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October 16, 2002 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2002-10-16

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October 16, 2.2




'The Savage Girl' author Alex
Shakar speaks at Shaman Drum

By Shital Thekdi
For the Daily

Bridget Jones feels the wrath of Catwoman.
'W iteOleander' wilts in sap

Ever wonder why those midnight Meijer runs leave
you with empty pockets and enough food to feed half of
North Campus? Is it the stimulation or relaxation of cof-
fee that keeps Ann Arbor's coffee shops afloat? Alex
Shakar, author of "The "Savage Girl," would call it a
paradessence, "the two opposing desires
that promise to satisfy simultaneously."
"Savage Girl" follows Ursula Van Urden
into the anything-goes career of trendspot- ALEX S
ting. This burned out artist explores the At Sham
parks and alleys of fictitious Middle City Boo
searching for the next big trend. She finds
it in a homeless girl hunting pigeons in a Thurs.a
nearby park. The Savage Girl's image
implanted in Ursula's supermodel sister could change
the face of fashion and popular culture. Ursula quickly
learns the theorized rules of pop culture with terms like
paradessence and postirony while trying to market a
brand new product diet water.
"The Savage Girl" explores the jagged relationship
between humans and the products they crave. Shakar por-
trays the grocery store as a dumping ground of corporate
strategies to lure humans in and force them to live vicari-
ously through the products. Imagine a laundry detergent
labeled Now Fat Free or bottled water that boasts its
absence of calories. Originally, Shakar thought the idea
of diet water was "kind of the most awful product I could
think of and it was my personal symbol for end of
humanity. Since then it's come true." The character
Javier, is optimistic and "believes we can really express
ourselves and improve our lives through purchases"
while Chas portrays the dark side by believing our pur-
chases "cover up what we lack and make us powerful."
"The Savage Girl" displays Shakar's love-hate rela-


tionship with popular culture. He wanted to "see the
interaction between the individuals and the world we
live in, how the bizarre things that are going on in our
culture affect our individual psyches. I was writing for
anybody that goes to a supermarket watches TV, sees
commercials, basically all of us."
Trendspotters really exist. Shakar was inspired by
them because "They have a perfect combination of ide-
alism and cynicism. They're part business-
men and part philosophers. What appealed
to me about them is that they are people
HAKAR who really think that these glittering sur-
Drum faces that are surrounding us actually mean
>h rsomething deep about us."
Shakar's literary skill makes "The Savage
8 p.m. Girl" a little too insightful to be fiction, but
much too bizarre to be real. He explains "When
writing "The Savage Girl," I got to talk to a lot of trendspotters
and marketers and do reading about all these crazy marketing
theories. I ended up just coming up with my own because the
others weren't crazy enough."
Paradessence is an intriguing yet scary idea that ties in
closely with many marketing company strategies. "I really
didn't know what marketers would think about this book, I
thought they'd hate it, but they responded very positively.
Last I heard the book was being taught in a marketing class."
Shakar most admires authors like Cortazar, Salinger,
Faulkner and Vonnegut. "In college I kept reading books
that made me not only want to write but want to live. I
wanted to feel like I was experiencing life more vividly."
He enjoys "the freedom it gives me to think about what-
ever I want to think about and become whoever I need to
become. I love doing research for books"
What's next for Alex Shakar? "Trying to keep writing
more books. I'd like to keep changing and keep growing
as a person as an artist and try and explore what ever
interests me."


