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November 05, 1999 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-11-05

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My name is Inigo Montoya ..
"The Princess Bride" screens tomorrow at the State Theater.
This screening of the classic film, starring Cary Elwes and Robin
Wright, is sponsored by M-Flicks. Midnight.

mIj Li Jim kit

Monday in Daily Arts:
Check out Daily Arts for reviews of weekend performances
by the Pet Shop Boys and the Backstreet Boys.

8

Friday
November 5, 1999

A

Touching
By Ed Sholinsky
Daily Film Editor
Film critics and average filmgoers alike often
associate the name David Lynch with the bizarre
and grotesque, recalling his films "Eraserhead,'
"Blue Velvet" and "Lost Highway," and his TV
series "Twin Peaks." What might be the most
bizarre thing about Lynch now, however, is the
about face he does from his erotic masterpieces
with his latest film - the G-rated "The Straight
Story."
Gone from "The Straight Story" are the the-
matic trappings we're used
to - the deviant sexuality,
the suburban mask over the
dark interior - which he
The Straight replaces with an endearing
Story portrait of septuagenarian
Alvin Straight (Richard
Farnsworth) on a bil-
At Showcase dungsroman. Instead of
undermining this journey
as you might expect, Lynch
pays homage to Straight
and his seemingly her-
culean task.
!> After learning that his
estranged brotheraLyle
(Harry Dean Stanton in a cameo) has fallen ill,
Alvin - who has to walk with two crutches -
decides that he has to make amends with Lyle. The
problem is that Alvin's eyesight is too poor for him
to drive, he doesn't have the money for a bus or
airplane and he has to make the trip by himself.
Alvin is so stubborn that he won't let anyone talk
him out of going and won't let anyone help, even
though he has no conceivable way of getting from
Iowa to Wisconsin.

'Straight Story'

shows unique Lynch work

comes that Lyle has had a stroke.
Lynch unfolds the story slowly, which some-
times hurts "The Straight Story." It feels like "The
Slow Story" at times as the film crawls along at
'66. John Deere pace. For the most part, however,
the pacing works because of Lynch's clever ston
telling. At one point Lynch uses the conventional
shot of showing the traveller and craning up to the
sky (very common in this film), before returning
down to show the hero at the horizon. Lynch
adjusts this shot for his purposes, though, and only
shows Alyin a few feet further along.
"The Straight Story" often rests largely on
Farnsworth's shoulders, and the aging stunt man
turned actor handles this admirably in what is
arguably the best male performance this year.
Farnsworth can't act much with his body and ta
dialogue is sparse, so he relies on his eyes to reveal
much of his character. Farnsworth's eyes show not
only Alvin's confidence, but also his pain and love.
The complexity of Farnsworth's performance
doesn't overshadow the other fine performances in
the film, but only complements them. Both
Spacek and James Cada do fine work in the two
larger supporting roles. John and Kevin Farley
also add humor to the film as a pair of bickering
lawnmower repairmen.
The acting occasionally is hampered by the n
mally precise Angelo Badalamenti's awkward ai
maudlin score. There are times when
Badalamenti's ambling score fits the movie, but it
seems to work counter to a movie that is trying not
to be overly emotional.
Overall, though, "The Straight Story" marks a
bold new direction in Lynch's work. Long-time
Lynch fans might desire his darker work, but "The
Straight Story" gives new possibilities for one of
film's most innovative and provocative artists.

Richard Farnsworth (pictured with Sissy Spacek) travels from Iowa to Wisconsin on a '66 John Deere In "The Straight Story."

Alvin surprises everyone, though, when he
builds a trailer and attaches it to his riding mower.
When his first attempt goes bust, Alvin heads to
his friendly John Deere dealer, Tom (Lynch staple
Everett McGill), and purchases his new steed, a
'66 John Deere that moves five miles per hour.
The story Lynch tells, based on Alvin's real-life
journey and John Roach and Mary Sweeney's
(who also produced and edited the film, as she
does for most of her common law husband

Lynch's films) script, is slow but possesses
extreme emotional beauty. Alvin is a man with a
dark past, who has had to deal with many emo-
tional traumas and has pushed them aside. This
journey represents for him the opportunity to
purge many of the demons that tear at him.
During the course of the movie Alvin sheds no
tears as he encounters various people on his
odyssey. The hurt he suffers is so deep and he's
told his stories so many times that he can't cry. He

lives with his dark past everyday, whether it be his
daughter, Rose (Sissy Spacek, who hasn't been so
great in years), who lost her children because of
her oddities, or his memories of World War II and
his alcoholism.
Instead telling us of his sorrows, Lynch shows
them to us through his elaborate direction. In one
terrific scene he shows Alvin and Rose watching a
rain storm and the shadows of the raindrops run-
ning down Alvin's face moments before the call

Quartet to perform as
end of three-year series

'The Insider' worth extra running time

By Rosemary Metz
Daily Arts Writer
Audiences will have a chance to
hear two works of Beethoven this
Sunday.
The appearance of the American
String Quartet is the final concert of
a three-year residency for the

American
String
Quartet
Rackham Aud.
Sunday at 4

"Beethoven the
Contemporary"
series. The resi-
dency allowed
students to
work with the
group through
the University
M u s i c a l
Society, School
of Music and
Ann Arbor
School for the
Performing
Arts.

in his day, departing from the
established norms and producing
massive works which defied classi-
fication. For her part, Seeger drew
from the firebrand technique of
Arnold Schoenberg in the 1920s.
The Quartet will perform
Beethoven's Quartet in C Minor,
Op.18, No.4, and the Quartet in E-
flat Major, Op. 74, composed in
1801 and 1809, respectively. Quartet,
written in 1931, will be Crawford's
contribution to the Sunday afternoon
performance.
The Aspen Music Festival serves
as the group's summer home, while
students at the Manhattan School of
Music work under the Quartet's aca-
demic endeavors.
The Quartet received a National
Ails Endowment grant for their work
on college campuses across the
country.
The richness and complexity of
the music and the revolutionary
spirit of the composers will draw
the residency of the American
String Quartet to a memorable
conclusion.

