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January 21, 2000 - Image 8

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2000-01-21

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I

See a young Frank Sinatra get brainwashed and mixed up.
M-Flicks presents a screening of the political thriller "The
Manchurian Candidate." Nat. Sci. Auditorium. 7 and 9:30 p.m. $3.
Friday
January 21, 2000

a* ffift4fom Oak
Ll.TS

0 Check out an interview with University alum Selma Blair
and a review of her latest film "Down To You."

A

Ashes
cries
for hel
By Aaron Rich
Daily Arts Writer
"Angela's Ashes," the Alan Parker
screen adaptation of Frank
McCourt's best-selling autobiogra-
phy, is a film designed to make us
cry. This is not to say that there
weren't other reasons for making the
movie (obviously, a story so widely
loved as this one would have a pow-
erful box office and critical follow-
ing) -there are.
There are indeed many nice parts
of this film, it just seems as though
tears are Parker's biggest focus -
bigger and more important than
character development, character
allegiances and storyline.
"Angela's Ashes" tells the story of
young Frank McCourt, the son of an

Yo-Yo Ma jams the Hill

By Jim Schiff
Daily Arts Writer
Cellist Yo-Yo Ma is a living leg-
end, combining unparalleled techni-
cal mastery and passion in his
music. Last night, the legend was
alive and well in Hill Auditorium.

1

Accompanied by
loo-YoMa
Hill Auditorium
Jan.20,2000

the piano stylings
of his longtime
collaborator
Kathryn Scott,
Ma's first
Un iversity
Musical Society
appearance in
nine years was
nothing short of
delighful.
Listeners
were immediate-
ly enveloped in
the angelic
musical world
that Ma created,
Ma fused with

DAViD KATZ/ohay
World renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma filled the seats of Hill Auditorium last night.

Courtesy of Universal
Young Frank McCourt (Joe Breen) enjoys another recess period In "Angela's Ashes."

1 s'@
Angela's
Ashes
At Showcase

Irish ne'er-do-
well, growing up
in the 1930s.
The film opens
in New York,
w h e r e
McCourt's fami-
ly has emigrated
to find opportu-
nity. But soon
they must leave
the New World
to return to their
familial home in
Limerick,
Ireland as the

possibility of work is scarce.
Early in the film, there is a
poignant moment when Frank tells
us that his family must have been
one of the only Irish families to
watch the Statue of Liberty vanish in
the distance as they left America.
Though this point is made well, like
most of the important episodes in the
film, it is quickly passed and nearly
forgotten.
Robert Carlyle plays Frank's dead-
beat dad, a man who would rather
drink a week's salary in one night at
the pub than pay for food for his
ever-growing, ever-dying family.
When Frank is about 10 years old,
his father leaves the house for good,
putting the burden entirely on his
wife, Angela, played by the always-
wet-eyed Emily Watson.
As Frank ages, he tries his hardest
W1

to help his mother out by getting
work, but the two of them soon real-
ize that his smarts give him much
higher possibilities and options than
just coal hauling.
The episodic nature of the film
shows us only a little about a lot of
different moments from the boy's
life. Each moment (such as when the
family must tear out and burn one of
the wooden walls of their apartment
for heat as they cannot afford coal)
tells a story of deep pain and dis-
comfort or, occasionally, sweet
laughter, but not much more than
three seconds worth.
We are bombarded with so many
small anecdotes that we lose track of
exactly how much pain or joy each
moment meant to the growing boy.
It need not be mentioned that
Emily Watson is a wonderfully tal-
ented actress, but this role does not
show her off as well as possible.
Considering she is the title character,
one would imagine she would be
somehow central to the narration of
the boy's life.
She is on screen for most of the
film, but we walk away with a deep
feeling that we do not know her.
Somehow, Watson and Parker create
a character to whom we have few
allegiances (though it feels like we
should), someone who feels just as
much a stranger at the end of the
film as she does at the beginning.

The title, by the way, is never
explained in the film. Does it refer to
the mother's cigarette ash, or maybe
the fact that they cremate her? It is,
typical with much of the film,
unclear.
Robert Carlyle gives a laughable
performance -- though we must
wonder if that has to do with the
actor's talents or just the fact that the
character is underwritten to a serious
degree.
One bright spot of acting, and
indeed of the whole film, is the child
actor Joseph Breen, who plays the
young Frank (his face also appears
on the film's poster). The unmitigat-
ed honesty with which Breen reacts
to the topsy-turvy world that sur-
rounds him is a fresh breath from the
rest of the stale performances and
story.
In the end, "Angela's Ashes" will fall
in a category of secondary Alan Parker
films, along with "The Road to
Wellville" and "Evita". Like those films,
"Angela's Ashes" deals more with tex-
tural, superficial qualities than deeper
emotional ones (the blues and grays of
water-logged Limerick are nearly palpa-
ble in this). That said, it is too bad that
"Angela's Ashes" could not be more like
one of Parker's more polished more
expressive works, such as "The
Commitments" and "Midnight Express"
- for, god knows, McCourt's story is
especially eloquent.

