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March 09, 2004 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-03-09

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-0

Tuesday
March 9, 2004
arts.michigandaily.com
artseditor@michigandaily.com

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8

ALEXANDRA
JONES
Unmasking the man
behind the music icon

GROOVIN'
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6
I

I've been thinking a lot about the
first rock concert I ever went to.
For about 15 years, Bob Dylan has
been on the Never-Ending Tour: Twice
a year, the legendary troubadour-
turned-rocker and his band roam the
globe, playing shows in Asia, Europe
and all over the United States. When I
found out that the first musician I'd
discovered on my own and really loved
was still touring, coming to my town, I
knew I had to take him up on the offer.
As a gift for my 15th birthday, my
parents bought me tickets to see Bob
in Raleigh, N.C., on July 14, 1999.
My dad dropped me and a friend off at
Hardee's Walnut Creek (now Alltell
Wireless Pavilion - from fried chick-
en to cell phones, that's the story of
the South). After wandeting the
grounds looking for salvageable ID
bracelets, we headed to the amphithe-
ater. The lawn area was swarming with
shoeless, braless neo-hippies, college
kids, and here and there were older
couples with camping chairs and bot-
tles of white wine.
Our seats were in the theater, a few
hundred yards from the stage. I could
barely make out the band's equipment
without binoculars. Most everyone in
this section was fully dressed and sit-
ting quietly. My pal and I settled in,
declined a pipe offered by some older
guys sitting behind us, and waited for
the show to start.
I remember pretty much losing it
when Bob and his band took the stage.
In retrospect, I guess it wasn't that big
of a deal. He looked the same way he
did in all the photos and posters on my
walls - blocky suit with a fluffy mop
of hair sitting on top of it. This was no
different. His singing voice, though,
had changed considerably, since he
bawled "I don't believe you ... You're
a liar!" at an uppity folkster at a show
33 years before. In the prime of his
career, and even after his first come-
back in the '70s, Dylan sang with a
hard edge, scuffed by overuse and
chain-smoking. But now, vocally, he's
more scrape than substance.
Iconically, the name "Bob Dylan"
doesn't mean the same thing it used to,
and his audiences are more concerned
with their Social Security than societal
change. He can barely manage the
nasal croon he was always loved or

hated for. Why should we care about
this whiny old bastard any more?
But what happens to rock idols after
they're no longer the swaggering,
snarling youths who captured the
hearts and cash of millions? What do
they do once the dream is over?
Sometimes they O.D. before the rot
sets in. They go nuts in various ways
- Dylan's own idol, Woody Guthrie,
ended up delusional, dying of Hunt-
ington's chorea in a New Jersey hos-
pital. Sometimes they never quite get
the message and keep slogging away,
making shitty records that don't say
anything except that their now-
defunct creators wish they could be
back in the spotlight. Compared to
some of his contemporaries, Bob's not
doing so bad.
Dylan's light has flickered - the
soggy albums produced after his
motorcycle crash in 1966, the born-
again Christian period in the late '70s,
most of his releases in the '80s - but
he's always come back.
And that's why he's still worth see-
ing after so long. There's never been a
more human musical icon in rock his-
tory. His chameleonic career feels
more like changes in the life of a per-
son than different directions taken by
an artist. When sung by him, Dylan's
words, poetic nonsense in any other
context, move minds and hearts like
nothing I've ever heard. That's why his
fans can listen to him sing about any-
thing from politics to divorce to flesh-
colored Christs that glow in the dark
over and over again, recorded or live,
and think and feel Yes. This is impor-
tant. This is right.
I used to feel like I'd missed out on
rock music's inception, that everything
important and worthwhile had hap-
pened before 1970. But moments don't
matter - it's a lifetime that counts.
It took me a long time to realize that
Bob Dylan doesn't end with Blonde on
Blonde; he's just as alive as he ever
was. The Never-Ending Tour is an invi-
tation. Get in on the secret: Dylan's
still got it.
- Since we're sick of listening to
Alexandra talk on and on about her
favorite Dylan album, Self Portrait,
you can talk to her instead at alma-
jo@umich.edu

