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Friday, February 5, 2010 - 5

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Friday, February 5, 2010 - 5

sees the light

"Maybe if you stopped hiding things like this from me, we could let you out of the garage more often."
Gibson's dull 'Edge'

Derivative story and
execution taint Mel's
return to the screen
Daily Arts Writer
Imagine you're spending the day at an
amusement park. You've already been
on a couple awesome rollercoasters. One
had four loops in a row.
Another had a 90-foot
vertical drop. The third
ride, however, creaks
along at about five
miles an hour. There DarkeSS
are no twists, no turns, At Quality16
no loops, no shocks. It
wasn't a memorable ride, and Showcase
but hey, at least you're Water Bros.
not at work or in class.
The same is true of "Edge of Darkness,"
Mel Gibson's first starring vehicle since
2002's "Signs." In "Darkness," Mel repris-
es his patented anguished dad role from
"Ransom" and "The Patriot." He kills some
anonymous bad guys, and narrative incon-
sistencies are largely ignored. You'll be
perfectly content to watch how the events
unfold; -you just won't-eare why they're
Mel is Boston detective Thomas Craven.
After his daughter takes a fatal shotgun
blast to the guts, Craven begins the inves-
tigation assuming the hit was intended for
him. He soon realizes that his daughter
was working for a company with shady
business practices and sets out to avenge
her death and bring down the evil dudes

with a conviction that only a grieving
father can possess.
It's not entirely surprising that "Dark-
ness" would color so completely within the
lines, as it's helmed by Martin Campbell.
Campbell struck creative gold with 2006's
"Casino Royale," but has otherwise deliv-
ered a career filled with standard action
fare. He seems to value simplicity and clar-
ity over all other artistic tenets of filmmak-
ing: His camera moves in straight lines,
his editing is conventional and the per-
formances he gets from his actors clearly
separate hero from villain without much
engagement from the audience. These
things do not unmake a film - they merely
inhibit its reach.
Case in point: the opening of "Dark-
ness." The viewer sees grainy home video
footage of Craven's daughter as a toddler.
There's a timestamp in the corner of the
screen. The daughter addresses the cam-
era as "Daddy," so we know Craven is the
one filming her. But there's no cut to cur-
rent Mel watching it on his TV. There's no
off-screen dialogue about how it's time
to put the camera down. The scene sim-
ply switches to Craven at the train station
waiting for his now-adult daughter (Bojana
Novakovic, "Drag Me to Hell"). There's no
indication that this footage exists for any
-other-reason than to flatly-and lazily edu-
cate the audience of Craven's love for his
This indolent footage is rendered fur-
ther useless by the validity of Mel's pained
performance. Few leading men can deliv-
er the blank face of loss like Mel, and his
admirable delivery conflicts with one of
the central problems of the film.
"Darkness" continually flips its emo-

tional output like a new driver alternating
between the gas and brakes. Cravenbreaks
into an apartment and has a body-slam
contest with the man inside, but imme-
diately thereafter stands solemnly in his
daughter's room, contemplating the brev-
ity of her life.
Compare such a sudden contrast with
the strength of the scenes in which Cra-
ven hallucinates that he's communicating
with a younger version of his daughter -
far more believable than the magical home
The second crippling error is Jedburgh,
the character played by Ray Winstone
("Beowulf"). Jedburgh is some sort of
shady federal cleaner whose every action is
above the law. He converses publicly with
both Craven and the ever-growing laundry
list of bad guys, from CEOs to senators to
CIA operatives, without any fear for his
security. It's never clear who he works
for, what his motivations are or what his
purpose is besides the maintenance of the
plot even when he, not Mel, concludes the
volatile events of the film. It's an enor-
mous oversight and an aggravating deus
ex machina, and the character is not even
close to being effective.r
"Edge of Darkness" could have been
worlds better. The loss of a child is a
bottomless,-well-of drama upon-which
filmmakers can draw and find new per-
spectives. Though Mel demonstrates
his own grasp of such drama, the film
around him alters its course at inoppor-
tune moments, leaving the viewer ulti-
mately apathetic to his behavior. And
speaking of Mel's behavior, if you're
worried about it, don't be. The film is
100-percent kosher.