his cello becoming a single entity,
an engrossing musical powerhouse.
Ma commenced his performance
with Stravinsky's "Suite Italianne."
The work showcased the agility with
which Ma has tamed his instrument,
through light, short bowings. In the
serenata portion of this piece, the audi-
ence was introduced to sweeping,
longer tones. Ma moved back and
forth with the lyrical voice of the cello.
Of particular interest in Ma's pro-
gram was his tender performance of
Schickele's "Goldberg Variations II
for Cello and Piano." Kathryn
Scott's avid piano playing set the

stage for a whirlwind of musical;
styles encompassed by the piece. At
times the piano was like a summerl
breeze, slow and gentle. The fre-
quent interruptions of dark, intense1
tones captivated the listeners. Mat
made the cello seem like a mouse
scurrying across a floor and a pow-
erful opera singer in the course of,
the same song. At the end of the,
aforementioned piece, Ma and Scott,
loudly spelled out the name
"Goldberg" causing the audience to
burst out in laughter.
Rachmaninoff's five-segmented
piece "Sonata for Piano and Cello in
G Minor, op. 19' made for a gor-

Hot Norwegian sax at Kerrytown

geous array of musical textures. The
beginning lento section featured a
harrowing cello sound, and the
accompanying allegro introduced a
pulsating cello and piano session. At
the climax of the opus is
andante, in which the two inst
ments engaged in a passionate musi-
cal love scene. The piano and'the
cello traveled beyond what humans
can express in a work of music.
Ma and Scott delivered an out-
standing two hour performancethat
placed musical artistry on a higher
plane. Listeners could not help but
gaze into the eyes of Ma, a master at
work.

John Uhl
Daily Music Editor
I've never won a thing in my life. Even victory in the sim-
plest contests has managed to avoid me. Thumb wars, gross-
outs, who can go the longest after eating a jumbo jalapeno
pepper without drinking water. Recently, it's seemed like
Pepsi has a sweepstakes once a month or so. Whenever
those bottle caps are blue instead of white, a ludicrous world
of free junk could be just a twist within reach. Yet, despite
the fact that my fixation for stimulants used to require that
I buy soda daily, I never achieved victor status. Which for a
while was especially frustrating, as it
seemed that all my friends and loved
ones had cashed in bottle tops and
were drinking their sodas for free or
Frode flying brand new hang gliders.
Gjerstad Trio Luckily, I've kicked caffeine and I
Kerrytown never really had the desire to jump off
Tonight at 8 p.m. a cliff with only the aid of a nylon tarp
in the first place.
Thus I was particularly impressed
by the luck of Frode Gjerstad, who's
trio will give a Friday performance at
Kerrytown Concert House. Gjerstad is
Norway's preeminent free jazz saxo-
phonist, a title that can be somewhat
anomalous since he is also referred to
as one of the country's few improvisers who ventures out-
side the ECM-school (Edition of Contemporary Music is a
German record label that specializes in fastidiously record-
ed avant-garde improvisation). But, more to my point, when
Gjerstad was voted 1997's Jazz Musician of the Year in
Norway, his prize was to play a tour with the musicians of
his choice. The saxophonist chose bassist William Parker
and percussionist Hamid Drake, both very distinguished
names from the thriving experimental scenes of New York
and Chicago, respectively. The ensemble then toured
Scandinavia and has since made two recordings. What a
reward!
Learning of Gjerstad's good fortune made me so envious
of his fantasy accolade that I decided to hypothesize my
own. As a music lover rather than a music creator, my lau-
rel would involve the observation of a dream concert rather

than participation in one. Of course speculating whether I'd
rather see a collaboration between John Coltrane and .Lou
Reed or a duel between Robert Johnson and Jimi Hendri is
really a boring quest for the exotic rather than a fanciful
opportunity to rewrite music lore.
Thus, in light of Gjerstad's performance this evening, I
began to wonder who in history might most appreciate a
performance of three contemporary improvising giants and
soon settled upon William Shakespeare. Although it's true
that with his goatee and inclusion in certain Bob Dylan
lyrics, the bard would belong smoking cigarettes cafe-side
Bird and Diz by most people's reckoning, I personally think
he would really dig free jazz (even if he stuck to that iambic
pentameter jargon himself).
Shakespeare holds the unusual distinction for a y-
wright of having had his work canonized as part of En sh
literature's vernacular. Thus there are two very different
ways of interpreting one of his plays: as a piece of literature,
closely dissected line by line or as a stage performance, an
unfolding visual barrage of our language in its highest
capacity.
Similarly, improvisation exists in two essences. The
Gjerstad Trio's first album, "Remember to Forget," Was
recorded live in 1997. I can listen to this performance as
many times as I like and eventually realize the various
means by which Parker and Drake prod Gjerstad's dominant
horn in and out of various textures or how one of his s
inflections steers Parker's modal bass figure back isa
walk as Drake snaps a bit of a back beat. Whereas, had I
been an audience member with the privilege of only the p4r-
formance, I may have merely enjoyed the ensemble's sym-
biotic journey through numerous musical tongues and
tones, while noticing less subtle details like the influence'of
West African drumming on the second piece's expansive
collective opening cadence.
This does not by any means imply that analyzing their cd
is more rewarding than the trio in concert. Indeed, like
drama, improvised music is at its heart intended for pr-
mance. And the only way I can rationalize this is to suggTst
that there is something enchanting about witnessing three
musicians throw their dialects into the air without premedi-
tation and manage to form some refined musical language.
And I think Will'd like to see that.

ISl

i

S I

American String Quartet
Beethoven the Contemporary
Sunday, January 23, 4 p.m.
Rackham Auditorium
PROGRAM:
Chadwick Quartet No. 4 in e minor
Beethoven Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 127
Russian National
Orchestra

STOP BY THE DAILY
TODAY AT 11 A.M.
FOR FREE STUFF!

Thcta X"
F-J
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'135 'et~~'

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II

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