals?
unmercifully kills a pigeon. Kurt, as These difficult questions are raised,
well, sadistically attempts to shove a cat but the film ultimately provides no
into a heated oven. answers.
McKellen gives an impressive por- Furthermore, the movie obviously
trayal of an aging man with a dark, reveals the descent of evil from a pre-
aggressive side. Although Renfro vious generation to the next, as Todd
shines at times with true intensity and proves to preserve the extreme vio-
realism, in other ways his dialogue lence he inherits from his exposure to
sounds forced and exaggerated. Kurt. But upon reflection, this is a hor-
There are several major problems rible concept. "Apt Pupil" has a unique
with this disturbing film. For one way of depressing its audience not
thing, it never discovers these mania- only by showing that evil is an ongoing
cal killers' motivation behind such disease, but that it is perpetuated by an
heinous acts. Is there no guilt within intelligent, well-raised kid.
these people? Are they merely unfeel- Todd's question to Kurt during one
ing machines? Do they have dual per- of their conversations somewhat paral-
lels the question the movie is trying to
ask its viewers: "What does living with
a Nazi past feel like?"
Though the movie does not answer
this question, I have no trouble coming
up my immediate emotional response to
this film: It feelsjust plain awful.

By Jenny Curren
Daily Arts Writer
Rock stars they are not.
Humbly apologizing for their "tardi-
ness," the calm members of Rachel's
ambled onto the tiny Alvin's stage this
past Thursday night with unpretentious
grace. They didn't need to woo the
crowd with the cynical dramaticism
that is too prevalent in today's jaded
performers. All they had to do was
Skillfully fusing the professionalism
of classical music with the nonchalant
experimentation of a basement jam ses-
sion, Rachel's creates a dreamlike and
mysterious ambience that's impossible
to classify.
Even more per-
plexing is why a
group of sublime-
ly talented musi-
Rachel's cians that have
vagabonded the
Alvin's globe playing in
Oct .29, 1998 such majestic
locales as
churches would
still be booking
shows in dingy
Detroit bars.
Maybe it's
because this con-
stantly changing group's heart remains
loyal to the close-knit indie rock hotbed
of its hometown, Louisville, Ky.
Rachel's reincarnates the dissonant
noise rock of pioneers such as Yo La
Tengo and SonicYouth with traditional-
ly classical instruments such as the
viola and cello.
Launching the set with the epic and
moody "Rhine and Courtesan," from its
latest release "The Sea and the Bells,"
the six-person ensemble immediately
conjured up the full symphonic poten-
tial of its instruments. The album actu-

ally features 17 musicians collaborating
on ortginal compositions by the bands
founding trio: Jason Noble, Chnsti
Frederickson and Rachel Grimes.
Sharing its title with the book by
Pablo Neruda that inspired the album,
"The Sea and the Bells" evokes an epic
tribute to the sea that is markedly mort
dramatic than its previous two records,
"Handwriting" (1995) and "Music for
Egon Schiele" (1996).
Although the group's size slimmed
down to only six to while touring, the
band manages to recreate and enhance
its sound in live performances throu
improvisation. Inspiring experiment
tion on the part of viola players
Christian Frederickson and Dominic
Johnson intensified this particular ren-
dition of "Rhine and Courtesan."
The band then treated listeners to
several previously unrecorded songs,
including "Hand Fast," a delicate com-
position that guitarist/bassist Noble
explained as "an ancient marriage ritu-
al, where there are no rings or nasa
stuff like that. You just hold hands. Its
Returning to the familiar with sever-
al songs from "Music For Egon
Schiele," the simple and haunting
melodies showcased the technical
expertise of cellist Eve Miller and key-
boardist Rachel Grimes. Amid these
soothing, tranquil pieces, the band
interjected "Lloyd's Register," a stormy
selection from "The Sea and the Bells."
A heavily improvised version
"Full on Night," from "Handwriting,
brought the show to a climax. 'Noble's
electric guitar and Edward Grimes'
drums recalled the indie rock roots that
liken the band more to contemporaries
like June of 44 than Mozart. Almost as
an afterthought, a short piece from
"Egon Schiele" provided a fading
denouement. And then, it was over.
The eager audience, disappointed
the absence of an encore, was appease
by an a capella rendition of Johnny
Cash's "Long Black Veil" by Noble.
Though the crowd dispersed reluc-
tantly, no one held a grudge. How could
you, with a band so downright polite?
Let's just be grateful that Rachel's isn't
replacing its jeans with black ties and
abandoning our musty old bars for
grandiose concert halls.
As long as it continues to render
unique and gorgeous melodies thO
knock the chip off of classical musics
shoulder, we'll be there to listen.

Ann Arbor Can't Waiot
It's time to put a Democrat in the Mayor's office-someoi
who will bui4 on Ann Arbor's reputation, not live off it.
Chris Kolb's community involvement Includes:


Volunteer at the HIV/Aids Resource Center
" St. Andrew's Breakfast Program
* Christmas in April
Old West Side Homes Tour

M Advisory Board Member of the Washtenaw
Rainbow Action Project;
U-M Office of LOBT Affairs;
and Community impact

Prospective Teacher Education Meeting
Tuesday, November 10, 1998
6:00 p.m.
Schorling Auditorium
Room 1202 School of Education Building
Call 764-7563 for more information.

Elect Democrat CHRIS KOLB on Tuesday, November 3:
Because Ann Arbor can't wait for leadership.,*
Paid for by Kolb for Mayor 803 Edgewood Place - Ann Arbor, MI 48103 -"7341827-2605



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