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November 23, 2009 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-11-23

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, November 23, 2009 - 5A

Precociously classy

Carey Mulligan exudes
Oscar-worthy confidence
starring in 'An Education'
By JENNIFER XU
DailyArts Writer
The story of "An Education" can easily be
traced through Carey Mulli-
gan's wardrobe.
At the beginning, she plays
precocious 16-year-old Jenny, An Educatin
waiting on the curb after a
school orchestra rehearsal, At the Michigan
her schoolgirl's uniform sop- and Showcase
ping wet from the rain. An Sony
exciting, older man (Peter
Sarsgaard, "Garden State")
pulls up and offers her a ride, taking her through
a whirlwind romance of glamorous concerts,
art auctions and dazzling seaside vacations. Off
comes the uniform, up goes the hair and on goes
the demure yet sexy black shift.
She sensually embraces her older lover in a
knee-length lilac dress dotted with flowers and
bows. They're in Paris; it's the city of love, and
they're kind of in love. That night, she swirls
around in a floating white chiffon masterpiece
with a streak of red across the shoulders.
Later that night, once she has laid her soul -
and breasts - bare, she has no clothes at all. With
her virginity successfully lost, she has become a
woman - or so she thinks - donning a dignified
brocade sheath stitched with gold piping.
Finally, the film reaches its climax. It turns
out she's not really a woman; she's a girl. "I feel

old, but not very wise," she intonates, her hands
folded across her schoolgirl's skirt, once again
back to the beginning of the story.
It's details like these that make "An Educa-
tion" much more than the typical coming-of-
age blah. if there's anything brilliant about
director Lone Scherfig ("Italian for Begin-
ners"), it's that he knows how to contrast visual
elements, whether clothes or scenes, cutting
decisively between jazzy, electrifying dance
sequences or clipped kitchen table conversa-
tions. Yet the crown jewel of this film is not
its cinematograph', set decoration or even
costume design - it's Carey Mulligan herself.
Incandescent and effervescent, Mulligan's
portrayal and fascinating transformation from
innocent ing6nue to wise woman possesses the
nuances of an actor twice her age.
Ever since the film premiered at the Sundance
Film Festival last January, Mulligan's perfor-
mance has been on the radar for Oscar love. Yet
this isn't a conventional Oscar-baititngrole. Mul-
ligan pulls out a subtle, organic performance
with little drama. Yet there's a genuineness to
the way she speaks and the way she moves - a
genuineness that extends past the fourth wall of
cinema down into the hearts of audiences. It's a
performance you'll be able to feel through all the
pores in your body. Forget golden statues; this is
a role that will be remembered for years to come
- it's that eerily and spookily mesmerizing.
Vreviously only known for her role as Kitty
Bennet in "Pride and Prejudice," Mulligan
takes the audience straight into the film, giv-
ing the viewers a chance to experience the
world through the rose-tinted lenses of her
young character Jenny. In one scene alone, her
eyes can tell histories of emotions: ambition,

desire, wonder, discomfort, excitement, hesi-
tance. In less than two hours she evolves from
giggling schoolgirl to woman of the world and
then back again, and the transformation never
feels forced. Jenny slowly grows more confi-
dent, more beautiful, more worldly and even-
tually more cynical. It's a remarkably textured
performance.
Still, "An Education" never falls into the traps
of this type of film. Set in the time of England's
sexual reawakening, theyoungJennyrepresents
the burgeoning of women's liberation and the
inception of the British New Wave. The coun-
try was growinag up. Even as a youtsg schoolgirl,
Jenny is no blushingdaisy. "All that poetry about
something that lasts no time at all," she quips
about sex. As a girl that exudes sexual self-con-
fidence, Jenny makes her relationship with her
40-year-old lover play out less creepily than it
would otherwise. She's young, but she's no vic-
tim - a refreshing take on a young British girl's
supposed "innocence."
Although it might seem excessive to solely
praise Mulligan's performance in an-otherwise
intoxicating film, "An Education" embraces her
from the inside out. From the solid supporting
roles by seasoned British actors Alfred Molina
('Spider-Man 2"), Dominic Cooper ("The Duch-
ess"), Emma Thompson ("Love Actually") and
Rosamund Pike ("Pride and Prejudice") to the
dizzying cinematography to the exquisite cos-
tumes, all peripheral aspects merely act to orna-
ment the star of Carey Mulligan.
Toward the film's end, Jenny giddily rides a
bike while donning a flowered jumper - a sort
of intermediate between little girl and young
adult. She has bloomed before our eyes. And so
has Carey Mulligan.

