The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Tuesday, April 6, 2010 - 5
A beautiful nightmare
Oscar nominee for Best
Foreign Film gives a haunting
look at pre-Nazi Germany
By NICK COSTON
The German Expressionism style of film-
making reached its peak during World War
I. The two most famous examples of the era
were Robert Wiene's "The
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" and
Fritz Lang's "Metropolis." All ****E
German Expressionist films
have two things in common: The White
they take place in worlds that Ribbon
defy logic, realism, light and
even physics. And, according At the
to film theorist Sigfried Kra- Michigan
cauer, they foretell the rise of Sony Pictures
Nazi Germany. Classics
Unlike the impossible
geometry of the world in
"Caligari," Michael Haneke's "The White Rib-
bon," last year's winner of the Palme d'Or at the
Cannes Film Festival, is set against a landscape
that could have very well existed in the Weimar
Republic; in fact, it's idyllic. It's a lovely little
village where trees sway gently in the spring
and roads are caked in pure white snow in the
winter. It's the people who live there who are
the Expressionist nightmares.
Because here in Eichwald, everyone is a mon-
ster. Fathers beat their children, sometimes in
the name of discipline, sometimes as a gross
exercise of power. Husbands beat their wives,
sometimes out of anger, sometimes out of bore-
dom. And the wickedness of the village is only
escalating. The only adult with a discernible
moral compass is our narrator and guide, the
wimpy schoolteacher (newcomer Christian
Friedel), a man helpless, if not useless, in his
investigation of the village's recent atrocities
committed by an unknown malevolence.
Children are a mercurial force in storytell-
"Quit looking at my broach."
ing. When they are harmed, their attacker is
automatically vilified. When they are the iniq-
uitous ones, they are more dangerous than any
adult they encounter. Above all, when their
performances exceed those of their grown-up
costars, they can haunt the audience in a way
that an older actor never could.
"The White Ribbon" employs its children
in all three forms. While the film's adults are
impenetrable masks of cruelty save the young
teacher, its kids are multidimensional. They
accept their corporal puniwshments with
clasped fingers and pious smiles. Their faces
morph from filial sorrow to vindictive rage in
a blink. They express a strange and pressing
desire to visit the oft-injured townsfolk.
Scariest of all is to know what these children
will become. We see them in their larval stage,
before they wield any influence and exert it in
horrific ways. Their parents are the devils for
now, but history will demonstrate soon enough
that the little ones learn from Mom and Dad
and devolve through yet newer and crueler
methods. Plenty of films have featured Nazis;
only Haneke dares to examine how they were
A film such as this, fueled by hatred, has
to reflect that vitriol in its camera's frame.
Images are stark, barren; movement is scarce.
"The White Ribbon" was nominated for Best
Cinematography in addition to its Foreign
Language Film nod, and rightfully so. Every
shot from cinematographer Christian Berger
("Cach6") is as perfectly bleak, joyless and
hopeless as Haneke could have crafted. His
wizardry is in taking the perfectly pleasant
aesthetic of a little German village dotted with
wooden houses, horse-drawn carriages and
bales of hay beside a barn and transforming it
into the gates of Hell.
The film is not satisfying in the traditional
sense to which we are accustomed - "boy
meets girl, boy loses girl, boy reclaims girl"
should never be expected from perpetual
downer Haneke. "The White Ribbon" is not
about closure or circularity. It's not about stum-
bling across a crime scene and tracking down
the culprit. It's about the lessons taught by a
generation in power to its children, and those
are seldom as simple as we'd like them to be. It
might not provide any answers, but "The White
Ribbon" asks questions brilliantly.
Ilove Lucy. I really do. Ilove
everything about Lucille Ball
from her bright orange hair
to her vita-
amin and her
an icon of -
comedy, TV CAROLYN
and Ameri- KLARECKI
so. Lucille Ball was a BAMF.
Surprisingly, my Lucy rants
haven't been met with unbridled
passion and enthusiasm. In fact,
most people are indifferent to
Lucy, or worse. It's a sad truth, but
because she portrayed a housewife
in an era when feminism and sex-
ism were at the forefront of the
culture war, Lucy has a bit of a bad
rap. Here's the thing: Lucille Ball
was anything but the complacent
housewife figure she portrayed.
Like most earlytelevision
shows, "I Love Lucy" started on
the radio and due to its popularity
on the air, the switch to TV made
perfect sense. Lucy's producers
urged her to follow what most
shows at a the were doing: shoot-
ing live in New York.
