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April 16, 2002 - Image 24

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8B - The Michigan Daily - Changing times - Tuessday, April 16, 2002

ARTS

i

'Tiger' is a martial
arts masterpiece

RSC makes stop in
Ann Arbor to play
famous histories

By Andy Taylor-Fabe
Jan. 16, 2001
It's a unique feeling to want to
get up and cheer for the hero while
simultaneously
wanting to sit
in awe and not
move a muscle
Crouching Tiger, for fear that
Hid n Dagon you would miss
a single frame.
Grade: A However,
"Crouching
Showed at Showcase, Tiger, Hidden
The Michigan Theater Dragon" gives
and Quality 16 the viewer that
and more. With
both Chow
Yun-Fat and
Michelle Yeoh
airi r i v a

ances, this film

giving excep-
tional perform-
is truly deserving

Jen is fascinated with the
lifestyle of Yu Shu Lien and Li Mu
Bai (who have almost legendary
status among the people - think
Jedi Knights), and she begins to
question the life of inactivity and
subservience that has been planned
for her. Li Mu Bai and Yu Shu Lien
must now deal with the quest to
recapture The Green Destiny and
the renewed search for Jade Fox
(who appears to be connected with
the theft and also has a new and
lethal apprentice). In addition, there
is the long but unconsummated
relationship between Li Mu Bai and
Yu Shu Lien, which is one of the
most subtle but enthralling on-
screen relationships in recent film
history.
Chow Yun-Fat is incredible in
this film. Li Mu Bai is noble,
strong, graceful and contemplative;
he is the pinnacle of virtue - also,
he really kicks some ass. While
fighting with one hand literally
behind his back, each move is cool
and calculated, but he is able to
give so much emotion to the role as
well. Every look on his face is so
expressive, and the mix of humor
and sadness in his eyes is some-
times almost painful to watch.
Michelle Yeoh is also phenome-
nal as both a powerful warrior and
a wise friend. Her multi-weapon
battle near the end is one the most
intense scenes in the film, and like
Chow Yun-Fat, she is able to bring
her character far beyond a mere
fighter.
The scenery and backgrounds in
the film are magnificent, full of
mist-filled valleys and mountains

Royal
Shakespeare
Company
Power Center
March 10- 18, 2000
-5

the cycle is not
for the weak of
heart: With nine
hours of Shake-
speare in one
afternoon, the
experience
should be a
rewarding one
to those who
take the chal-
lenge. Universi-
ty English Prof.
Ralph Williams,
who was in
Stratford when

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics,
Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyl) shows a few nogoodniks the meaning of pain in Ang
Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

By Charity Atchison
March 9, 2000

The Royal Shakespeare Company
will premiere "Richard III" as part
of its presentation of Shakespeare's
Histories. The marathon viewing of

of the term masterpiece.v
Taking place in the 19th Century,
the story involves Li Mu Bai (Chow
Yun-Fat), a Wudan warrior who has
given up the life of the sword
despite his vow to avenge his mas-
ter, who died at the hands of the
mysterious and feared Jade Fox. Li
Mu Bai has entrusted his sword,
The Green Destiny, to a friend as a
symbol of his departure from his
quest for vengeance. When the
sword is stolen, Li Mu Bai's close
companion, Yu Shu Lien (Michelle
Yeoh), tries to figure out what has
happened, and she subsequently
comes into contact with Jen Yu
(Zhang Ziyi), the sheltered and
soon to be married daughter of a
local governor.

as well as barren but beautiful
desert landscapes. Every scene has
a dreamlike quality to it, and the
vibrant, mystical colors that fill the
screen consume you completely as
you are drawn into their world.
Fight scenes in this film take on
a whole new quality in their disre-
gard for gravity. Much of the fight-
ing involves characters leaping
across buildings, bouncing off the
surface of water or soaring into the
air either to attack or retreat. What
is really impressive is that the
majority of these acrobatics are
actually done by the actors (with
the help of safety wires, of course).
When they are on the ground, the
battles are fast, vicious and. com-
plex, and they are all accompanied
by a rapid and heart-pounding
drum beat that complements the

combat perfectly.
The fight sequences were chore-
ographed by Yuen Wo-Ping, who is
best known in America for his
work on "The Matrix," and there
are definitely shades of that same
style in this film. However, the
fight scenes in "Crouching Tiger,
Hidden Dragon" have a more magi-
cal, or fairy-tale quality to them,
and you should be prepared to
completely surrender your notions
of physics and reality in order to
completely enjoy the supernatural
qualities of the film.
In fact, try to see the film when
the audience is sparse, because oth-
erwise, you will be bombarded
with cries of "oh, that looks really
realistic" from every snickering,
confused jackass in the crowd --
not that I'm bitter or anything.

