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March 09, 2009 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, March 9, 2009 - 5A

Surrealism
slices eyeballs

A graphic, novel film
'Watchmen'succeeds simply on the strength
of its source material
By Blake Goble I Daily Arts Writer w

Gigantic melting watches in
a barren, desert landscape
can only mean one thing:
surrealism. Dali's 1931 painting The
Persistence of Memory is probably
the first thing that comes to mind
when imagining the odd, character-
istically trippy
imagery of sur-
realists. This
idea of using
bizarre imagery
as a counterpoint
to conventional
perceptions of 'wINEY
reality was point- PW
ed at obliquely in
"Un chien andalou"
("An Andalusian Dog"), a film Dali
and prolific filmmaker Luis Bunuel
collaborated on in 1929.
In this short film's opening
scene, a man smokes the stub of a
cigarette as he sharpens a straight
razor. When he steps outside onto
a balcony, a woman's face suddenly
appears in his hands. He stretches
open her left eyelid gently with his
fingers, and then he slowly runs the
razor blade across her bare eyeball,
splitting it open upon contact. The
contents of her eye ooze all over her
white skin: the lens, the iris, the
whites; all a translucent jelly.
I've watched this film at least
three times in my film theory
classes, and I haven't yet been able
to sit through it without cringing.
The beginning sequence serves
as a warning about the rest of the
film, which contains unbelievable
imagery including dead donkeys
stuck inside of grand pianos that
are beingpulled by priests and
live ants crawling out of a hole in a
man's hand.
Dali and Bufluel seem to say, in
those unsettling first 30 seconds,
that they are slitting your eyeball;
they are taking your comfortable
view of reality and maiming it with
the film's unsettling imagery and
subversive themes. For example,
the priests trying to pull the dead
donkeys (they are, ultimately,
unable to ud ge the awkward )oad)
could be commentingop the futile
purpose of mainstream religion and
faith. This subversiveness was just
as impottant to surrealisms as its
incredible imagery.
Pixies song "Debaser" pays hom-
age to this particular Dali film.
Frontman Black Francis howls,
voice as scratchy as sandpaper, "Got
me a movie /I want you to know
/ Slicing up eyeballs / I want you
to know ... Don't know about you /
but I am un chien Andalusia." This
surrealist ideology seems to have
been adopted and respected by the
likes of the now-legendary rock
band at the turn of the '90s, where,
similar to the song's title, the band
attempts to debase the idea of real-
ity in its music.
This surrealist theme echoes in
songs like "Wave of Mutliation,"
where the lyrics cryptically map
out odd beach landscapes that one
might be able to find in a Dali paint-
ing: "I've kissed mermaids, rode the
El Nifio /Walked the sand with the
crustaceans / Could find my way to
Mariana / on a wave of mutilation."
What does this mean? The imagery

might be solid and tangible (versus
the cloudy ether of some Radiohead
songs, like "Sail to the Moon": "I
sucked the moon / I spoke too soon
/ And how much did it cost?"), but
the presence of solid images doesn't
require that meaning is obviously
inherent in them.
Surrealism is really a mental-
ity more than an aesthetic. It's the
idea of subverting expectation and
making audiences realize that what
is not immediately present in their
consciousness is really there with
them, lurking behind their eyelids.
The "sur" in surreal alludes to that
which is on a plane above reality.
And giving voice to these hidden
impulses and inclinations through
surrealism is not only somewhat
scary and unsettling to internal-
ize, but it also reveals, to a certain
extent, the untamable qualities of
the id (if I may indulge in Freudian
terms).
Strange and irrational imagery
can create meaning and under-
standing through the id, accord-
ing to surrealists. This, if you
think about it, is the purpose of
Dead donkeys
are subversive.
the Rorschach print - to bring
out mental associations that arise
from our subconscious minds. A
butterfly-type pattern on a print
might take you back to fields of
honeysuckle, but it could also
bring to mind allusions to bloody
"butterflied" meat. Either way,
these interpretations lend expres-
sion to what is behind our reali-
ties: our inner minds, the ones
of which we are not completely
aware, and the ones that are not
consciously perceptible or con-
nected with the outside world.
While at times slightly disturb-
ing and unsettling, surrealism still
bought about amzing advances of
innovative films and visual art dur-
ingthe 20th century. Keep in mind
that Dali was active in the early
'1h00s, just foIosing the period
where the impressionists had fin-
ished muddling their shoes in poin-
talism and tossing photorealism by
the wayside; the surrealist move-
ment was way ahead of its time.
We could not have landmark
films like Guillermo del Toro's
"Pan's Labyrinth," with its odd,
dreamlike themes and imagery,
or self-portraits by Frida Kahlo,
where vines grow around her
neck and a monkey sits on her
shoulder, without surrealism. We
wouldn't even have albums like
Pink Floyd's The Wall (and its
ensuing film adaptation) without
there first being the idea of sur-
realism as an aesthetic, and, more
importantly, a way of thinking.
These works of art have all been
slicing up eyeballs for years, one
eye at a time.
Pow is writing a sequel to "Un
chien andalou." E-mail ideas to
her at poww@umich.edu

