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November 03, 2006 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-11-03

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, November 3, 2006 - 5A

'Death of a President' too
obvious for any success

Daily Arts Writer
The premise of Gabriel Range's
"Death of a President" - a faux-
about the 2007 N A'r
of President Death of a
George w. President
Bush - is as Last week at the
awkward as it Quality 16
is fascinating. Newmarket
It's the WWF of
documentaries: tacky, over-the-top,
phony and totally pointless.
If the film were self-consciously
so, Range might be collecting a
positive review right now. Though
purporting to rally the audience in
communal outrage with its oh-so-
obvious political agenda, it ends up
boring and mildly offensive.
The film opens on the morning
of Bush's murder in downtown Chi-
cago, where the president is set to
give a speech at the Sheraton. When
a furious mob receives the presiden-
tial convoy to protest the war in Iraq
with picket signs and line-sitting
strikes, a few demonstrators break
through the barricades and charge at
the president's limo. The "doc" then
slowly explores every aspect of the
charged atmosphere with interviews

of protesters, cops, the head of secret
service, speech writer and so on.
As the film unfolds, it becomes
clear that it's simply driven by an
overly obvious political message. It's
fairly subtle in the beginning; there
are interspersed, affectionate memo-
rial statements about Bush from
members of his cabinet. But after the
funeral, we are presented only with
the manhunt - a search that targets
and convicts a Syrian Muslim work-
ing in America on the shadiest of
circumstantial evidence in the film's
core indictment of the Patriot Act.
The story's falsehood presents one
key advantage, namely that it has no
constraints in terms of historically
accurate verbiage or lackluster wit-
ness testimonies. But its narrative is
a mess of sloppy footage combined
with longer-than-necessary, mostly
nonessential and not particularly
compelling monologues, and the true
crux of the doc's failure is a techni-
cal issue: its pacing.
I'm not ashamed to admit that
I actually drifted off for about 10
minutes somewhere in the film's
midsection. Not that it mattered, of
course - the same character was
still tediously droning on when I
came to.
The most aggravating of the film's
transgressions ends the fake-umen-

tary: three or four news-update-style
epilogues run just before the credits
roll, the first stating something to the
effect that even though the FBI had
proven the innocence of the Syrian
man convicted of Bush's assassina-
tion, he still sat on death row a year
The second epilogue deals even
more blatantly with the horrors of
the Patriot Act, illustrating how the
Political filmmaking
of the most
irrelevant order.
government now has unprecedented
interference rights in the lives of
American citizens.
First off, the idea of a fake docu-
mentary having epilogues is posi-
tively absurd. They serve only as
last-minute, cop-out, I'll-make-
missed-it-the-first-16-times devices.
But they make an appropriate end to
this narrative fiasco.
What better way to conclude a bor-
ing, oppressive, clumsily moralizing
fake documentary than by insulting
the viewer's intelligence?

The look. It's the first step toward a Pulitzer.

Omens and prose

It's been a long time since a writer caused such a
clamor in Ann Arbor. The Rackham Amphitheatre,
where a Pulitzer prize-winning
novelist gave his lecture yesterday, Jeffrey
was filled to capacity well before Eugenides
the event's 5 p.m. starting time. Thursday
Crowds of people filled the foyer tackday
and crushed themselves close to Apiacte
the entry doors where they were
sadly turned away. Still others were led into a neigh-
boring conference room to watch the lecture on an
unfriendly television screen.
Ann Arbor evidently has a lot of love for Jeffrey
His lecture, "On Obstacles and Omens: The Writing
of 'Middlesex,"' was quite a draw. He's gained a solid
following since writing "Middlesex, " "The Virgin Sui-
cides" and many works of short fiction.
Despite his successes, Eugenides has no qualms
about the hard work that goes into writing a novel. He
claims that often people who approach him express
their desire to have written a novel themselves, though
they haven't been able to find the time. "That's like say-
ing I've always wanted to play center court atrWimble-
don, butI haven't gotten around to it,"' he said jokingly.
The Detroit-born author said that the initial spark of
inspiration for "Middlesex" came after he read Michel
Foucault's "Memoirs of a 19th Century French Herm-
pahrodite." While he was intrigued by the story, he
felt that the main character didn't disclose the kind of
information or emotions that he was desperate to learn
about. "I wanted to tell the story that I wasn't getting
from Foucault."
Eugenides had very specific ideas about his protago-

nist. "I wanted to write about a real person with a real
biological condition," he said, "Someone who lived on
both sides of the great gender divide." After searching
the medical library at Columbia University, Eugenides
found an intersex condition that he found tobe particu-
larly dramatic. He then considered the idea that would
ultimately lead him to the "roller coaster ride of a single
gene trough time" that begins "Middlesex" and shapes
its story.
The question of gender interests Eugenides.
"We are all an 'I' before we are 'he' or 'she,' "he said.
In "Middlesex" he sought to "champion identities
that are hybridized and mixed. And to do that, often
you have to go to places where they are not." The plac-
es he speaks of are cities like Berlin and Detroit, both
divided and reunited cities that figure prominently in
the novel.
Eugenides also spoke of number of "omens" that he
experienced while writing"Middlesex."For example,in
writing the description of Cal Stephanides's grandpar-
ents, Eugenides drew from a memory of his own grand-
parents who he had seen in a rolled-up old photograph
years ago. The day he wrote this description, a package
arrived by mail from his mother. Inside was the very
photograph he had been remembering, smoothed and
pressed into a frame. After every portentous moment he
revealed, the audience "oohed," whispered and hushed
themselves in nervous adulation.
Jeffrey Eugenides had an inkling that he might be
destined for literary greatness years ago, where he and
his wife looked up their astrological compatibility in
a love guide. He said that their combined horoscope
indicated that his Scorpio wife would "bring out his
creative side," and help him win a Pulitzer. Whether he
has received any premonitions regarding his future or
not, it's safe to say that his tour as a literary giant is far
from over.

TEEe tshi'wtV
Rudes to shine in Twelfth Night'

Although the Royal Shakespeare
Company is currently holding court
in Ann Arbor, by no means are they
the only group
dedicated to per- Twelfth
forming Shake- Night
speare's plays. Tonight and
We've had one for tomorow at
the past decade. 8 p.m., Sunday
Ever since they at 1:30 p.m.
were founded in At the Lydia
1996, the Uni- Mendolssohn
versity's Rude Tboatre
Mechanicals have been dedicated
to providing theater experience

to students who do not necessar-
ily hail from the Music School. And
their productions are not limited
to Shakespeare's works; past non-
Shakespeare selections include T.S.
Eliot's Pulitzer-winning "Murder in
the Cathedral."
Recently, the Rudes puton a more
than solid production of Shake-
speare's often-marginalized "A
Winter's Tale."
Last year, the Rudes broke prec-
edent with their production of
"Macbeth," which sold out the Men-
delssohn Theatre two consecutive
nights (in which, in interest of full
disclosure, I was a cast member).
With several of the usual sus-

pects in charge of "Twelfth Night,"
beginning tonight at 8 p.m., audi-
ences should expect a solid run of
The Ann Arbor
air is ripe for
It will be interesting to see how
the Rudes interpret the compli-
cated character dynamics found in
"Twelfth Night." But if precedent
has any say in the matter, they
should be all right.

Gain real world experience at

vineyard vines"

Come by and pick up an application at the
Student Publications Building TODAY!!
Student Publications Building /
413 E. Huron
Applications Due: November 14, 2006
Call 734-764-0554 for more information

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