In his wonderfully bizarre first feature, Syl-
vain Chomet puts together one of the most
unique and oddly engrossing animated films in
recent memory. Although recently beat out by
"Finding Nemo" at the 76th
Annual Academy Awards,
"The Triplets of Belleville" The Triplets
was the best animated film of of Belleville
the year as well as one of the At the Michigan
top films of 2003. Theater
The story revolves around a Sony Picture
cheerless young boy named C assics
Champion and his obese dog
Bruno who are taken care of by his loving grand-
mother, Madame Souza. Her life's mission seems to
be the search for any conduit of joy for her grand-
son. Once she discovers his love of bicycles,
cycling becomes their existence.
Endless training, the passage of time and French
citizenship lead to nowhere else but the Tour de
France. However, during the race, Champion is
kidnapped by French mobsters. Springing to
action, his decrepit grandmother, Bruno and an
aged group of singing triplets team up in Belleville
(a fusion city of Montreal, Paris and New York) to

"When you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way."
come to his rescue. And from there, the story only
gets more surreal.
Though the plot is fun and enjoyable, the highlight
is the film's exaggerated style. There is a dark and
odd underlying sense of humor that often comes
through as unexpected laughter as the sense of sub-
version and surprise lie at the heart of the film.
Visually dense, the animation style is unlike any
animated film audiences have previously seen. The
animation works on many levels and is often a
send-up of American and French culture - ram-
pant consumerism and globalization. The images
are complex and demand astute attention, which
more than compensates for the fact that this is a

6
4

silent film. While this may seem to be anathema to
the modern audience, the film boasts an incredible
soundtrack that guarantees the audience leaves the
theater singing and unaware of the lack of dialogue.
Although the grandmother's love is the overarch-
ing theme of the film, there is none of the fluffiness
and overwrought sentimentality that defines Ameri-
can animation. There are no cute characters that can
tie-in with a Happy Meal. This is one of those films
that acts like it is not for children and means it.
"Belleville" will scare the hell out of any child.
Chomet's vision is a different kind of beautiful as
well as a solid sign that animation can still be done
with a pencil and some imagination.

I

Kashner not quite 'Cool' in book

By Bonnie Keliman
Daily Arts Writer

Like so many young people in the
'70s, Sam Kashner grew up fascinated
by the Beat Generation. He read the leg-
endary works, "On the Road" (Jack

Kerouac), "Howl"
(Allan Ginsberg)
and "Naked
Lunch" (William
Borroughs), which
inspired him to
rebel against his
middle-class par-
ents and Western

When I Was
Cool
By Sam Kashner
Harper Collins
Publishers
society in general.

Poetics, an experience he records in his
memoir, "When I Was Cool."
When Kashner arrives, he discovers
that the school does not yet have accred-
itation or any other students. He
becomes Allen Ginsberg's apprentice,
typing and even finishing some of his
poems for him. He attends classes on
such subjects as imaginary maps and
investigative poetics.
"When I Was Cool" is a collection of
amusing anecdotes that wanders aim-
lessly through Kashner's first few
months at the Jack Kerouac School. In
the process, however, he paints an
intriguing picture of the beatniks as their
careers began to fade. In their prime,
they had fearlessly glorified drugs,
poverty and social dissonance. By the
time Kashner meets the beatniks, they
are beginning to pay the price of living
on the outskirts of society and abusing
their bodies. Some are terrified of old
age and death while others are plagued
by mental illness. Above all, they are all
inconsolably lonely.
Ginsberg, desperate to hold together

