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April 19, 1999 - Image 8

Resource type:
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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-04-19

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: Gina Morantz-Sanchez at Shaman Drum. Reading from
"Conduct Unbecoming a Woman." 4 p.m.
0 Tim Sweeney at Borders. Conducting workshop about music
and live performances. 7 p.m.
Monday
,Aprl 19, 1999

afie Ltgmatigt
LT

Tomorrow in Daily Arts:
® "Fame: The Musical" is coming to Detroit's Music Hall. Come back
for an interview with University alum Gavin Creel, who stars in the tour.
AR- Countdown: 30 Days
EPISODE 1

A

Cronenberg explores future of human

'eXistenZ"

By Erin Podolsky
Daily Arts Writer
Director David Cronenberg is a funny
guy. He's usually not funny-ha-ha, but
more like funny-what-did-your-parents-do-
to-you-as-a-child, although with his new
film he unintentionally
mines the dungeons of
comedy for material.
His films often deal
eXistenZ with such levels of psy-
chological horror that
they're enough to make
you squirm - and
Opens Friday that's before he even
starts physically mani-
festing his horror on
human flesh. His latest
x exploration of the
impact of technology
on humans, "eXistenZ,"
does all of that and

bal, galore. It's more than just virtual real-
ity through the mind, but through the body
as well - there are no batteries because
the systems use the body's energy as a
power source.
The film's title doubles as the name of
the game that Allegra Geller (Jennifer
Jason Leigh), the hottest game designer on
the planet, and Ted Pikul (Jude Law), lad-
der-climbing marketing trainee-cum-body-
guard in which they find themselves
embroiled. Allegra is extremely protective
of her organic system, as fierce and deter-
mined as a mother T-Rex, so when the only
version of eXistenZ in existence (hang
your disbelief at the door, kids - this is an
alternate reality and Cronenberg makes
sure that if nothing
else, at least the
plot's leaps of
faith are
not sub-

to our world) is damaged, she coerces the
bioport installation-fearing Ted into get-
ting one of the sockets put in his handsome
back.
Allegra and Ted jack into a game world
that doesn't look that much different from
our own. It's not the hi-tech computerized
virtual reality that we're used to seeing -
or at least imagining - instead appearing
normal with a few key differences. The
secondary characters in this virtual role-
play take their cues from the live players
and get stuck in infinite loops; the world is
full of Cronenbergian gross-outs involving
mutated fish that are used to build the
game systems. In this reality-within-reali-
ty, Allegra and Ted are again making game
systems. The question becomes: Where
does the fantasy end and the reality begin?
Is there any reality to begin with? And
would we know if there wasn't?
The problem with
"eXistenZ" is that as
Allegra and Ted
,.become more dis-
connected from
reality, the plot
becomes dis-
connected as
y well, as it
jumps into the
world of
eXistenZ the
game. There are
giant leaps in
Courtesy of Dimension Films logic that never
David Cronenberg's futuristic quite pan out as
the two attempt

Courtesy of Dimension Films
Jennifer Jason Leigh toys with the gizmo that lets her play futuristic video games.

bleeds into the realm of nightmarish physi- ject
cal augmentation that Cronenberg has
explicitly toyed with in "Crash" and
other films.
"eXistenZ" deals with a future, or at
least a different present, in which tech-
nology has advanced to the point where
video game systems are organic entities
that are physically connected to the player.
Players jack into a game through a bio-
port, a fleshy socket on their back that
connects directly into the spinal cord.
Cronenberg has a field day fetishizing
the use of the bioport, and the first half
hour of the film is amusingly filled with Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Leigh pack some heat inI
double entendres, both physical and ver- Interpretation "eXistenZ."

to play the game, which turns out to be a
role playing extravaganza that even
Allegra, the game's designer, doesn't seem
too pleased. She complains about the unre-
alistic minor characters who pass along
information (all of whom are saddled with
hideously bad accents, which provides the
film's shocking ending with a bit of enter-
tainment value as the actors revert back to
their true dialects).
"eXistenZ" clocks in at barely 100 min-
utes and cuts off with typical Cronenberg
abruptness that will likely leave viewers
clamoring for more action, more explana-
tion and perhaps even more gore. He leaves

a lot of questions unanswered and deals not
at all with the technological revolution that
must have led to biology-based gaming
systems, instead choosing to drop us smack
in the middle of a slightly familiar world to
which he has made his own modifications.
Cronenberg imagines that technology hasO
advanced to the point where reality is vir-
tually undetectable, and the only way we
know the score is if the director - or the
game designer, if you will - chooses to
reveal it to us. The future may not be digi-
tal after all, but a nightmarish organic enti-
ty capable of the most terrible nightmares
and the most beautiful dreams.

