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October 23, 2006 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-10-23

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SA - Monday, October 23, 2006

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

In "Flags of Our Fathers," the rain is almost as thick as the tears.

The 'Flag' hangs
at half mast

Kirsten Dunst as the infamous Marie Antoinette, a costume designer's heaven on earth.

M arie Antoinette: infamous teen-
age bride, indomitable spender and
wench. Her Let-them-eat-
cake-legacy is less than
commendable, but Sophia .i
Coppola's forgiving por-
trayal rises above antique Antoinette
taglines. Atthe Showcase
Coppola's fresh take and Quality16
on the story of French
queen Marie Antoinette Columhia
was inspired by biogra-
pher Lady Antonia Fraser, whose humanistic
account describes an innocent girl out of touch
with reality. The film begins with Marie's
rise to fame in 1770 - at the tender age of 15
- when the Austrian-born princess is married
off as the material link between Austria and
Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst, "Eliza-
bethtown") arrives at the Palace of Versailles
- literally stripped of her Austrian identity
and separated from friends - to meet her
groom-to-be, the Dauphin of France (Jason
Schwartzman, "Shopgirl"). But he's hardly
prince charming. Coppola's Dauphin is an
awkward adolescent, as indifferent to his bride
at the breakfast table as he is in the bedroom.
Marie's leap to high-ranking royalty comes
with responsibilities that she's ill-prepared to
accept. She justifiably finds the trifling cus-
toms and hierarchies regulating life in the
French palace absurd, and has no shame in
showing it.
Marie is met with a crowd of servants and
royal contemporaries every morning as she

pulls her bed curtains aside; tradition requires
that she be dressed by the most superior
woman in the room. On one occasion Marie
stands freezing, naked and humiliated as still-
more-prominent women keep arriving and
handing off the honor of dressing her.
"This is ridiculous," she says to the Comt-
esse de Noailles (Judy Davis, "Deconstructing
"This, Madame, is Versailles."
The intense court pressure to produce an
heir sends whispered rumors flying about
her unconsummated marriage, but Marie's
helpless frustration eventually gives way and
she becomes more comfortable in the palace
- maybe a little too comfortable.
By the age of 18, Marie is throwing lavish
parties and bingeing on luxurious fashions,
driving France into unrecoverable debt. But
she makes no apologies in relishing her for-
tune. Marie fills the dull hours of the day with
decadent dessert trays, an assortment of lap
dogs and exotic entertainment.
And who can blame her?
Marie is sequestered in an isolated palace,
expected to assume a role she never asked for
and forced into a marriage with a man who
won't put out - no wonder she asked for foun-
tains of champagne.
"Marie Antoinette" - which was shot on
location at the Palace of Versailles - is less
plot-driven than might be expected. The dia-
logue risks oversimplification, but it's care-
fully chosen and chiseled down to create the
effect of a photographic expose, punctuated by
eloquent remarks and clever jokes.
What "Marie Antoinette" lacks in speech

it makes up for in eye candy, all of which is
set into motion with an exceptional '80s-cen-
tric punk-rock soundtrack (a rarity for period
films). Like Terrence Malick or Jean-Luc God-
dard, Coppola's direction produced exquisite
visuals independent of dialogue, from extrav-
agant galas to Marie's most private moments.
Every element has its compositional purpose,
right down to the thread color and fabric
choice of Marie's coveted shoe collection (spe-
cially designed by Manolo Blahnik).
As predicted, the film's Oscar-worthy cos-
tume design is nothing less than awe-inspir-
ing. There seems to be no end to the elaborately
ornate gowns, embellished hairdos and three-
foot-high wigs, with each shot producing yet
another unique creation for the audience to
feast upon.
Versailles lends itself to opulence, and Cop-
pola's constructed world within the palace is
overwhelming to an extreme. Drawn into the
royal fantasy, it seems inevitable that the rul-
ing mo.arch would be far removed from its
people - a theme which implicitly exonerates
the queen in question.
Behind the unprecedented portrayal of a
ruler crowned far too young, "Marie Antoi-
nette" is a cinematic novelty. The film's lag-
ging pace and distinct "snapshot style" - a
challenge to logical chronology - are more
than compensated for by its exceptional cine-
matography, first-rate cast and atypically sym-
pathetic storyline.
Coppola shows that hidden within the
allegedly self-important Marie Antoinette is
a whimsical spirit suffocated by royal obliga-
tions - but only if you choose to see it.

Daily Arts Writer
The road to hell (in Clint East-
wood's case, war) is paved with
good intentions.
"Flags of Our Fathers" should
have been
an excellent
exercise in I
conscious Flags of Our
war filmmak-
ing, melding Fathers
two natural At the Showcase
talents (direc- and Quality16
cor Eastwood Warner Bros.
and producer
Steven. Spiel-
berg) and offering a wealth of
capable actors and thought-pro-
voking ideas. But the movie winds
up a noble effort of mediocre pro-
At its base, the film is the story
of the infamous flag-raising pho-
tograph taken in 1944 on the
island of Iwo Jima. Culturally
synonymous with patriotism and
American war imagery, the image
is deconstructed through the eyes
of three of the six men who raised
the flag (the ones who survived)
and the toll it takes on their lives.
Far more immersive than the
normal war flick, the stories of
John "Doc" Bradley (Ryan Philli-
pe, "Crash"), Rene Gagnon (Jesse
Bradford, "Swimfan"), and Ira
Hayes (Adam Beach, "Windtalk-
ers") unfold as we look into the
harsh implications of war: death,
redemption, greed, naivety and
how we latch on to "heroism."
It's all relevant material given
the nature of our current flag-
swishing culture. We readily bow
our heads to "accomplished mis-
sions" and "fallen steel dictators,"
even if it's staged, dishonest and
often meaningless.
In one of his most undisciplined
and often-lazy works of direction
in some time, Clint Eastwood's
now-signaturelow-keystyle works
against him here. Like a mean-
dering jazz musician, Eastwood