By Stephanie Kapera
Daily Arts Writer
The symbolic weight of Peter Kosminsky's new film,
"White Oleander," is all in the hair. Everyone starts out
blonde, thus leading us to ask the important question (and
tagline of the film): "Where does a mother end and a daugh-
ter begin?" Well, the daughter "begins" when
she chops off her long yellow locks, which is
really only a preface to the true climax, in
which she dies her hair a trashy shade of
brown. So, now we get it. Blonde is symbolic
for denial. Brown, or "brunette," is the film's
metaphor for freedom, survival and all-around OLEA
just being the best foster kid you can be. All At Shov
of this would have been better left in an after- Qual
school special, from which much of the script
seems to have been borrowed anyway. Wam
It's a sad thing when a halfway-decent
book gets turned into a movie, because the movie is never
better than the book (the exception here being "The Godfa-
ther"), which calls into question why anyone ever liked the
book in the first place. This is what will happen to anyone
who has read Janet Fitch's novel "White Oleander" and
then sees the film. The film version actually succeeds in
articulating one of the novel's worst flaws: its bloated sense
of its own importance. The book drew its strength from the
lyrical roll of the plot as it stumbled through the lives of so
many fascinating characters. Fitch's language, however,
attempted to slow down what deserved to be a faster-paced
piece. It took itself a bit too seriously and yet this is the
aspect of the novel that Kosminsky uses as his aesthetic
template, throwing off the plot and instead trying to re-cre-
ate Fitch's tediousness with ridiculous camera techniques
too pompous for a film like this one. His bumpiness recalls
"The Blair Witch Project," and you might, be wishing that
you were seeing that instead.
The title of the film refers to the murder weapon that gets
Ingrid Magnussen (Michelle Pfeiffer) sent to prison. Ingrid,
an egomaniacal artist/single mother, has raised her teenage
daughter Astrid to "think for herself," which Astrid spends
the rest of the film attempting to do, eventually coming to
the clever conclusion that her mother is a hypocrite. All
along, Ingrid just wanted Astrid to be like her. With her
mother in prison, Astrid is shoveled from one foster home to

the next, with a few stops at a temporary holding cell for
foster kids in between.
Astrid's first foster mother is Star (Robin Wright Penn), a
piece of trailer trash who takes in foster children because
Jesus would want it that way. When Astrid's sexuality
destroys the Jack Daniel's-soaked equilibrium of the house-

hold, she is


wcase and
lity 16,
er Bros.

sent to an orphanage for older children, where
she finds a friend in fellow artistic soul Paul
Trout (Patrick Fugit, "Almost Famous"). The
two of them make beautiful art together until
Astrid is relocated to the home of Mark and
Claire Richards (Noah Wyle, Renee Zell-
weger). Claire, a mentally unstable actress who
buys Astrid Marc Jacobs dresses and makes
paella for dinner, seems like the dream mother
Astrid never had, until Ingrid manages to break
up the happy little family, partly out of hon-
esty, but partly due to plain old malice. This is
the point of no return for Astrid, who now has


Greek 'Medea' powers Center

brown hair and a goth 'tude to match, until one day, when
the mother and daughter duo must come face-to-face in
court. Will Ingrid be able to "let go" of her daughter? By
this point, we practically don't care any more.
The screenplay, written by Mary Agnes Donoghue, miracu-
lously finds ways to sap the energy from Fitch's novel.
Donoghue thinks it is suspenseful to withhold crucial infor-
mation from us -namely, the details of the murder that lands
Ingrid in prison - which turns the movie into a manipulative
did-she-or-didn't-she narrative that is nowhere to be found in
the book. Frankly, the real mystery that had my friends and I
perplexes during the movie was why, halfway through the
film, the still-blonde Lohman's eyebrows suddenly turned
black, and then back to blonde, and then black again.
The actors are silly as well. Pfeiffer confuses Ingrid with
Lady Macbeth, reciting all of her lines with a regality of
speech usually reserved for members of the Royal Shake-
speare Company. Wright Penn is far too pretty to be playing
white trash, and Lohman just opens her brown eyes really
wide and calls it a day. Of all the women, only Zellweger
breathes any life into the film. In her crinkly smile and skit-
tish movements, we see flashes of pain.
Or maybe we just feel pain, because we are in the
fourth row at this movie, the main character suddenly has
black eyebrows, and, hey, there are still 45 minutes left to

