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June 17, 1984 - Image 10

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1984-06-17

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Page 10 Sunday, June 17, 1984

The Michigan Daily

'Beat Street' takes a wrong turn

By Phillip K. Lawes
uite a bit of hype preceeded the
release of Beat Street. By all
accounts, producer Harry Belafonte
went into the film with the noblest of in-
tentions. In addition to being exciting
and entertaining, we were told, the film
would go beyond just showing break
dancing, to exposing the culture and the
sociological realities of the South
Bronx. It was ,a labor of love for
Belafonte, not just a film project.
Social relevance and top-flight enter-
tainment are a rather tall order for one
film, even under the best of circum-
stances. Beat Street doesn't seem to
have been blessed with the best of cir-
cumstances, so the results do not live
up to the expectations generated by the
film's hype.
In spite of the producer's lofty inten-
tions (and in large part it seems,
because of them), Beat Street is an ab-
solute mess. Virtually everything that
could have been done wrong on this.
picture was done wrong.
Rather than a plot, we are presented
with a mass of plot strands and story
ideas which pop up without warning,
ve ofle61r71-97
DALY 1:00 P.M. SHOW $2.00
GE AND SOUND" -Newsday

and none of which are carried through
the length of the picture. Instead of
characters wer are given character
types - aspiring artists, the worried
mother, the street hustler, etc. These
basic character types are credible in
the environment on which the film
focuses, but none of them are developed
into people. We are given quantity as a
poor substitute for quality.
Stan Lathan's direction is, at best,
run-of-the-mill, generally missing the
visual and emotional possibilities of the
events in the film. In addition, the
editing is simply awful. It is difficult to
believe that you are watching a major
studio release when the scenes begin
and end as abruptly as they do here. At
the very least, they largely avoided the
temptation to get avant-garde in editing
the dance scenes, thus allowing the
dancing to stand on its own.
The filmmakers make their crucial
mistake in their heavy-handed pursuit
of some form of social relevance. The
fault is not necessarily in the goal, but
in the technique used to get to it.
Lathan doesn't hesitate to cut form
whatever action is in progress to show
some panoramic shot of the ghetto.
These shots elbow you in the ribs and
tell you "Things are really rough here."
However, the South Bronx speaks
eloquently of its own grimness. There is
no need to chop up the movie to point
that out to us.
From time to time, the characters
also tell us how tough things are. Kenny
(Guy Davis) speaks of his older
brother, killed in a gang fight. That is
certainly plausible - violent death is
not exactly unheard-of in the South
Bronx. The problem is that we've heard
that before, in a thousand other movies.
When a sketchily written character
starts delivering cliches the film star-
ts looking silly. That happens a lot in
Beat Street.
The film's excesses and incompeten-


Despite an honest attempt, Harry Belafonte failed to motivate these break
dancers in his new produciton, 'Beat Street,' a tepid story about youth gangs
in the South Bronx.
ces usually trivialize whatever serious Beat Street works best when it gives
content the filmmakers may have been you something to look at - Rae Dawn
trying to deliver. For example, when Chong, (Quest for Fire), for example,
Ramo (Jon Chardiet), a young grafitti who isn't given much to do, or the dan-
artist defends his subway murals (lots cing, of which there isn't nearly
of people call them acts of vandalism, enough.
he calls them art), he ends up sounding Harry Belafonte's good intentions
laughable, since his lines are overwrit- have been betrayed but Beat Street is
ten, and his acting skills are weak to worth seeing for its sporadic demon-
begin with. strations of spectacular break dancing.
Joe's opens up its
stage for charity


SUN. 1:05, 3:05, 5:05, 7:05, 9:05
MON. 1:0:00, 9:05
-The DetritNews
--Newhouse Newspapers
SUN. 1:20, 3:20, 5:20, 7:20, 9:20
MON. 1:00, 7:20, 9:20

Whether you want to help the
Medieval Festival kick off its fund
raising campaign, or whether you just
want to have a plain old good time,
Joe's Star Lounge will be the place for
you this Sunday, June 17.
The action begins at 8 p.m. with
a dinner buffet and an open mike. An
open mike is an invitation to anyone
in the audience who wants to sing a
song, strum a melody, or just tell a
At 9: p.m., such well known Ann
Arbor folk singers as Michael Smith,
Jay Stielstra, Sally Horvath, Kevin
Lynch, and David Menefee and
Cheryl Dawdy will take over the mike
and provide some live folk entertain-
After 10 p.m., there will be dan-
cing to the music of What If Thinking,
a Detroit area rock band.
For those coming to dance to What
If Thinking, a $3 cover will be charged
at the door. For those who are in-
terested in the entire evening, which

includes the buffet, the folk music,
and the dancing, tickets may be pur-
chased for $5 at the Performance
Network, 408 W. Washington, in Ann
Arbor. Joe's Star Lounge is located at
109 N. Main St., Ann Arbor.
The Ann Arbor Medieval Festival is
a fair that runs the first two weekends
of August each year. The festival has
a medieval theme and includes music,
theater, dance, and crafts from the
Middle Ages. The fair, which is free to
all, is held outdoors in the Ann Arbor
city parks and at the University's
School of Music. This year will mark
the fifteenth consecutive summer that
the Medieval Festival has taken
The Festival is primarily financed
by private and business donations. So
if you want to help keep the Medieval
Festival tradition strong in Ann Ar-
bor, show your support by having a
good time at Joe's Star Lounge on
Sunday night. -Jeff Frooman


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