allows too much to wander in and
out of the film. With little cohesive
or consistent direction, "Flags of
Our Fathers" is a well-intentioned
mess..Mind you, expectations and
standards should notvary because
of the filmmakers' reputation: At
the end of the day, a poorly crafted
film is just a poorly crafted film.
The film's nonlinear editing
makes it hard to connect with
characters (let alone remember
their names), and they offer few
revelations. War footage is shot in
grainy hand-held fashion, because
in unwritten Hollywood war
movie law, you have to seem real-
istic in your violence in order to be
considered artistic.
War might be
hell, but so is
this movie.
Oh, and you have to mute out
colors - the scene may be devoid
of emotion, but rich in "historical
accuracy." Do this, or else your
legitimacy will be put on trial.
Throw in some misty B-level
male acting. Make sure your point
of view is always confusing and
inconsistent. Make your garish
CGI distracting. Have key play-
ers be inconsequential. And be
preachy in making your 100-plus
points on the complexities of war.
"Flags" suffers most from a lack
of progressive narrative, exempli-
fied by the main character who
goes through the same series of
events over and over again. We
just watch (i.e. aren't engaged) as
Ira Hayes gets drunk, overly emo-
tional and teary overthe "bullshit"
of war. Cut to him crying, and
abruptly cut to gratuitous, incon-
sequential war footage. Repeat
about five times.
Boomt You have "Flags of Our

Capturing the world of the everyday,
one supermarket at a time

Daily Arts Writer
Whether you're walking
through the mall, rushingthrough
a fast-food
line or stroll- Michael
ing through Mier
the park, the Meyers
details of Photo
your life can Exhibit
force you to Now through
stop noticing Oct. 31
the details of
the everyday. At Pierpont Commons
Thankfully, Free
Michael Meyers has not reached
that point.
His exhibit "Familiar Dreams,"
which opened Oct. 12 at Pierpont
Commons and runs through the
end of the month, captures poi-
gnant and satirical moments from
such everyday scenes as a grocery
store, mall, museum, prison and
Katharine Hahn, university
unions program advisor, chose
Meyers's exhibit for his powerful
pictures and unique portrayal of
"His use of value in the con-
trast of black-and-white photos is
extraordinary," Hahn said. "The
composition and subject matter
are well thought out and planned,
but come across as almost seren-
Meyers portrays life in a sim-
ple, sometimes humorous, but all-
around compelling form. "Fresh
Football" presents a deli under-
neath a bulky sign, with a sports
display hanging from the ceiling.
It's unclear what the sign says
because only the word "FRESH"
can be seen, while a huge inflat-
able football perfectly covers up
the second word. His portrait

"Manscape Table" shows a worn
picnic table part-way submerged
in a swampy forest in an other-
wise perfect nature scene.
Meyers feels that our environ-
ment has a conspicuous impact on
daily life.
"The places and things we see
affect how we see ourselves,"
Meyers said in the exhibit's state-
ment, "Familiar Dreams." "Imag-
ery is everywhere, and thanks to
the invention of photography, we
can capture it."
Though many photographers
have resorted to new digitalized
technologies to develop and cre-
ate art, Meyers stands against the
grain with his dark-room-based,
roll-up-your-sleeves aesthetic to
capture images of the world.
"Its easier to manipulate some-
thing through Photoshop," Hahn
said. "He is really using photog-
raphy and the skills of a photog-
rapher, without any computer
program to enhance pictures -
what he takes is what he devel-
But the most impressive aspect
of Meyers's work lies in his uncan-
ny talent for capture natural pat-
tern and texture, regardless of
photography's natural tendency
to flatten and smooth over surfac-
es. In his three photographs sim-
ply titled "Justice One," "Justice
Two" and "Justice Three," Meyers
gives his audience several lonely
scenes of an empty courthouse
and prison. The absence of human
involvement is replaced with the
eerie shadows of walls, cell bars
and the inevitable connotations
of imprisonment that come to the
viewer's mind.
"Justice One" portrays deserted
courtroom benches and scraped
walls, while ominous shadows
cover the seats in various shapes

and patterns.
"Justice Two" shows the pain-
fully secluded corner of a jail cell.
The slanted shadows from the
For Meyers, the
mundane proves
as interesting as
anything else.
window perpendicularly contrast
the bricks on the wall.
In "Justice Three," the shadows
of a jail cell door crisscross with
the wood paneling of the floor,
showing the light of the world out-

side against the desolate dark floor
inside the room. The vertical jail
bars stand' out 4gainst the hori-
zontal shadows sweeping the floor.
Simple and unassuming, Meyers
establishes 4 contemplative juxta-
position between stark reality and
aesthetic compositions.
"In the dialogue between the
visible world and a photograph of
it," Meyers' statement said, "I am
the interpreter aiming the record-
ing device."
Meyers captures instances of
human paradox, beauty and humor
that would normally slip through
the cracks of daily life. While cer-
tainly not original to Meyers, he
effectively forces his audience to
step back and reconsider the world
we live in, encouraging viewers
to acknowledge the nitty-gritty,
when life is at its best.

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