For those who have devoured
"Watchmen" in book form, noting

and nitpicking the
intricacies of Dave
Gibbons and Alan
Moore's graphic
opus is unavoid-
able. It's !exhaust-
ing to compare
the comic with
Zack Snyder's
new adaptation,
but many folks

Watchmen
At Quality16
and Showcase
Waner Bros.
and Paramount

haven't read the book and will see
this film free of the burden of expec-
tations, leaving one wondering how
"Watchmen" will be received by the
uninitiated. But the real dilemma
lies not in the audience, but the
filmmakers' intentions.
"Watchmen" is a canonical book
already legendary in its legitimiza-
tion of the comic genre and a Hugo-
winning work Time magazine
called one of the "100 best novels
from 1923-present." It's already a
visual masterpiece, and there's no
real need for a film version. But it
entices nonetheless.
Always engrossing but not quite
satisfying, Snyder's "Watchmen"
is a divisive experience. First pub-
lished in 1986, the "Watchmen"
comic series is the intricate saga of
an alternate '80s and its "heroes."
Masked vigilantes are banished by
a fifth-term Richard Nixon, and the

flawed members of the Watchmen
are deconstructed in the face of
crisis. At the very surface, "Watch-
men" is about the reunion of these
heroes in the wake of a former col-
league's death.
The death prompts former
Watchman Rorschach (Jackie Earle
Haley, "Little Children"), a bor-
derline psychopath, to investigate
and warn his old team of possible
foul play. Among the disbanded
group, The Nite Owl (Patrick Wil-
son, "Lakeview Terrace") is a
wannabe Batman suffering from
impotency and insecurity brought
on from retirement. Silk Spectre
(Malin Akerman, "27 Dresses")
is the token female, forced into
tights by her mother. She dates Dr.
Manhattan (Billy Crudup, "Almost
Famous"), the only member with
actual powers. A naked, blue, deific
figure, Manhattan is the product of
"intrinsic field subtraction." He can
see past, present and future at the
same time, while turning bad guys
into a million gory pieces with the
flick of a wrist. And he's incredibly
emotionless. Those are just the most
present characters - to go further
would probably spoil everything.
Snyder ("300") slaves to pres-
ent images with a Holy Grail sense
of fidelity, giving the audience a
comprehensive experience. Second
viewings might be necessary, as

"Shit. The costume department forgot the eye holes!

"Watchmen" is a film about detail.
Snyder wisely lingers in countless
shots, focusing on the minutiae of
the character's lives. Papers, photos,
buttons, apartments and numerous
other items become entire stories to
themselves, and it's truly effective.
The Nite Owl's gadgets and
underground lair perfectly encap-
sulate the hero's need to remember
his former glory, but the lair's dusti-
ness forces him to remain stagnant.
Rorschach's lava lamp-like mask is
a work of art in itself. It's a shame
Snyder loves slow motion, which he
liberally employs in the inevitable
action and sex scenes.
The movie succeeds because of
the richness of the source material,
and that's what makes "Watchmen"
worthwhile. When Snyder steps in
and slings gratuitous extremities (a
guy's arms get sawed off), the expe-
rience is slightly demeaned.