But stubborn Lucy wanted oth-
erwise. According to the Museum
of Broadcast Communications,
because she didn't want to uproot
her life for the purpose of a TV
show, she convinced her producers
to shoot in California. She insisted
that her shows be recorded on film
in front of a live studio audience
using three cameras. In doing so,
Ball legitimized Hollywood as
a site for producing TV. She was
at the forefront of multi-camera
formats, which would eventually
become the industry standard for
sitcoms. Her archived episodes of
"I Love Lucy" were the firstshows
to be syndicated and aired as
reruns, making her a national sen-
sation and creating a legacy that
has lasted decades.
Not only did she make these
technical revolutions to the indus-
try, she also shook up the cultural
world of TV. Every Lucy fan knows
the famous thick Cuban accent
yelling in sing-song, "Lucy, I'm
home?" But not many have stopped
to think about the implications of
a multi-racial relationship in the
1950s. We take Lucy and Ricky's
TV marriage for granted. We know
they were always meant to be
together, but TV executives didn't
see it that way.
They were convinced that an
all-American redhead and Cuban
American would never make a
believable TV couple and asked
Lucy to cast a nice white man as her
husband. Of course, Lucy wouldn't
have it; she wanted to cast her
actual husband Desi Arnaz to fill
the role. We all know how the story
ends: The execs gave in and Ameri-
can audiences embraced Ricky and
Lucy as a loving couple.
It's also often overlooked
that the show was produced in
the height of the Red Scare and
McCarthy era. Everybody in the
entertainment business was at risk
of being blacklisted for beingcom-
munist and Lucy was no exception
and was named and subpoenaed
by the House Committee on Un-
American Activites. What is sig-
nificant, however, is that Lucy was
a communist - or at least had once
voted Communist, unlike many of
And while Charlie Chaplin and
Arthur Miller were blacklisted due
to their alleged political allegiance,
McCarthy and his cronies couldn't
keep loveable Lucy away from TV.
Desi Arnaz said, "The onlything
Red about Lucy is her hair, and
even that's not legitimate," and
that sentiment allowed her to keep
producing her shows.
Lucille Ball combated and then
revolutionized industry norms,
fought against racial prejudices
and circumvented McCarthy. She
was an unstoppable force. But she
was a housewife. She did cook and
clean and contribute to that Mrs.
Cleaver image that ran rampant
in'50s TV. But if you look a little
closer at Lucy, you'll realize how
much of a role model for women
she really was.
She set a precedent for women.
Shewas the first femaletobe a
studio head, but her on-screen
character was just as ballsy as the
Lucy behind the scene. She was the
first nationally recognized woman
comedian and thus an inspiration.
Because she was funny, loud and
scheming, regular women could
follow her lead. Ricky respected
her in spite of (and also because
of) her zany antics, even with his
scolding "Lucy! You've got some
'splainin' to do!"
Lucy meant a lot to women. She
made them laugh and let them
know they could make others
laugh, too. She wasn'tjust another
TV housewife. I love Lucy and you
Klarecki is not just another TV
housewife. To be her Ricky, e-mail
her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Little drama, lots of chocolate
By ANT MITCHELL
Daily Arts Writer
When little people and chocolate
come together on TV, you might
expect cutesy Oompa Loompa-
ment. The two
little people star-
ring in TLC's newe
reality TV show e
"Little Chocolat- Chocolatiers
iers" don't sing,
and they aren't Tuesdays
orange. But it's at10 p.m.
fun as fudge to TLC
watch them build
books and cassette tapes from
chocolate, as well as dip limes, cel-
ery, bleu cheese and God knows
what else into melted confection.
The two owners, Kate and
Steve, are an odd mix of person-
alities. Kate is creative and enthu-
siastic while Steve is grouchy and
awkward (and maybe just a touch
obnoxious). Together, they make a
couple with ridiculously non-exis-
When teve sets up a roman-
tic surprise dinner for his wife on
their anniversary, there has never
been a more anti-climactic (and
undoubtedly sexless) celebration
of marriage. But despite the odd
character quirks and the lack of
any discernible sexual attraction
between the couple, they're sur-
prisingly likeable, and they cer-
tainly can run a chocolateria with
their super team of equally awk-
ward teenage employees.
"Little Chocolatiers" is pleas-
antly different from regular cook-
ing shows in which they make
fancy creations and then leave it on
a display platter to be admired. Not
here. We get to see that chocolate
radio get smashed to bits and those
chocolate books chewed up and
crumbled by ravenous students
with a will to destroy the creations
of the chocolatiers.