RSC presented the Henry trilogy,
said that "the audience came out
feeling they had a profound experi-
ence that drew on them. Someone
said 'I expected to be tired, but I am
not.' It was very powerful, intense,
but not an experience from which
one emerges tired."
The plays Henry VI, parts I, II
and III and Richard III were written
very early in Shakespeare's career. A
person with very little experience in
Shakespeare would have a similar
experience to those who saw the
original plays performed. Williams
says, "The plays make sense as dra-
mas. These are challenges as read-
ing experiences, but not as stage
experiences."
RSC's first visit to Ann Arbor is
the beginning of a five-year partner-
ship. In addition to this visit, RSC
will return again in 2003 and 2005.
With the visits will come not only
exceptional theater performances,
but also educational opportunities
for everyone. Events ranging from
costume exhibits to the staging his-
tory will be covered in the seventy
educational events taking place. The
educational program is something
the RSC does at home in London
and while on tour; the program here
at the University, however, is differ-
ent than the program RSC usually
runs.
Kate Hunter, RSC senior press

Spacey' s suburbanite fights mundane life

and public relations officer, said,
"What makes the work with the
University of Michigan different is
the scale of the educational pro-
gram lasts over three months, and is
not just around the performances.
The scope of the program has two
main strands, across the faculty in
the University, and outreach/com-
munity work in the state. All RSC
educational work is very practical,
drawing heavily on the experience
of performance. It usually involves
members of the RSC acting compa-
ny."
Theater is very much part of the
social process. Every performance
has to have a cast, financial support,
a theater to play in and an audience,
which will shift with every perform-
ance. The RSC community educa-
tion experience is directed so that
many different audiences, such as
those interested in the text, direct-
ing, stage-managing and costuming,
can partake.
RSC Associate Director Michael
Boyd directs all of the plays in the
tetralogy debuting in Ann Arbor,
and several people directed the first
tetralogy of the eight-play cycle.
"Michael Boyd wanted to direct all
the plays that made up the second
tetralogy because he sees-them as
four acts in a large play," said
Hunter. This will bring continuity to
the tetralogy. Fiona Bell, who plays
Joan of Arc and Queen Margaret,
said, "the style and casting is cohe-
sive."
Nine hundred and seventy-nine
hours of rehearsal for the 30 actors
involved were needed to bring about
the performance. Six weeks were
spent on each part of the Henry
cycle. "Spending four months with
the company definitely made us gel
together on and off stage. [It was]
highly enjoyable and creative time
for me."
The histories, which cover a peri-
od of more than 50 years of Eng-
land's most turbulent history, begin
with the reign of the nine-month-old
Henry VI through England's civil
war. The production contains highly
physical fight scenes, utilizing 25
swords and five pints of stage blood.
Bell, who has individual sword
fights as Joan of Arc, enjoys the
fighting. "During rehearsals, I was
told to keep my shoulders back and
feet apart," Bell said. "It's not over-
whelming, but if something goes
wrong it throws you temporarily."
The development of the five-year
partnership between the University
and RSC reflects a link between
learning and theater. RSC will be
able to use the partnership to model
and build a more active university-
based presence in the United States.
RSC's visit will mark the first time
it has performed in Michigan since
1913. Bell, who will be visiting the
States for the first time, "can't wait
to get involved in the community
and educational work. As it's a prop-
er three week residency, it will be
really intense, and everyone will be
able to experience much more than
the productions themselves."
"Those who go will come to trust
their ability to respond powerfully to
a theatrical experience. In this soci-
ety, Shakespeare is so frequently
found in text. The eye is intolerant
to deviation. To the ear, there is an
immediacy to respond of which is
very intelligible," Bell said.
Williams sums up Shakespeare's
Histories by saying they are "stag-
geringly wonderful productions."