the lives of his long-time friends,
instructs Kashner to keep an eye on
some of the beatniks. The innocent and
fearful student tries to keep Gregory
Corso off drugs, so he can finish his
book and reconcile Borroughs with his
emotionally and physically ill son, Billy.
Kashner's efforts, however, are futile. He
ends up paying for Corso's addiction
with his father's Diner's Club card while
Billy, the "prince of the Beat tribe,"
wastes away.
In the midst of this madness, Kashner
struggles to define both his identity and
values. At first, he is fascinated by the
lives of his mentors, but by the end of
his time at the Jack Kerouac School,
Kashner is disillusioned with the Beat
Generation. When he graduates, he
wonders if he had just spent "two years
in the valley of the lost men."
Kashner can be surprisingly poignant
while describing the loneliness of the
Beat Generation, but on the whole, his
writing is unpoetic for someone who
attended a school of disembodied poet-
ics. Furthermore, his narrative can be

4

I

L

When he saw a photograph of Gins-
berg, Peter Orlovsky, and Neal Cassady
- the original beatniks - he "wanted
to be in the picture" too, but he "didn't
want to get hurt."
"I wanted 'Naked Brunch,' " he said,
instead of a "Naked Lunch." So, Kashn-
er dropped out of college to attend the
Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied

self-absorbed and he has a tendency to
forget that he is not the only poetry stu-
dent at the school. These issues aside,
"When I Was Cool" is an interesting
exploration of social rebellion and isola-
tion, especially for readers who have
wondered what the Beatniks were really
like and what happened to them after
they came home from the road.

M

'The Dreamers' driven
by a masterful score

By Vanessa Miller
Daily Arts Writer
MOVI E REVI EW
There is an intimate connection
between a film and its audience. Few
filmmakers manage to take advantage
of the emotional attachment between

the characters and
the viewer. Italian
director Bernardo
Bertolucci has
this talent.
"The Dream-
ers," a new film

The
Dreamers
At the State Theater
Fox Searchlight

The University of Michigan College of Literature,
Science, and the Arts presents a public
lecture and reception

I

The Centered Self

a

0 mmmmmmmmmmim

by Bertolucci, weaves together a
tale connecting three primordial
needs: film, music and sex. Known
for his sexually provocative nature
in such films as "Last Tango in
Paris," Bertolucci creates a new
playground within the world of col-
lege students, bringing together
filmic debates and unleashed sexual
passion onto the same plateau.
"The Dreamers" centers on
Matthew (Michael Pitt, "Murder by
Numbers"), an American student in
Paris who meets Parisian twins,
Isabelle and Theo, while worship-
ping at the Cinematheque Frangaise
as the 1968 riots begin to take over
the city. Newcomers Eva Green and
Louis Garrel play Isabelle and Theo,
whose incestuous nature captivates
Matthew, letting him consume a

world full of new ideas and experi-
ences.
Considered controversial for its
abundance of full-frontal nudity,
"The Dreamers" embraces its NC-
17 rating by allowing the audience
not to see it as a cheap gimmick, but
rather as an expression of the char-
acters as they rebel against the con-
straints of society.
Music drives the trio through the
film, allowing for the subtle plot to
come alive. In most movies, the film
dictates the music. In "The Dream-
ers," however, all the music is from
the late '60s, long before the film
was born. Music becomes a sepa-
rate entity that is vividly portrayed
in each character. This is highlight-
ed when Pitt sings his own version
of Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe" in the
film and soundtrack.
Pitt utilizes his large eyes and
uncanny Leonardo DiCaprio-like
appeal to transform from the uptight
American into a sex god trapped
away from reality. His soft-spoken
character allows him to seem inno-
cent, especially compared to the
alluring Green and Garrel who ooze
inhabited desire, definitely kicking
their careers into gear.
Bertolucci creates a reflection of
ourselves, a timeless reality showing
us how we are all dreamers, no mat-
ter what music hums in our ears and
which riots surround us.

" Wriing cntes
4-c rtl l Su sh-ie -

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