The Insider
At Showcase
and Quality 16
j

By Laura Flyer
Daily Arts Writer
It takes a lot of guts to make a two-hour and 40-
minute movie, unless it's a sure winner because it
either is based on a novel, pre-dates the 20th
Century, or both. Viewer attention is on teetering
scales when the running time is extreme; even just
for a few minutes the awareness of its length can
jeopardize the entertainment value of the film.
That being said, "The Insider," holds ground
despite its length, making the film quite remark-
able precisely because of what it does to bring all

elements together into some-
thing coherent and meaning-
ful.
Based on a true story, and
more specifically, a magazine
article written by Marie
Brenner entitled, "The Man
Who Knew Too Much,"
Michael Mann's film takes a
relatively overused subject
matter and adds flavor by
incorporating an in-depth
look into how a life-changing
experience affects three indi-
viduals involved in the sce-

The *'last
concert will juxtapose the works of
Beethoven and Ruth Porter
Crawford Seeger, two composers
who aroused storms of controversy.
Beethoven was considered a rebel

..

nario.
Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) has a little
secret to tell. A former employee of Brown and
Williamson, the third-largest tobacco company in
the world, he signs a confidentiality agreement
with the company insuring that he will not dis-
close any of the corruptive practices that contin-
ued throughout his employment there. Wigand, an
easily-agitated yet well-intentioned man, can't
shake off the guilt he feels over his secrecy. "60
Minutes" producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino)
then enters the picture, and seeks Wigand out
merely for his services in de-coding scientific
encryption documents. Soon enough he discovers
a goldmine: Wigand's secret can be extricated
from his guilty conscience and slapped up on the
TV screen for the viewing pleasure of millions of
people.
Due to Brown and Williamson's clout in the

courtesy of Touchstone Pictures
Al Pacino stars in "The insider."
business world, Wigand is basically screwed, even
when a whole team of lawyers tries to save him in
a court of law.
The fiasco centers on the issue of guts. It takes
guts for Wigand to risk the loss of a severance
package and medical insurance for his kids (a
guarantee in the confidentiality agreement), not to
mention the potential demise of his entire family
who run farther and farther away from him as he
gets more and more embroiled in the conflict. It
takes guts for Lowell Bergman who must risk his
job once Brown and Williamson threaten the
bureaucracy of CBS. And even Mike Wallace
(Christopher Plummer), host of "60 Minutes" and
a major influence on the decisions of the network,
needs guts to back Lowell in his "radical" affront
against the TV station.A
What we see, therefore, are the internal strug-
gles of three characters, two of which we receive a
closer look into their personal lives. Director
Mann ("The Last of the Mohicans," "Heat"),

therefore, had no choice but to make "The Insider"
a lengthy endeavor for the audience, and he suc-
ceeds.
Besides an obvious shoo-in for Pacino's fantas-
tic performance, Crowe is truly exceptional as a
heroic-with-flaws character. His out-dated, silver-
rimmed glasses, fidgets with his tie and head jerks
are all subtle characteristics that imply his weal
nesses yet don't completely overshadow the
strength he has to undergo in his task.
A true sore spot of "The Insider" is the music
compilation by Peter Bourke and Lisa Gerrard.
Intended to give an ominous feel, some of the
tracks go overboard, syncing almost gothic, holy
sounds with the distress Wigand undergoes-
Rather than making an understated point that
Wigand is in turmoil over his decision, the music
makes him seem like some religious martyr about
to save the world from destruction.
Other times the movie tends to lean towards the
sappy, particularly with supporting characters. The
fact that Wigand's kids have to look sweet and
wonderful because one of them has asthma is
acceptable. But Mann goes too far: They look like
innocent angels with long, flowing, curly hair and
incessantly color pictures for "'Daddy." And:.
Lowell's secretary, Debbie (Debi Mazar), offers no
substantial significance in the film at all.
On the other hand, Dante Spinotti's cinematog-
raphy is superb. Many of the scenes are obviou-
ly carefully constructed according to the aesthet
appeal of colors and lighting, some of which are
reminders of his former success as cinematogra-
pher for "L.A. Confidential."
While zapping technological devices into films
seems too tragically hip nowadays, the constant
interplay between Bergman and Wigand on their
cell phones actually adds to the intensity of the
whole situation: Pacino's cell phone "claps"
closed, and "boom" - we're onto the next scene.
Pacino wading through the depths of a blua
green ocean while chatting it up with the hallu*
nating Crowe (who receives the cell phone from
the hotel clerk) in his hotel room allows us to
endure, and even enjoy, the extra hour of the film's
running time.

I

4w

SSO

* Graphic Magician
Prints from the Norton Simon Museum
November 7, 1999-January 16,2000
Trace the career and life of this
startling and original 2Oth-century
master through his print work
Call 419-255-8000
for more information

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