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March 13, 2000 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2000-03-13

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annes Big Winner
The Michigan Theater screens Luc and
Jean-Pierre Dardenne's "Rosetta," win-
ner of the Palme d'Or at the 1999
Cannes Film Festival. 7 and 9 p.m.

Ulj Aliw saI

michigandaily .com/arts

MONDAY
MARCH 13, 2000

5.

''Gate' a confusing
portal of darkness

Tight technique
brings back Bach
in Eng. Concert

By David Victor
Daily Arts Writer
As a film student, I am often sub-
jected to obscure films that make lit-
tle sense at their face value, but after
an in-depth analysis, reveal a com-

The Ninth
Gate
Grade: C-,
At Quality 16
and Showcase
N '

plex and intrigu-
ing message.
After watching
R o m a n
Polanski's "The
Ninth Gate,"
starring Johnny
Depp, I felt as if
I had watched
such a film.
Except after
pouring over it in
my head, I
couldn't make
much sense of it.
"Gate" is a film

"The Ninth Gate" focuses on the
dangerous, action-packed field of
rare book collecting. I know it sounds
like an oxymoron, but when the book
in question is capable of summoning
the devil himself, the stakes are
raised significantly. Boris Balkan
(Frank Langella), a rich collector,
convinces Corso ( Depp) to track
down the two existing copies of "The
Book of the Nine Doors to the
Kingdom of Darkness" for compari-
son to his own copy. Along the way,
Corso finds a whole lot more than he
bargained for, and ultimately finds he
is consumed in the powers of The
Book himself.
Polanski ("Rosemary's Baby,"
"Chinatown") has crafted "Gate" into
a film heavy with symbolism and
filmic artistry. However, sometimes
Polanski's efforts quickly become
tiresome and/or unnecessary. Long,
lingering shots of Depp smoking
and/or drinking, or the strange inter-
action of characters that make no
sense prolong the film needlessly.
This results in a dull, slow moving
film peppered with bursts of energy.

By Jim Schiff
Daily Arts Writer
Trevor Pinnock and The English
Concert musicai ensemble revitalized
Bach's famous "Brandenburg
Concertos" with unparalled style, tech-
nique, and musicality Saturday night at
Hill Auditorium.
Playing on authentic 18th Century
instruments, the performers brought
elongated trumpets and miniature vio-
lins back to the stage. Led by conductor
and harpsichord player Trevor Pinnock,

courtesy of Artisan Entertainment
Devils, cults and demonic texts oh my! Rrman Polanski returns to the dark side
with "The Ninth Gate," starring Johnny Deepp and Frank Langella.

with some intriguing premises, some
rilling scenes, and interesting char-
cters, but it is ultimately bogged
down by a confusing plot and a
strange, strange ending that leaves
little satisfaction for the viewer.

There's a certain pattern to the
plot: Corso investigates something,
gets bludgeoned over the head and
then someone dies. It's pretty laugh-
able, and the film becomes pre-
dictable very fast.
Corso also seems to have a thing
for sleeping with strangers at the
drop of a hat. And then there's
Corso's nameless companion, played
by Emanuelle Seigner (Polanski's
wife), who passes her time floating
around or smearing her blood on peo-
ple. I think she's supposed to be some
sort of guardian angel, but a strange-
ly kinky fireside tryst in the film
makes one think otherwise.
For a horror thriller, there is a dis-
tinct lack of supernatural special
effects. Not that they are required,
but those that are in the film are sim-
ple set-dressing and detract from the
movie. Whenever Corso drives some-
where, an obvious blue-screen effect
is used instead of mounting a camera
on the car. This makes for a slightly
cheesy "Saturday Night Live" effect.
if you know what I mean. The best
use of special effects is to duplicate
one actor into a set of bookseller
twins, which makes for a great scene.
The first three-quarters of the film

take place in dark city streets, ruined
gothic mansions and old libraries,
which lends a perfect atmosphere to
the film. Also, the details of The
Book and its creators are intruiging.
However, when the camera pans from
copy to copy of the books as they lay
,side-by-side for comparison, the cru-
cial, yet subtle differences between
them are hard for the viewer to dis-
cern.
So things are going pretty well ...
and then comes along the ending.
And what a confusing piece of anti-
climactic crap it is. I'm tempted to
min it for you just so that I can
ridicule it more, but let's leave at, "It
makes no sense at all." The villain
dies in an almost goofy way, and
Depp supposedly has become
cbsessed with the book, but the film
gives scarce evidence for this trans-
formation. There is some startling,
disturbing imagery, but it ends with
such a whimper that the audience is
left waiting for more.
"Gate" is captivating despite it's slow
pace and confusing turns. Also. the lack
of resolution makes for a very unsatisfv-
ing trip to the theater. Do yourself a favor
aiad rent Polanski's earlier, and much bet-
tet, horror film, "Rosemary's Baby"

The
English
Concert
Hill Auditorium
March 11, 2000

the group cap-
tured the essence
of Bach's work.
T h e
"Brandenburg
Concertos" were
designed to show
the range of pos-
sibility and enrich
the concerto
form. In general,
the pieces were
written in a light-
hearted mood,
and The English
Concert helped to
feeling. This was

two oboes and a bassoon.
The remainder of the concert contin-
ued the liveliness of the first piece,
while exploring additional period
instruments. "Concerto No. 5 in D
Major" is, Pinnock said, "probably the
first concerto for a keyboard instru-
ment." Here, Pinnock takes on an active
role in the piece with an impressive
cadenza at the end of the first move-
ment, running up and down the scale.
Following the intermission, the
"Concerto No. 4 in G Major" featured a
large ensemble and a lovely trio section
between a violin and two recorders.
Light as a feather, the piece felt like an
afternoon at a Renaissance Festival.
"Concerto No. 6 in B-flat Major" is
an unusual piece in that it features a
miniature cello called the "Viola de
Gamba" instead of violins. Finally,
"Concerto No. 2 in F Major" brought
back the fanfare of the first piece, uti-
lizing the highest octave on an elongat-
ed trumpet.
Throughout the concert, Pinnock
takes on the role of musician, con-
ductor and ambassador to the audi-
ence. While conquering the demand-
ing harpischord melodies, he man-
ages to conduct the ensemble with
his free hand or even through pro-
nounced head movements. His entire
body is involved in the presentation
of the group.
Between each concerto, he gave
some background on the instruments
and styles that were about to be fea-
tured in the next piece. Pinnock's
British charm and sense of humor
made the audience feel at ease.
Bach's "Brandenburg Concertos"
are timeless masterpieces that
require incredible technique, stylistic
flare and musical sensitivity. Trevor
Pinnock and The English Concert's
delightful performance would cer-
tainlv have made Bach proud.

capture a cheery

accomplished through light, short bow
strokes in the strings, and accented, sep-
arated notes in the wind instruments.
"Concerto No. I in F Major" opened
with a glorious horn fanfare, accompa-
nied by a chorus of strings and double-
reeded instruments. From the begin-
ning, the music carried a distinct 18th
Century feel, especially with Pinnock's
prolific harpischord playing and the
wonderful stylings of the principal vio-
linitt, Rachel Podger. The adagio moe-
metit was considerably slower, but
exemplified how stately and dignified
the mIusic is. An uncharacteristic fourth
movement featured perfectly-pitched
violin chords and a lovely trio between

Courtesy of Artisan Entertainment
Even Johnny Depp, as book collector Corso, is confused about "The Ninth Gate."

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