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March 19, 1991 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-03-19

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Tuesday, March 19, 1991

.The Michigan Daily

Page 5

"Losing My Religion" video
"Consider this the hint of the
century," suggests R.E.M. singer
Michael Stipe on "Losing My Reli-
gion," the first single from the
band's new album of renewed South-
ern discomfort, Out of Time. And
he's not kidding, either - Stipe has
long been an obtuse, even perversely
cryptic lyricist. But on this occa-
sion, the occasional director has
mercifully provided us with an
inseparable counterpart video (A la
Peter Gabriel's landmark "Shock The
Monkey" vid) in which his
remarkable attention to myth and
history - particularly art history -
offers clues to help us crack the code
of his lyric.
It's an achievement of great
depth. And that's important, because
the philosophical struggle to which
Stipe testifies - reckoning with the
transcendence of God - is the most
confounding problem that one can
hope to tackle.
A melancholy blend of ringing
mandolin contemplation and insis-
tent rhythm, with somber, sympa-
thetic strings attached, "Losing" has
a struggling, earthbound sound -
its chorus barely managing to rise
up out of the verse - that reflects
the frustrated, almost despondent ef-
fort of Stipe's apologetic lyric.
Stipe, in other words, still hasn't
found what he's looking for.
But the "Losing" video chal-
lenges you, too, to experience his
frustration. Stipe makes you work
for his meaning by interspersing his
own fidgety, fragile gesturing with
fleeting mythological images, while
the jarring, split-second editing
demands repeated viewings.
Given his fascination with the
mortal enigmas of gravity and travel,
it's actually not that surprising that
Stipe should ultimately come to
grapple with the historical presence
of Christ - a figure who bridged the
gap between heaven and earth. But
knowing that many of his skeptical,
too-hip-to-worship fans will be re-
luctant to make the jump toward
recognizing his identification with

Jesus, Stipe nods with some
irrefutable visual clues. Never one to
give away an idea, though, he's
made sure that every example is
barely discernible.
"Life is bigger than you, and you
are not me/ The lengths that I will
go to..." utters Stipe at the outset; at
the moment he says the word
"bigger," drummer Bill Berry flings
his arms wide in a fleeting crucifix-
ion gesture. And on the word "you,"
when Stipe sings, "I'm trying to
keep up with you / But I don't think
that I can do it," the previously
wobbling camera suddenly focuses
directly on guitarist Peter Buck -
hands crossed and hair parted in the
middle - whose somber poses
against a burnished background
throughout the video uncannily
evoke the Anglo-Saxon Christ's de-V
piction in any number of Flemisht
Renaissance paintings.
Knowing that many of
his skeptical, too-hip-
to-worship fans will
be reluctant to make
the jump toward
recognizing his
identification with
Jesus, Stipe nods with
some irrefutable
visual clues
As if to implore you even
further, a bearded Leonardo-type
character lip-synchs the words
"Consider this" while pointing to a
wound in the Christ - which is
being probed by the finger of a
turbaned Doubting Thomas.
Stipe, though, is still at a loss
for his own tangible evidence of the
divine. The mental lengths that he
will go to ("That was just a dream,"
exhorts Stipe, "Try - cry - fly -
cry") show up in the form of wings
- not just the Wings of German di-
rector Wim Wenders' angels, but
also the kind that were crafted for a
flight to the sun by the mythologi-
cal character Icarus (who ended up

doing a crash-and-burn). At one
point, Stipe hangs hoisted in front
of a large white span, but then col-
lapses, slumping down to the floor.
The real wings belong to the
Christ, but he strangely appears as a
haggard, elderly character, inspired
perhaps by the Gabriel Garcia Mar-
quez short story, "A Very Old Man
with Enormous Wings." (Another
influence might be the dream se-
quence in Martin Scorsese's The
Last Tempation of Christ.) Random
images fall into place halfway
through the video when the man -
blinded by a glancing sun - tum-
bles down from an upper heaven of
brightly-colored, exquisitely-orna-
mented ethnic gods and into the dim,
brownish realm occupied by robed
medieval types and modern Greek ar-
r tisans, as well as the members of
tR.E.M. He is scrutinized; ridiculed;
stoned; tied to a tree; and then
mourned. The video ends with Stipe
sitting in sullen reflection.
So why is "Losing My Religion"
the hint of the century? Well, it is a
big hint. But it also a hint about a
century - ours - in which the il-
lusion of certainty through technol-
ogy has confused our perception of
the spiritual. While the Greek arti-
sans are forging new wings from a
blueprint, Stipe broods in the
shadow of a giant gyroscope; in an-
other micro-second moment, a
Soviet magistrate is watching a red
flag wave over an anvil. If Stipe,
too, is "losing" his religion, it may
be because he literally is losing his
means of approaching divinity in an
organized manner. As the
mythologian Joseph Campbell said:
"He who thinks he knows God,
doesn't know; and he who knows he
doesn't know, knows."
"Losing My Religion" is the
moment where Michael Stipe drops
the mask; after years of intellectual
obscurantism, it's a stirring gesture
of unsparing sincerity. In "Losing"
his existential battle, Stipe is win-
ning the right war. And that's a
mouthful by anyone's standards.
- Michael Paul Fischer