Messhugah captures Detroit in war of heavy music

By Mdin Rosi
Daily Arts Writer
Among the dark urban landscape
of Detroit this past Friday night,
the first strike of an impending
invasion occured. The unanimously
feared venue Harpo's was the site
of the event. Masquerading it as a
maiden American tour, Sweden's

M e s
came

huggah
to per-

Meshuggah
Harpo's, Detroit
April 16, 1999
lab

form a music
set bounds
beyond any-
thing American
audiences have
ever encoun-
tered. By the
end of the show,
the group's true
intent of
American con-
quest became
ominously
transparent.

but feel a sense of melancholy and
longing while watching Sebastian
Bach and Skid Row belting out "18
and Life" on the big screen with
the music blaring loudly through
the speakers.
Soon after Exodus finished its
"Chemical Waltz" video, the lights
were dimmed and the crowd
screamed enthusiastically. Slow
Strains of strange delay-drenched
guitar noise greeted the audience.
Sillouettes of the five men of
Meshuggah appeared onstage, then
with four sudden count-off hits on
the hi-hat, the group exploded into
its first number, "Future Breed
Machine." The sound was amazing
for Harpo's. Gutarists Fredrik
Thordendal and Marten Hagstrom,
bassist Gustaf Heilm, drummer
Tomas Hakke and singer Jens
Kidman were all clearly capable to
deliver a sonic assault.
Meshuggah's musical style, bar
none, is easily among the most
original and innovative form of
heavy music that exists today.
With its tasteful usage of heavy
riffs, staccato dynamics, shouted
vocals and guitarist Fredrik
Thordendal's Allan Holdsworthlike
solos, the group has unlocked an
untapped musical well.
The group's music sounded more
amazing performed live than on its

albums.
Meshuggah's penchant for com-
plex song structures and
polyrhythmic time signatures was
illustrated in a tight and aggressive
manner. The crowd was well-
appreciative as it thrashed about
and erupted, complementing the
crushing music.
Brash and confident, the group
performed awe-inspiring rendi-
tions of songs from its "None" EP
and its full-length releases
"Destroy, Erase, Improve" and
"Chaosphere." Meshuggah knew
the crowd was eating out of its
hands and played with an alarm-
ingly high level of energy and con-
viction. The intensity between the
crowd and the band reached its
high point during the night when
the group played the song "Sane."
The crowd was at its most rowdy
and the band did its best to match
it in return.
Singer Kidman was thrashing on
stage with a clean-shaven head
bobbing around, guitarists
Thordendal and Hagstrom as well
as bassist Heilm shook their
respective long hair wildly every-
where as they delivered bruising
riffs in tight surgical attacks. The
member who easily stole the show,
however, was drummer Hakke who
anchored the band through the
complexities and multiple time
changes of its songs with ease and
precision.
It was a revelation to behold
such mind-boggling drum beats
seemingly performed so easily.
One could not help but wonder if
Hakke was really human or per-

Prior to Meshuggah's perfor-
mance at 9:30 p.m., audience
members at the venue were contin-
ually barraged by a staple of
Harpo's, Headbanger's Ball music
videos. Although there were a cou-
ple of newer videos, such as Korn
and Orgy, that made it into the
mix, the preceedings were mostly
dominated by metal and hair bands
of recent past. One could not help

Messhugah took Harpo's by storm this past Friday night, claiming U.S. territory in the heavy music world.

Sanctions on Iraq
Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
speaking Monday, April 19
4:00pm, Pon Rm of Michigan Union
Also speaking - U.S. Rep. Lynn Rivers
Sponsored by Prevent@umich.edu
Bishop Gumbleton will also speak at
7:30pm at First Presbyterian Church
sponsored by Interfaith Council for
Peace and Justice.

haps a Jim Henson Studios robot
controlled by someone back stage.
Hakke's arms and legs displayed
incredible independance from each
other as they each seemed to be
playing at a different but comple-
mentary time signature.
With its final exhilirhating offer-
ing, "Soul Burn," Messhugah bode

goodnight and farewell and hoped
that it would soon encounter the
crowd again. The group had deliv-
ered an amazing show that was
mesmerising and intense. It had
won over Detroit and could now
scratch the city as another with a
pleased crowd under its thumb.
Finished with its assault,

Meshuggah packed up its instru-
ments and headed to the next city
on its itinerary to invade and con-
quer another audience.
Meshuggah's invasion of the U.S.'s
heavy music scene is imminent.
From this show at Harpo's, it
seems there's nothing anyone can
do to stop it.

"Not even the rain has such small hands"

e.e. cummings

U
Y

04

The1999
Hopwood Awards
Kasdan Scholarship
in Creative Writing
Arthur Miller Award
Jeffrey L. Weisberg Poetry Prize
Dennis McIntyre Prize

Lecture by Director,
Screenwriter,
and Producer
Lawtrence
wKasdan
Film credits include:
The Empire Strikes Back
n - :. ..r _A 1 --t A l.I

I

I

1

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