By Christine Lasek
Daily Fine/Performing Arts Editor
The University Musical Society will
be opening it's third annual International
Theatre Series with the Abbey Theatre
of Ireland's critically acclaimed produc-
tion of Euripides "Medea." This produc-
tion ran on London's West
End a year ago, directed
by Deborah Warner and
starring the legendary Mi:
Fiona Shaw.
"Medea" is an ancient At the Poi
Greek drama, written by Today, Thut
Euripides and first per- 8
formed 2,431 years ago. an
Medea was a powerful Sun.
witch, and daughter of $2(
King Aeetes of Colchis. University N/
She fell in love with


Corinth, Kreon, who offered Jason is
daughter's hand in marriage, with the
promise of a kingdom to follow.
Although he had already sworn his ever-
lasting love to Medea, who had since
borne him two sons, Jason agreed to the
marriage, promising Medea a comfort-
able existence if she would keep quiet
and out of sight. Howev-
er, meek and submissive
were two qualities com-
EA pletely lacking in
Medea's character, and
er Center she was none too happy
. and Fri. at with Jason's plans for
M. their future. She exacted
p.m. her revenge in such a way
p.m. as only a witch and ex-
;42 princess from Colchis
sical Society can, defying all law, natu-
ral or otherwise.

Jason, leader of the Argonauts, and
helped him steal the Golden Fleece from
her father. They fled together; becoming
outlaws but sworn together in their love
for each other. They found a friendly
harbor in the city of Corinth. Jason man-
aged to ingratiate himself to the King of

Euripides was born in Attica in 484
BC. He was a prolific playwright, writ-
ing 92 plays, though only 19 of these
plays still exist. Although he is hailed,
along with Aeschylus and Sophocles,
as one of the figures who made fifth-
century Athens pre-eminent in the his-


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The pain of "Medea."
tory of world drama, his work aroused
great opposition and controversy based
on his unorthodox portraits of women
and his focus on the individual, as
opposed to the community. Along with
"Medea," his most famous plays
include "The Bacchae" and "Electra."
Although "Medea" has been running
for over 2,000 years (eat your heart out,
"Phantom of the Opera"), The Abbey
Theatre of Ireland is up to the challenge.
The Abbey Theatre has been in continu-
ous management longer than any other
repertory company in the English speak-
ing world. It was first conceived of by
William Butler Yeats and two landown-
ers in thewest of Ireland, as a new the-
ater that would produce plays "written
with a high ambition, and so build up a
Celtic and Irish school of dramatic liter-
ature." The Abbey has a commitment to
present works of eminent foreign
authors, but the primary objective is to
provide a performance space for Irish
dramatic writing.
This production of "Medea" is also a
reuniting the dynamic forces of Irish born
actress Fiona Shaw and Deborah Warner,
one of the most acclaimed directors on the
contemporary British stage. Shaw is one
of the most controversial and exhilarating
performers in Britain today. Most recently,
she has ignited venomous criticism and
rapturous praise by playing Richard II, the
sorrowful English king in Shakespeare's
play of the same name. Warner is a bril-
liant stage and opera director, best-known
for her dazzling and daring takes on the
works of Shakespeare, Sophocles, Bach,
Berg, Beckett, Brecht and Ibsen.
For Jonathan Cake (Jason), this is
the most difficult production he has
ever had the pleasure of being a part
of. Cake believes that "Medea" is a
timeless masterpiece, catching the
minds of audience members through
every movement in history. "It is one
of the greatest plays ever written,"
Cake muses, "but it is unforgiving. I
have never had to work as hard as an
actor, and I have to have high energy
every night, because this play just
sucks energy." Past productions of
"Medea" that went on to receive criti-
cal acclaim were more traditional,
with the actors speaking in strict
verse. The Abbey Theatre's produc-
tion will be done in modern dress,



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