Daily Arts Writer
Charlotte Gainsbourg was born to
make music. The songstress and occa-
sional actress is the daughter of two of
the 20th century's most
gifted European artists,
giving her the genes and w
the connections to fruit- iOtte
fully pursue her own
creative endeavors. Her GHlsbouI
father, the late French IRM
pop singer Serge Gains- Because Music
bourg, was one of the
most exalted figures in
the '70s Parisian rock scene. Charlotte's
mother Jane Birkin is equally talented,
renowned for her own musical and direc-
torial pursuits and as a frequent collabo-
rator with Serge.
With such a formidable artistic pedi-
gree, it's surprising that IRM, Gains-
bourg's most recent effort, is only her
third full-length album. The album and its
2006 predecessor, 5:55, follow a 20-year
gap in the singer's recording history. Per-
haps apprehensive of endless compari-
sons to her parents, Gainsbourg spent her
formative years pursuing creative works
outside the realm of music, before finally
returning to her singingcareer. Produced
- and almost entirely written - by Beck,
her latest record is an engaging collabora-
tion of talent and a testament to Gains-
bourg's own artistic roots.
A near fatality inspired Gainsbourg to
record her latest album. After a minor fall
while water-skiing, she suffered a brain
hemorrhage that nearly killed her. In
the ensuing months, Gainsbourg became
increasingly preoccupied with her recov-
ery, undergoing a series of magnetic reso-
nance imaging (MRI) scans to check on
her brain's recuperation. This brush with
death jolted the singer toward a period of
artistic creation, which led her to collabo-
rate with musical virtuoso Beck.
Drawing inspiration from the MRI's
hissing distortion, the record is an atmo-
spheric wonder that touches upon various
disparate genres, from rugged blues to
Francophone balladsto angstyrock'n'roll.
The album's title, IRM, is the French ver-
sion of MRt. While Beck's influence is
clearly present, Gainsbourg dominates
throughout and the album is decidedly
her own work.
A simplistic banjo chord opens the
album on first -thack "Master's Hand."
Despite the song's bluesy feel, it hardly
defines the rest of the record. Oscillat-
ing between Gainsbourg's breathy whis-
pers and distorted vocals, the song adds a

spark of experimentation to an otherwise
uncomplicated track.
The succeeding track, "IRM," takes
the album in an entirely different direc-
tion. Drawing inspiration from the
album's namesake MRI soundwaves,
this abrasive cut alternates between jar-
ring electro-scratches and Gainsbourg's
steady voice before erupting into a pure
atmospheric haze. The sharp juxta-
position of these introductory tracks
signals the album's diversity, prepar-
ing the listener for an electronic-tinged
trip through various musical genres.
Although the varied mix of styles can
feel abrupt at times, it allows the two art-
ists to explore the depth of their creative
The remaining cuts off of IRM exem-
plify Gainsbourg's and Beck's willing-
ness to experiment within the confines of
established musical genres. From boom-
ing rocker chords ("Trick Pony") to heav-
ily distorted sonics ("Greenwich Mean
Time") to wistful balladry ("In The End"),
the work crosses into various musical
planes, relying on Beck's inspired direc-
tion to guide the path. The two artists col-
laborate directly on the cutesy "Heaven
Can Wait," featuring a spirited duet that
recalls some of Elliott Smith's more opti-
mistic efforts.
Art from a near-
death experience.
The brooding "Le Chat Du Cafe Des
Artistes" is the sole song written entire-
ly by Gainsbourg. Sung in her native
French, the track combines her flut-
tery vocals with sharp strings, evoking
a caustic tension between the singer and
the instrument. Lacking Beck's signa-
ture electro-beats and distorted touches,
the track is drastically different from
IRM's remaining selections. Nonetheless,
Gainsbourg's exquisite voice still radiates
-without these embellishments, proving
that Beck's absence isn't necessarily a
On her latest album, Gainsbourg has
finally cut away from her parents' legacy
and now stands as a musician in her own
right. While Beck's participation in IRM
is evident throughout, Gainsbourg's voice
gives the album life and stands as its most
important element. By exploring a multi-
plicity of genres, Gainsbourg has branded
herself as a multifaceted musician with
enormous potential.

Laughing at death's door

Midlake goes green on 'Courage'

Daily Arts Writer
Theater is at its best when it can make
you die from laughter and maybe even laugh
at death. Tackling the issues of death and
the media's response to
it, the dark comedy "After After Ashley
Ashley," a play presented
by student-run theater Tonight
organization Basement at7 p.m.
Arts, successfully accom- and 11 p.m.,
plishes these two tasks in tomorrow
a sensitive and thought- at 7 p.m.
provoking piece. Walgreen
"After Ashley," writ- Drama Center
ten by Gina Gionfriddo, Free
follows the life of Jus-
tin Hammond, a teenager whose mother
Ashley has been brutally murdered. Ham-
mond's story focuses on his grief follow-
ing his mother's murder, juxtaposed with
how the media covers the tragedy.
"What it focuses on is how in our
culture the media has become a tool of
exploitation for tragedy. If something
terrible happens to a family, it becomes
everybody's issue. The whole nation
knows about it, and it gives people an
opportunity to adopt other people's trag-
edies," said director Emilie Samuelsen, a
Music, Theatre & Dance junior.
"You hear about a terrible news story,
and you feel bad. On the surface, you
(empathize), but when it gets deeper,
what you're really doing is taking some-
one else's tragedy and pretending it's
your own. That's kind of what the show
explores," she added.
"After Ashley" also revolves around
a memoir Hammond's father writes to
honor his deceased wife. However, the
father's portrayal of Ashley causes con-
flict within his son.
"It also deals with how people are
remembered after they have passed
away. One of the main frustrations that
(Justin) deals with is that everyone is
remembering his mother as this saintly,
cartoon version of who she was, instead
of recognizing her flaws and shortcom-
ings," Samuelsen said. "Is it better that we
remember them as these sugar-coated,
rose-colored versions of themselves or
should we remember them for who they