By Matthew Barrett and Erin Podolsky
Sept. 29, 1999

Kevin Spacey stars in "American Beauty" as
Lester Burnham, a suburban father who's lost his
way until he finds the strength to challenge the
system. Galvanized bf the "I'm not afraid of
anything" attitude exhibited by his next-door
neighbor, Lester goes from an advertising indus-
try drone who's "lost it" to a weed-smoking,
iron-pumping, burger-flipping would-be Hum-
bert Humbert.
His wife, Carolyn (Annette Bening), is a real
estate agent so into self-help tapes that she actu-
ally believes the hype. Jane (Thora Birch), his
daughter, despises both of her parents equally
and is pinching pennies for a boob job.
"I think Lester manages to sort of tap into a
'A''

part of his life that must have been alive and well
in college. Annette and I spent a good deal of
time in rehearsal talking about what they must
have been like when they first met, how great
their life used to be," Spacey said in a recent
interview with The Michigan Daily. "We began
to figure out when it started to fall apart, when
priorities began to change and their focus on
both sides began to be other things."
Part of Lester's attraction to audiences is his
effort to get out of the rut that is his life and
become something more. His journey to find
himself again - whether that be his inner youth
or inner retiree - allows Lester to begin to live
out his life-long fantasies, something Spacey
feels most people can relate to. Speeding along
Lester's rebirth are boy-next-door Ricky (Wes
Bentley) and wannabe Lolita, Angela Hayes
(Mena Suvari).
Spacey credits the three young actors, Birch,
Bentley and Suvari, with forming the soul of the
film and making it accessible to audiences of all
ages. "Kids are really loving it, I suspect not
only because of what the film's about but also
because of the performances of these three
incredible actors," Spacey said. "They are, thank
God, playing teenagers that aren't just angst-rid-
den and trying to get laid.
"What we're hearing is people saying 'thank
you.' In this glut of movies that are supposedly
dealing with the problems of youth, it's nice to
have one that's actually dealing with it in an hon-
est and mature way," he added.
For Spacey, "American Beauty" represents
somewhat of a shift in roles. Previously known
for his twitchy, tense performances in such films
as "The Usual Suspects" and "Seven," here
Spacey takes on the more familiar world of sub-
urbia. Recently, he made a high-profile career
move in taking the lead role in "The Iceman
Cometh" on the stage.
"I don't think I could have ever done this film
without having done 'Iceman.' Its spirit and what
Lester is searching for are on many levels the

things that the characters in 'Iceman' are search-
ing for. What I was given in that play and what I
experienced with it taught me more about fel-
lowship, camaraderie and about working togeth-
er as a community than anything else," Spacey
said. "I think the two experiences inform each
other. I waIked away to 'American Beauty' with
this feeling, and I know that's the feeling that I
had to feel in order to get where Lester gets."
Just as Lester makes a change in his career path
and life in general, Spacey, as well, has reached a
point in his career where he wants to branch out
from his established on-screen persona.
"I no longer wanted to play the kind of charac-
ters I became known for. I wanted to start mov-
ing in new directions," said Spacey. "This film
kind of completes a step that I've been taking
since 'L.A. Confidential.' I began to try to play
characters that were just a little more ambiguous
and perhaps on morally shifting ground, but
nonetheless moving toward characters that were
just much more affected by events. It allowed me
to go to a place that's more vulnerable than I've
been able to show in film."
Thanks to characters like Lester, Spacey's
future appears blessed with success and security,
so much so that he feels confident enough to
turn his attention to smaller projects by first-
time writers and directors. Not coincidentally,
"American Beauty" is the product of rookie
director Sam Mendes and screenwriter Alan
Ball.
"There's a lot I want to do and there's a lot I
want to help do that I won't act in, and there's a
lot of things I want to help other people do,"
Spacey said.
"That, to me, is fantastic to give an opportu-
nity to people that otherwise wouldn't get it and
watch them run with the ball and deliver some-
thing that's fantastic."
Spacey himself is clearly poised for a fantastic
run of his own as the great roles keep getting
thrown his way, proving to us all why it's never
too late to get it back.

courtesy omDreamworks

Spacey, ruling.

Courtesy VI tI Royal .ha
David Oyelowo as Henry VI.

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I .

40

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