Honestly, five minutes of watch-
ing a delicate chocolate sculpture
get digested is enough to regress
even the most stolidly grown-up
is a tim
e into five-year-olds who fast. This repetitive set up was a bit
othing more than to knock of a bust and really detracted from
he house of cards. Watch- what was otherwise actually quite
slow but artful process of an enjoyable half-hour.
g, carving and painting the An overly dramatized scene in
te is therapeutic, and its which a customer compliments
ion is a powerful cathartic them on their ability to run a shop
at the end of each episode. despite being "midgets" was also
downfall is the weird side victim to this redundant cycle.
ws with Kate and Steve, in Three commercials were tagged
they basically recap a con- with the teaser of this upcoming
on that was perfectly clear scene, accompanied by hyper-
previous scene. Maybe this bolic doom music. In the end, they
politely corrected him, he politely
apologized and those watching
were left wondering where the hell
Good lord, ' the excitement went. Good lord,
there should at least have been a
ere should at fist fight.
All matters aside, "Little Choc-
st have been olatiers" could certainly have
done worse. Yes, the directors
fist fight." did take advantage of an oppor-
tunity to cutesy the two up in a
"miniature people, big chocolates"
photo shoot, but the show actually
e filler, or perhaps it's just escapes without an over-emphasis
the directors chose to set on the "Little" in "Little Chocolat-
shots, but it gets old very iers," which is a relief.
ARTS IN BRIEF
Battle at the
First Annual Band Jam
Tonight at 8 p.m.
Do you love local music? Do you
love charity for Haiti? Then you're
in luck, because tonight at the Blind
Pig several local bands will be per-
Tonight and tomorrow
at 7:30 p.m.
Walgreen Drama Center
The School of Music, Theatre
& Dance will host two free Opera
Studio performances of a short-
ened version of Mozart's opera
"Die Zauberflfte" ("The Magic
Flute") in Stamps Auditorium of
the Walgreen Drama Center. The
opera will be performed in Ger-
man with English supertitles and
is directed by Associate Professor
of Music Robert Swedberg.
Composed in 1791, "Die Zau-
berfl6te" is a singspiel, a Ger-
man form of opera that includes
forming in support of Haiti relief.
Local bands including Great
Divide, Fair Herald, Mr. Fiction and
Teenage Octopus will play in the
First Annual Band Jam, presented
by MServe and the Blind Pig, with
proceeds going to the American
The bands will be competing for
a chance to perform on Sept. 6 at
"Hilltopia," an opportunity to per-
form as an opening act for a head-
lining band. Record executives,
talent booking agents and local
record store owners will be present
both song and spoken word. This
particular opera is highly influ-
enced by the philosophy of the
Enlightenment and has remained
extremely popular since its debut
in Vienna shortly after its compo-
The School of Music, Theatre &
Dance teamed up with the School
of Engineering and Environmen-
tal Science Departments to pres-
ent the performance as a "green
This collaboration has ensured
a more environmentally con-
The opera follows a young
prince on his quest to save his
future bride from captivity
with the help of a magical flute.
Although they are fantastic, the
obstacles he encounters in his
endeavors can be appreciated by
any college student who has had
to face the various hurdles that
come with higher education.
to judge the competition while DJ
Snagtoof provides music all night.
Dan Brown, lead singer and gui-
tarist for Mr. Fiction, expressed his
excitement about playing his first
upcomingshow with the band.
"We got started in October,"
"We've all been playing for a long
The opportunity to play at an
established venue was another
draw for Brown.
"It's a good opportunity to get
out in the scene of Ann Arbor and
play in a venue like the Blind Pig.
I'm excited aboutour chance to play
in the Blind Pig. Hopefully people
will like us enough to get our name
out," Brown said.
Doors are at 8 p.m., and perfor-
mances start at 8:30. Tickets are
available online or at the door for $5
with a student ID.
Doily music editor Mike Kuntz,
who is a member of the bnd Fair
Herald, did not edit this story.
Congrats Michigan! ATop Peace Corps College.
800.424.8580 j www.peacecorps.gov
Life is calling. How far will you go?
Today's Career Tip:
Getting noticed at work doesn't have to sound
like bragging. There are many ways to show how
good you are without ever saying so.
Text "UMStudents" to 41411 to win great prizes
and get daily career tips.
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