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January 25, 1991 - Image 9

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-01-25

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The Michigan Daily - Friday, January 25, 1991 - Page 9

I

White Fang doesn't

have bite

White Fang
dir. Randel Kleiser

i

by Gregg Flaxman

T he most disappointing thing
about Randal Kleiser's White Fang
is the vague feeling that there
might have been a good film here.
Jack London's story of Alaska,
survival, gold and the mystical
relationship between a young
adventurer and half-wolf, half-dog
is interesting material and perfect
Disney fare. But the contrived
result misses its mark and misses
it badly.
The film opens by juxtaposing
scenes of Jack Conroy's (Ethan
Hawke) arrival and initial experi-
ences in the harsh Alaskan wilder-
ness with mawkish shots of a
young cub - White Fang.
* Kleiser tries to get at the
savage process of survival of the
fittest in which both the boy and
cub are subject to the dangers of a
land untamed and the cruel work-
ings of a human society that is
only a slight improvement on
primitive nature. Conroy comes to
Alaska in search of his father's
claim, but before he can even
breathe in the beauty of the
Alaskan wilderness his money is
stolen. And then he can't seem to
find anyone to take him to the
remote claim, which is somewhere
beyond Klondike. Even Alex
Larson (Klaus Maria Brandauer), a
friend of Conroy's father, is

but also on his relationship with
Larson. Brandauer gives a strong
performance, slowly revealing the
softer skin of a calloused man. Yet
Larson's reconciliation with
Conroy is so abrupt and
underdeveloped that it becomes
simplistic. Conroy is accepted,
strangely, before he proves his
metal, and the film reduces the
rites of passage to yet another en-
deavor to survive, and
consequently reduces that survival
to a victory over pure evil
epitomized by the villain, Beauty
(James Remar).
Moreover, Hawke's
performance, though endearing, is
bland and without conviction. The
idealism and naivete that
purportedly triumph over the
unmerciful land are transparent
and overly-sentimental. Almost no
aspect of Kleiser's film works
entirely, although Brandauer
proves again what an inimical
presence he really is. Reman's
vicious portrayal is also engaging,
but it cannot compensate for what
can only be termed confused
filmmaking. What, in fact, was
director Kleiser's target audience?
White Fang is too intense for
children and never allows itself to
commit to an older audience. It's
best viewed as a travelogue of the
Alaskan back country, a kind of
National Geographic with plot.
WHITE FANG is playing at Show-
case Cinema

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" Dead Poets Society alumnus
Ethan Hawke drowns in sentimentality in White Fang.

reluctant to take the boy. But
convinced by his friend Skunker
(Seymour Cassel), Larson agrees
to let Jack tag along on the
perilous journey.
In the meantime, White Fang
has been left to fend for himself
after his mother wolf is shot,
ironically, by Skunker. The cub
eventually comes into the hands of
a Native American named Grey
Beaver (Pius Savage) who tames
him, yet treats him with little or no
tenderness. While Jack and Alex
struggle to find gold in "them there
hills," White Fang is sold into a
kind of canine slavery where he

fights other dogs for sport.
Kleiser never quite finds the
handle for the material: he
sentimentalizes early scenes of the
animal with slow-motion and a
kind of shameless Benji
prostitution, yet subsequent dog-
fights are brutally depicted and
would be too much for small chil-
dren. Even when White Fang is
tamed, a residual fear exists that
he may still be dangerous, and one
reverts to a kind of Born Free
mentality; indeed, this animal
might be better off in the wild.
The film rests not only on Con-
roy's relationship with the wolf,

Mental Floss for treetown
Urban Dance Squad are much more than your average bargain-
basement, racially mixed, rock-pop-soul-hybrid music band in the
style of Kid Creole and the Coconuts or, uh, Guns 'n' Roses. IN FACT,
Urban Dance Squad play with resolute irreverence to the many all-
important barriers that their critics live by, rather than consciously
trying to destroy them, resulting in an ambiguous groove thang that
rocks or, as MTV will attest, a "Deeper Shade Of Soul." Other
interesting pieces of bastard bombast guaranteed to stand up to
Living Colour's rainbow demolition include "Fast Lane," with fierce
guitar licks in deep violet and red tones alongside DJ DNA's
formidable turntable mechanics, and "Man On the Corner," NOT a
revision of PE's absolutely brilliant "Meet the G That Killed Me."
Definitely a tough act to follow, even by America's SECOND favorite
colored freak-rock band (after Funkadelic). Urban Dance Squad open
for Living Colour tonight at Hill Auditorium. Show starts at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $19.50 available at TicketMaster (plus the evil service
charge).
,.. ° "' Burnham Associates
543 Church St
Monday -Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
SPECIAL SATURDAY HOURS
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The Red House
The Red House
SBK
The Red House are a New
York/New Jersey-based group that
plays rock in the big, heroic idiom
of U2, the Waterboys and the
Alarm. It's a genre in which new
bands all too often put the pedal to
their guitar mettle; what sets the
Red House apart is the way they
channel their insistent, rocking en-

thusiasm with a rare instrumental
aplomb.
The secret is the way singer
Bruce Tunkel's handsome piano
arpeggios and drummer Bob
Nicol's remarkably inventive blend
of textured hi-hat flair and bass-
solid thump bring a graceful,
shaped dimension to the requisite
power of Tony Stives' Southern-
twanged dynamics. Perhaps it's no
coincidence that in this sense, The
Red House's slight likeness to The

Waterboys' 1984-85 "Big Music"
period is the same particular
influence acknowledged by the
last great American group to play
this style of rock, a North
Carolina-by-way-of-England outfit
called Ten Ten who disappeared
after their1986 debut.
Singer Tunkel's youthful,
idealistic lyrics can at times be
typically vague, and he does make
the rookie mistake of confusing
vocal passion with a relentless
were a comedy. The result was a
huge flop at the box office. Today
it's a hilarious cult film, a black
comedy far ahead of its time that
foreshadows Huston's recent film,
Prizzi's Honor.
Beat the Devil is showing at

Springstonian holler. But at the
same time, The Red House' s
memorable songs demonstrate a
talent far beyond the band's years
- the stately piano of "Before I
Lay Me Down," particularly, may
be the most breathtakingly
gorgeous of its kind since R.E.M.'s
"Perfect Circle" or Bruce Hornsby.
With any luck, the Red House
seem likely to stand as a lasting
fixture on the American rock

landscape.

VIDEO
Continued from page 8
who represent some of the biggest
offenders in the traditional
ignorance of video as a medium,
looking at it as watered-down film
and thinking the little box as
somehow inferior to the big screen
- not realizing that the two are
incomparable) has launched a
series of showings of video art and
visits by video artists. Curated by
Hannelore Kober, herself a video
artist, the artists featured have
only two things in common: they
work in video, and they criticize
video. As such, they are the van-
guard of the medium's next age.
They are those through whom we
see the future of video and through
whose video we see our own
future.

CINEMA
Continued from page 5
cast, which includes Bogart, Lorre
and Gina Lollobrigida, was
instructed by Huston to perform as
if the film were a drama, while
others were told to perform as if it

- Michael Paul Fischer

7:00 p.m., The Maltese Falcon at
8:30 p.m. and Key Largo at 10:15
p.m. tonight in MLB 4.
-Michael John Wilson

''l

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The comprehensive project will
include in-depth stories on how the
university impacts numerous areas
including the area's quality of life,
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local services such as parking and
roads. It also will document the
university's role in the region's
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high-technology companies.

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university pay its fair share for city
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,E

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