The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Wednesday, March 4, 2009 - 5A
Trail of Dead rises
on 'Century of Self'
Animated war: still pretty bad.
*Waltzing with perfection
Ari Folman triumphs with own memories of what happened during the Regardless of personal politics, any compas-
Sabra and Shatila massacre. sionate individual who sees this film will still be
an animated documentary Perhaps Folman is only fabricating his haunted by the final frames long after the cred-
memory loss to propel the story, but perhaps it its roll, and will form an instant bond with the
that transcends reality doesn't matter. With its combination of Flash IDF soldiers who bore witness to the tragedy
animation and 3D technology, "Waltz" does for firsthand.
By ANDREW LAPIN animated films what Art Spiegelman's "Maus" Today, many claim the IDF was nothing but
Daily Film Editor did for graphic novels. It's a bold declaration of a group of inhuman monsters to take no action
- the untapped cultural significance offered by a against the Lebanese militants during the mas-
Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, as explored serious work done in the genre. sacre. But the film doesn't allow us to think one
in Israeli writer-director Ari Folman's phenom- There is a stark originality in the way that way or the other: In an early scene, a group of
enal documentary "Waltz with Bashir," was by "Waltz with Bashir" has essentially perfected soldiers encounters a militant boy with an RPG
many accounts a disaster. The a new genre of filmmaking: animated docu- launcher. The boy, a preteen, shoots their tank
goal of the Israeli Defense ***** mentary. Previous stabs at the technique, like and kills those inside, provoking the soldiers to
Forces was to wipe out the Brett Morgen's "Chicago 10," were more tech- open fire and kill him. Anyone who says there
violent Islamic militant fac- Waltz with nical experiments than fully realized films. is a logical approach to this series of events is
tions that thrived among the The transcendent brilliance of "Waltz" is that a liar. Robotic detachment is the only response
civilians of Beirut and other the animation is a means to an end, not the end that allows the IDF to keep its grip on sanity.
major Lebanese cities, but the At the itself. The postmodern structure recreates Leb- Though judging by the dreams the film's inter-
operation spiraled out of con- Michigan anon in the heat of battle, as filtered through the viewees are still haunted with today, it may be
trol following an unpredict- Sony minds of college-aged men. Their dreams, aspi- a very lax grip.
able series of events. rations and raging hormones mix freely into the "Waltz" is more than just a war film. It coolly
Lebanon's beloved presi- saga of violence and destruction. These are men deconstructs the personal and the politicaluntil
dent-elect Bashir Gemayel was assassinated by a who have grown up in a land of constant con- there is nothing left: no meaning, no motivation,
Syrian radical, and, as a response, furious Leba- flict, told to fire weapons at innocent civilians no silver lining to the cloud of destruction. Fol-
nese militiamen invaded the Sabra and Shatila because the enemies hide among them. They man breaks the Arab-Israeli conflict away from
refugee camps to murder hundreds of innocent can no longer see reality as they once knew it, the media's torrent of buzzwords and finds the
Palestinian refugees. Israeli soldiers guarding and neither can the audience. emotional truth that can only be told through
the internment camps made no effort to stop the one soldier pretended he was viewing every- the surrealism of animation. The IDF turned
killings, prompting worldwide outrage. thing through a camera, convincing himself a blind eye on the Sabra and Shatila massacre
"Waltz With Bashir" may be an animated that the dead bodies he saw were part of a movie - an injustice that will forever haunt Folman
film, but it tackles the subject with utmost sin- instead of the results of his own actions (much and all the film's interviewees. But recollection
cerity. Using real interviews with former IDF like how the distance between the audience and can be cathartic, and in sharing all their stories
soldiers as his narrative thread, Folman - him- the screen in a movie theater absolves viewers with the world, the makers of"Waltz" may have
self one of the Israeli soldiers who stood guard of any emotions projected by the film). In the achieved a rare artistic miracle.
over the refugee camps - recreates actual movie's closing minutes, Folman subverts the Their stories, their pain and their nightmares
events from the war alongside surreal dream commpon desire to filter information by suddenly are now ours as well, and out of the darkness
sequences in his attempts to piece together his presenting viewers with harsh, brutal reality. can shine a new hope for peace.
By JEFF SANFORD
Daily Arts Writer
Cymbals crash hysterically, gui-
tars shriek as if
strummed by a vio-
lent mental patient
with rhythm, ...And You
snares snap like
crushed limbs, Will KfoW
ragged vocals bel- Us by the
low in and just Trail of Dead
barely hold it all
together - such is The Century
the nature of Tex- of Self
as's ...And You Will Jtice
Know Us by the
Trail of Dead.
Formed over a decade ago, Trail
of Dead has harnessed this anar-
chy to deliver album after album
of unmatched ferocity. Balancing
the mania with a softer side replete
with piano balladry and mid-tempo
romps, the band has enjoyed a com-
fortable degree of success, perhaps
culminating with 2002's highly cel-
ebrated (bordering on worshiped)
Source Tags £t Codes.
With their subsequent albums,
Trail of Dead hasn't come close to
matching the greatness displayed
on Source Tags. Worlds Apart and So
Divided were both dogged by unre-
alized ambition, and it seemed the
band was barreling down a slippery
slope to mediocrity. The Century of
Self is still no Source Tags, but it's
the group's strongest effort since
and proves they are still a relevant
force in the realm of rock music.
Never minimalists, the band is
true to form here, delivering an
album that abounds with drama
and energy. Each song is written on
a grand scale, resulting in 13 mini-
epics ranging from hyper-aggres-
sive to lilting. Even the 50-second
instrumental "An August Theme"
invokes images of a "Lord of the
Rings"-type battle sequence.
After the triumphantintro "Giants
Causeway," feedback explodes into
the punk-inspired chaos of "Far
Pavilions." With this and the next
track, "Isis Unveiled," Trail of Dead
gets back to the raw intensity that's
been missing from their work since
Source Tags. Lead singer Conrad
Keely'svoice howls and strains while
drums are banged unmercifully -
the band is at its unrestrained best.
The crushing, chanting breakdown
in "Isis," a highlight of the record,
gradually dissolves into a small hiss
and then suddenly bursts again into
a hailstorm of noise.
"Halcyon Days" stirs up some
more racket, but its lack of momen-
tum makes it too tedious to make
much of an impact. The band even-
tually brings things down a notch,
if only briefly, with "Bells of Cre-
ation." The song twists and turns
over a repeating piano chord as gui-
tar stabs shower the steady backbeat
with distortion, making it one of the
more memorable tracks.
The second half of the record
sees the band expanding its artis-
tic scope, but sags in terms of ener-
gy and quality (except for "Fields
of Coal," which sounds like a sea
shanty written by the Sex Pistols).
"Ascending" and "Insatiable (One)"
are overwrought and lack the inspi-
ration with which the rest of the
album buzzes. "Pictures of an Only
Child" relies on a climactic chorus
that's just a bit too flat and half-
hearted to get off the ground. The
sense that the band is simply going
through the motions plagues the
The Century of Self is filled with
Trail of Dead's characteristic
chapped-ass energy and baroque
sensationalism. It's the best thing
they've done in several years. But
with the bar having been set excep-
tionally high with Source Tags, the
new album is simply too unfocused
and scattershot to deliver the band
from the gigantic shadow of its
previous glory. They remain in the
shade for now.