The Dirty Birds
clean up nicely
By LEAH BURGIN The album's bookends are particu-
Daily Arts Writer larly strong, gratifying listeners'
expectations to be engaged from
How the Cause Became the beginning to end. The orchestra
Cure mean- tions and lyrics on album opener
ders between "What I Realized" and closer "The
toe-tapping, Problem" are some of the most
high-energy powerful on the entire album.
tunes and TheDity Both tracks are among the most
melodic, croon- Birds upbeat numbers. They're unifiers,
ing orchestral How the weighing down the other tracks
numbers. The and keeping them from rambling
album ebbs and Cause Became away. Furthermore, both songs
flows beneath the Cure reach the middle ground of the
the versatile Self-released album's generic jungle - there is
vocal umbrella not one predominant genre bias in
of Jared Saltiel, eithertrack - allwingthese book-
vocalist, keyboardist and guitarist ends to concisely summarize the
for The Dirty Birds. album's unique collage of styles.
This debut album for The Dirty The fact that The Dirty Birds chose
Birds was partly recorded at Big to place these songs at the begin-
Sky Recordings right here in the ning and at the end further reveals
band's home base, Ann Arbor. a great musical sensibility.
But however strictly midwestern It is equally impressive when an
The Dirty Birds' beginnings may album's cover art perfectly match-
be, their music molds together all es its tone. How the Cause Became
sorts of genres - including jazz, the Cure's cover impeccably suits
pop, folk and rock - into a won- the almost melancholy and subtle
derfully rich sound, deeply layered nature of the album's contents.
but simultaneously subtle. The muted, water-colored hues
The instrumentals for
"Katrina" and "Saudade" show-
case the band's incredible musical
sensibility. Intricate and delicate An album both
guitar and keyboard melodies
deftly intertwine with the string defined and
orchestration, then suddenly erupt
into heart-wrenching and soulful confined by its
crescendos. Such explosions are
always expertly placed - the band delicate balance.
lures listeners into a state of antic-
ipation and flips the switch at the
optimal moment to release a great
deal of musical tension. of a winter scene, dominated by a
This musical sensibility extends solitary and solemn old-fashioned
into the album's lyrics. Though house upon a hill, invite the lis-
bland and unimpressive on paper, tener into The Dirty Birds' fore-
when combined with the musicethe boding haven. The house's many
lyrics transform from nonchalant windows, lit with a sickly greenish
statements into bold proclama- tint, convey the dampened bright-
tions. The tangled love duet "Just ness of the album's sound. This
As Blue" asks, "If there were no house is not only the perfect set-
more air on earth / would I share ting for where an album like this
my last breath with you?" This is may have been born, but also for
a fairly morbid (if not somewhat where this album should ideally be
tired) thought, yet the consistent listened to.
and prevalent drum beats ground How the Cause Became the Cure
the lofty wondering. is incredibly well-balanced. The
Jaunty and jazzy, "Self-Disci- album not only flourishes in pro-
pine" earnestly inquires "So will duction quality, but also in lyrical
somebody please tell me why the and musical terms - by blend-
hell it derails me / every time ing so many genres, the album
the world fails me?" without a becomes virtually genre-less.
single hint of whiny adolescent This, however, is a double-edged
attitude. In fact, the song's heavy sword - with no distinct and
jazz influence turns this com- consistent "feel," there are few
plaint on its head - the poten- situations where someone might
tially petty question becomes a sa, "Man, this is the perfect time
subtle expression of empower- for some Dirty Birds."
ment. The Dirty Birds exhibit an The album is too tame to charge
acute sensitivity to the interac- an atmosphere and too dynamic to
tion between music and lyrics serve as chill background music.
- each lineis crafted beautifully How the Cause Became the Cure
and blends perfectly into the exists in a gorgeous but cursed
surrounding orchestration. musical limbo - if the album
How the Cause Became the Cure were to leave this state, it would
exhibitstwoaspectsofalbumcom- be undone. This delicate balance
pilation that can be hard to master, is what both defines and confines
especially for such a young group. the album.

Bringing a taste of sophistication to TV

By CHRISTINA ANGER
DailyArts Writer
Compared to most dramatic,
trashy and
pathetically ***
rose-bearing
reality televi- Chef Academy
sion, a culi-
nary program Mondays at
can be a glass 10p.m.
of Cabernet Bravo
Sauvignon in
a lineup of double cheeseburgers
and fries.
Bravo, home of arguably the
DON'T LET YOUR
DEVELOPMENT
GET ARRESTED.
WRITE FOR DAILY
TV/NEW MEDIA.
OTHERWISE,
YOU MAY END
UP LOST.
OR BORED TO
DEATH.
E-mail join.artsilumich.edu
for an application.

best cooking show on TV, "Top
Chef," now introduces "Chef
Acddemy," starring French chef
Jean Christophe Novelli. "Chef
Academy" can't replace the
obsession-producing qualities
of "Top Chef" (like underdogs
racing against the clock and an
obscure set of rules); it also lacks
the unnecessary cursing and hell-
ish fear seen in "Hell's Kitchen,"
with Chef Gordon Ramsay single-
handedly discouraging anyone
from wanting to join the restau-
rant business. But in its own way,
"Chef Academy" still promises

entertainment, suspense and anything taste good, but ze food
high-class food. iz ze most important part of the
"Chef Academy" follows Chef show. Dramatic flour explosions
and spittle-laiden bouts of criti-
cism don't take center stage - ze
food does, largely because there's
Taking the no competition. The candidates
can't win or lose, but they're sau-
competition out t ing and chopping to stay in the
h kacademy.
of the kitchen. Chef Novelli embraces his pas-
sion for food. Imagine a barista
in France, overlooking the water,
Novelli on his quest to start a culi- with a glass of vino and a French
nary school in the United States. accent full of chocolaty thickness,
He has an accent that could make See CHEF, Page 7A

41Mict~igant, i!APRESEFN TS
RENTAL 1~
the NLIN CLA SIFI D 00

- U D-IIKU

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