Sabrina Scnmid remembers her childhood in Unce as if a Balloon, an entry in the 29th Ann Arbor Film Festival.
AAFF be st
i1 et sti iws

by Mike Kuniavsky
0 w e think we're immune. We
come from such cultural deserts as
Southfield, Michigan or such cul-
tural false-fronts as NYC and think
that now that we've reached the oasis
of Ann Arbor, we're "open-minded."
But we're not. The "liberals" among
us carry little mental notebooks of
everything that's wrong and the
"conservatives" carry little note-
books of everything that's right (and
not surprisingly, the two seem to
coincide quite often.) Thus, every-
thing seems to be - if tenuously -
ordered and under control.
But it's not. As with all intelli-
gentsia, most of us have fallen into
the idea recycler: whether we know it
or not, we hear the same things over
and over and over, with little
variation, in different guises. Our
idea pool wanes as it stagnates. We
need - need - something to snap
us out of it, something to filter out
the bullshit and leave the
AbsoPurem behind. The 29th Ann
Arbor Film Festival may not be it,
but in a world of wrong directions it
seems to point closest to where
we're supposed to be going.
As the oldest such festival in the
country - having gotten on the
scene early and survived the lean
years to recently reemerge as a re-
spected venue - the AAFF is still a
bastion of new ideas. The films that
you are apt to see will not likely be
masterworks of cinema (though
those two megamasters of megafilm,
Lucas and Spielberg, did enter their

piddly early attempts at filmmaking
back in the early '70s), but they will
undoubtedly be original.
See, the reason that I can
guarantee originality is because of
the very nature of independent film:
to do what has been done before does
not pay for even the cost of the film,
let alone rent. 16mm films, such as
in the festival, generally cost
between $1000 and $25,000 to
produce, so the independent
filmmaker must find another way of
approaching the deep pockets of
sponsorship. The best way, the only
way, really, is to approach a subject
from a new perspective. Whether
that's a new perspective on a
mundane topic (say, copy machines),
a new perspective on a lofty one
(say, individuality), or both, the core
idea is to look at reality from a new
point of view.
As you may well have realized
while listening to the same lecture
for the fifth time in two weeks or
seeing the same news for the
zillionth time today, new points of
view are not something we get every
day, and here we have a chance to get
hundreds of them within a short
timespan. As Funkadelic says, "Free
your mind and your ass will follow."
Ultimately, new ideas or not, the
Film Festival also presents an op-
portunity to be part of a cultural
icon. As part of our continuously
accelerating world, the Festival may
be a very temporary phenomenon.
As the 8mm Festival found out a
couple of years ago, the medium of
film is dying, and video just doesn't

have the same impact on a big
screen. As the price of film and film
equipment rises and the proliferation
of video (which, quality wise, is get-
ting pretty darn good) continues, the
number of independent films contin-
ually shrinks. So this may be one of
our last chances to participate in this
unique phenomenon.
Moreover, this year may be one
of the best to go to the festival.
When asked to characterize the en-
tries this year, Vicki Honeyman (the
Fest's director for the last couple of
seasons) said that there were more
experimental and animation pieces
and fewer long, traditional pieces.
Thus, it means that there will be
more good stuff to choose from at
every showing, and that every
showing will free your mind just a
little bit more.
Oh, and remember the cardinal
rule of festival going:
No title, no go.
FESTIVAL begins tonight at the
Michigan Theater with a reception
at 7:30 p.m. and the first showing at
8:30p.m. On Wednesday through
Saturday there are shows at 7:00
p.m. and 9:30 p.m. and on Saturday
there's an extra show at 1:00p.m.
Winner's night (which everyone
should attend) is Sunday, with
showings at 5:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m. and
9:00 p.m. There will also be free
showings of the judges' films
Wednesday through Friday at 3:00

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Folk Jazz Classical Music
Dance Books Art
teiepAne 63-O379 for More ijrmotion



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Mr. & Mrs.
Bridge (PG-13)

Cyrano De
Bergerac (PG)

THEATERS 1 & 2 -5TH AVE. AT LIBERTY 761.9700


Free 46 oz. Popcorn
~ICKET THRU 3/28/91

Bert "Just Call Me Charlie"
Hornback is back from Ireland for a
brief visit. He'll be reading Yeats (a
couple of days late) in the Terrace
Room of the Michigan Union on
Tuesday, March 19 at 8:00 p.m.
There will be also be ballads and
Irish Soda-Bread.
As the Michigan Theater might
say, "He's 75. He's from Canada. He
eats blubber. He's got a lot on his
mind." Born in an igloo, Inuit
Pudlo Pudlat has migrated to Ann
Arbor to find out if there might be a
good market for Stucchi's in
Northern Canada. While he's here,
with this couoon
8 1/? X 11, waite, seit serve or au ted oniv
dhl expires 0/0111

the University Museum of Art will
also celebrate his work with Pudlo:
Thirty Years of Drawing. A film
about Pudlat's drawings will be
shown in Angell Hall Auditorium D
on March 23 at 2:00 p.m., followed
by a reception at the Museum at
from 4:00 - 6:00p.m.

Dance Faculty at EMU will do a
joyful dance celebrating the perfect
lay-up, the slam dunk and Lorenzo
Neely's "really cute butt." The
dancers/choreographers will perform
March 21-23 at 8:00 p.m. in the
Quirk Theater in glorious Ypsilanti.
Tickets are $7, $5 (students), $3
(senior citizens and kiddies) and $25
(U-M students - they don't like us
very much.)


celebrate their MIRACU-
basketball victory, the

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presentation & discussion:

African American and Asian American Relations
Sources of Conflict, Grounds For Cooperation
(324 South Observatory)

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