are despite their flaws?"
Samuelsen's point brings to mind recent
celebrity deaths. The faces of Michael
Jackson and Brittany Murphy were plas-
tered all over the Internet and dominated
the news upon their deaths. Despite their
eclectic media lives before their deaths,
Jackson's and Murphy's careers were por-
trayed in an extremely positive light upon
their passing. We weren't told to remem-
ber them for both their fortes and their
failings. This notion of looking favorably
upon the dead is just one of the concepts
that "After Ashley" seeks to explore.
So, as opening day approaches, how do
the cast and crew feel about bringing the
play to the stage?
"Everyone is really excited. The thing
about doing a theatrical production is that it
is stressful because it's a lot of pressure and
work, buteveryone is so invested in the proj-
ect that even though you are overwhelmed,
you are happy to be so," Samuelsen said.
Samuelsen hopes that students will
come and see the play for many reasons.
"Everybody loves a dark comedy," she
said. "It's the perfect balance between
funny and heartbreaking because it is
dealing with death. The characters are
Staging the media's
portrayal of death.
so smart and the dialogue is so sharp that
even though you are watching small, inti-
mate interactions between two or three
people, it's such smart conversation that it
really holds your attention. It makes you
think about things that you'd never con-
sider before."
Samuelsen's personal investment in the
performance is evident from her enthusi-
"For me, that's one of the main reasons
that I love theater, because what you're
doing is you're watching these stories
unfold that make you reconsider things in
your own life," she said. "Shows don't nec-
essarily aim to change how you live your
life, but what they want to do is make you
think about how you live your life."

He h
ing d
in th
the si
in D
all th
the T

By EMMA GASE tric guitars for an all-around
For the Daily denser production. Rather than
drawing listeners in with vivid
dlake lead singer Tim visions of early settlers-rough-
must be some kind of ing it in the woods, The Courage
e freak. ofOthers holds off on the details
as writ- both lyrically and musically,
songs attempting to connect,butnever
chas- Midlake quite getting there. Midlake
leer off seems to be lost in the woods
and The Courage this time around
a rus- of Others Tracks like "Core of Nature"
pioneer Bella Union and "Winter Dies" ponder phil-
ie 19th osophical man-versus-earth
ry. His issues in slow, dark minor key
titles have ranged from settings. Smith's dusky tenor
imple "Branches" to the is buried beneath the mix and
descriptively named affected with a new droning
iing After Deer." Based quality that lacks inflection. On
enton, Texas, Midlake "Small Mountain," it isn't dif-
ished its tree-hugging, ficult to picture Smith singing
hunting reputation with with his mouth barely moving
s The Trials of Van Occu- as the vocals murmur on monot-
er, a wonderfully crafted onously.
that waxes poetic on Even so, Midlake has
ings woodsy and of-the- matured considerably. Cour-
. After a long four years, age is evidence of a band with a
exas quintet followed up firm grasp of its musical direc-
The Courage of Others, tion, even if the end result may
pursues the same vein as not be too warm or inviting. The

ness for greatness. A few songs
do stand out, however, namely
the single "Acts of Man," which
leads in with a medieval-sound-
ing guitar and reaches the most

Van Occupanther, but without
the enchanting and visual qual-
ity of its predecessor.
If Van Occupanther is Stevie
Nicks-era Fleetwood Mac, then
The Courage of Others is the
band's homage to Jethro Tull.
Courage wouldn't sound out
of place in King Henry VIII's
court, or even as the soundtrack
to "A Midsummer Night's
Dream" - all that's missing is a
Instead of understated key-
boards, harmonies and acoustic
guitars, Midlake has altered its
sound to include sampled wood-
winds, flutes and heavier elec-


satisfying crescendo on the
whole album. Likewise, "The
The 1lack Horn" serves as the best exam-
ple of the album's tendency to
be p am n intertwine crunchy guitars with
heep among softer flutes.
:he bearded The CourageofOthers maybe
an enjoyable listen, but it lacks
band flock, punch. Though it falls some-
what flat after the stellar Van
Occupanther, Midlake stays true
to its ideals, eschewing any out-
umentation is impeccable, side expectations. Unlike other
the overall effect is lack- bearded, pastoral bands like
rr. Throughout the record, Fleet Foxes and Blitzen Trapper,
music floats on, fluttering Midlake focuses not on man's
ly in the background and harmonious relationship with
r quite transcending pretti- nature, but on the struggle and

pursuit of meaning within its
boundaries. The record doesn't
try for the same commercial
appeal of Midlake's previous
album, but aims to convey the
trouble and hardship of "earthly
minds" interacting with a high-
er being (as stated on "Core of
Nature"). Still, the albumlacks a
big, sweeping chorus that could
garner Midlake any radio play,
like its superb indie-hit "Ros-
coe" did in 2006.
Midlake is already an excel-
lent live band, and maybe what
the songs need is an injection
of life on the stage. Until then,
the would-be mountaineers of
Midlake will probably still be
wandering through a pine for-
est, ever ruminating on their
next attempt to deepen their ties
with Mother Nature.


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