Attempting to condense the
original 12 issues of the comic,
the movie feels rushed and needs
breathing room. Surely, slow
motion isn't the only way to notice
the little drop of blood falling onto
a smiley face button. in, the end
there's a bigger story, but "Watch-
men" is about all the small stuff,
which is engaging regardless of
previous attachments.
The filmmakers shouldn't be
credited with making the best
presentation of "Watchmen." The
whole thing was already perfect in
1986. See "Watchmen" and enjoy it,
but consider just reading the origi-
nal inseand

Dogg After Dark' has no class, no substance

By CAROLYN KLARECKI
Daily Arts Writer
Though Snoop Dogg was once a prominent
pop culture figure boasting a
successful career as a rap star
and even making surprising
strides in acting and produc- Dogg After
ing, it's clear that his days as an
A-list celebrity are over. Unfor- Dark
tunately, Snoop refuses to slip. Tuesdays
into the abyss without a fight at 9 p.m.
and feels compelledto produce MTV
MTV's "Dogg After Dark."
The osries is part talk show,
part sketch comedy, part musical showcase and
completely terrible. For a half hour, Snoop Dogg
walks around a club, makes awkward small-talk
with tabloid figures, fails at making offensive
subjects funny and holds musical performances
with the worst sound quality imaginable. During
this time, he desperately tries to convince view-
ers he's still relevant by thrusting his celebrity
friendships into the spotlight.
The show promises interviews with celeb-
rities, but those interviews end up as nothing
more than Snoop Dogg standing next to some-

one famous assuring everyone howtight they are
and making his "subject" visibly uncomfortable.
When the victims of these "interviews" do speak,
it's inaudible, due to the fact the show is hosted in
a club and the sound crew apparently sucks at its
job. During the rare occasions where it's possible
to determine what people are saying, the conver-
sations are boring and irrelevant.
The awful setup of the interviews could pos-
sibly have been remedied by Snoop Dogg getting
more prominentgpeys.tgt pqoe wants to hear
Paris Hilton freestyle rap or listento Spencer and
Heidi of "The Hills" pretend to argue so Snoop
Dogg can play marriage counselor.
But the conversations with Snoop Dog s}
celebrity friends aren't even the worst part of
the show. Snoop attempts to humorize some-
what sensitive issues and simultaneously show-
case his not-so-noteworthy acting skills through
short comedy skits during the show. The skits
are drawn out to a ridiculous length and Snoop
Dogg's acting is completely dreadful. The sketch-
es lose all possible humor and, as a result, those
that were meant to satirize racial stereotypes and
the objectification of women just end up perpetu-
ating these negative generalizations.
The premiere of "Dogg After Dark" ended

with musical performances by Pharrell Williams
and Kid Cudi. It was impossible to tell if these
performances were any good because the sound
was again mostly inaudible. It shouldn't be crazy
to assume a show producedby a successful musi-
cian would not only have decent sound quality,
Snoop: struggling to
get back on the A-list.
but wouidalso have a respectable thinesong
rather than the repetition of the three title words
in varying order to Kenny G-style saxophone
music. Snoop is visibly - and audibly - losing his
touch.
Snoop Dogg's quest to reclaim his relevance
produces what could only be called a complete
mess. Evidence of low production value is seen
in everything from the terrible (or sheer lack
of) writing to the shoddy technical execution. If
"Dogg After Dark" succeeds as a show, it's only
because audiences are mesmerized by how ter-
rible television programming can be.

for more information call 734/615-6449
The University of Michigan College of Literature,
Science, and the Arts presents a
public lecture and reception

Monday, March 9, 2009
Alumni Center, Founders Room
4:10pm

LSA

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