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March 20, 1991 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-03-20

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Wednesday, March 20, 1991

* 'The Michigan Daily

Page 5

DeNiro is guilty before
proven innocent in Suspicion

Guilty by
* Suspicion
dir. Irwin Winkler
by David Lubliner
There were no certainly no Com-
munists like Hollywood Commu-
nists. As the Red Scare caught fire
in the late 1940s, the Congression-
ally-appointed House on Un-Ameri-
can Activities Committee realized
that no investigation of Commu-
nists could attract the publicity that
an investigation of Hollywood
Communists could. This was an at-
tack on America's best-loved icon -
the film industry - and it provided
the attention that the McCarthyites
Today - a time when freedom of
expression in the arts is under in-
tense scrutiny once again - it is
crucial that we look back to a period
not so distant in America's history.
Guilty by Suspicion addresses Hol-
lywood's darkest period and casts one
of this country's greatest actors in
the starring role of a blacklisted di-
rector. Robert DeNiro is David Mer-

rill, a successful filmmaker loved by
industry moguls like Darryl Zanuck;
Merrill must decide between naming
his friends as Communists or losing
his entire career. Interestingly, it is
not Congress who initially black-
lists Merrill, but studio heads like
Zanuck and Jack Warner, who tried
to protect their own careers by insur-
ing American citizens that their
films were not directed by potential
Communists. Merrill can return to
the studio if he agrees to purge him-
self by naming others who gathered
with him at a few "leftist" meetings
many years earlier.
DeNiro effectively captures the
ambivalence that Merrill feels about
his predicament. He is a man who
knows only one thing: making
movies. However, when presented
with the choice of ratting on his
friends or losing his job, Merrill re-
fuses to give in to the system.
DeNiro creates a character that is
moral but not overly self-righteous.
He isn't convinced that he is doing
the right thing, but he is too stub-
born and bull-headed to give in to
the pressure.
DeNiro's believable and engaging
portraval carries the film, which ac-

curately reflects the mood of 1950s
Hollywood. Former 20th Century
Fox and RKO studio lots and other
Hollywood haunts, such as the
famed Brown Derby restaurant, were
recreated. Even a number of sur-
vivors from the blacklist era were
gathered for the supporting cast. Ac-
tor and director Sam Wanamaker,
who plays attorney Felix Graff in
the movie, was blacklisted in 1951
after escaping to England to avoid
testifying in front of the Committee.
The result is a first-class and authen-
tic production, one which really
makes you feel that these characters
are not so different from the actual
people they illustrate.
The supporting cast also includes
director Martin Scorsese, who ap-
pears in a cameo role as Joe Lesser,
a filmmaker who flees the country
when he is linked to a Communist
front group. Scorsese is joined by
Annette Bening as Merrill's wife and
George Wendt as Merrill's best
friend, another suspected Commu-
Guilty by Suspicion marks the
directing and writing debut for long-
time Hollywood producer Irwin
Winkler. Winkler, who also pro-

Why are Martin Scorsese's eyebrows so huge? Is it because he plays blacklisted Hollywood director Joe
Lesser in the film Guilty by Suspicion? Is it because he's Italian? Or is it just the result of making too many
movies about New York?

duced the Oscar-nominated GoodFel-
las, powerfully brings this era to
life. Although his directorial style is
effectively minimalistic, Winkler
successfully uses circular camera
movement in one crucial scene
which depicts Merrill's descent into
Although the film often moves
from one scene to the next without

strong momentum, its climax is ul-
timately powerful and uplifting.
David Merrill is representative of
many filmmakers, most notably the
Hollywood Ten, who sacrificed their
careers and their lives to stand up for
what they believed in. Guilty by
Suspicion is an important film for
young people who didn't live
through the blacklist era. While the

fear of Communism no longer exists
to the extent that it did in the '40s
and '50s, the same concern for indi-
vidual rights and freedom of speech
must be protected against similar
criticism in 1991.
shown at Showcase.

Comedy Review
Cops, crackpots, cooties fill Big Show

The Back of Beyond
by David Yeadon
Harper Collins
Have you ever wanted to get
away from it all? If your answer is
yes, you may want to consider alter-
natives to daily immersion in the
Diag's masses of scurrying lem-
mings - er, college students. If you
don't have a favorite desert island al-
ready picked out, prospective destina-
tions - or a more vicarious and
purely mental escape - can be
found in David Yeadon's The Back
of Beyond, a collection of tales
about "the wild places of the Earth."
"Wild places" is an ambiguous
term. While a few of the stories cen-
ter around the land itself (probably
because nobody lives there to draw
the author into conversation),
Yeadon most often offers up a pic-
ture of the place viewed through its
inhabitants' thoughts and actions,
and his own impressions of them.
Besides lending a welcome and fa-
miliar human side to these far-away
places, the book is an inescapable
reminder of the strength of the con-

nection between people and their en-
Yeadon's desire to immerse the
reader in the local environment leads
him to forsake polished prose and of-
fer raw sensory data in its place. Un-
fortunately, this onslaught of im-
ages, untamed by an authorial hand,
sometimes overwhelms; but hap-
pily, these stylistic lapses are rare.
For instance, Yeadon's tape-record-
ing of his first trip into the aged-
hippie paradise of Katmandu is in-
comprehensible at first, but finally
succeeds in calling up still-living
images of a type of life that has been
absent from America during the past
15 years.
The only other major complaint I
have is that Yeadon nodded off dur-
ing an Indian swatu's uncontestable
proof of the soul. Such a proof has
only been sought after for 20-odd
centuries - for our sake, at least,
couldn't he have stayed awake to
hear it?
The stories are much more than
rambling travel reminiscences. It is

not the menus, sceneries or travel
mishaps that stick with me (except
for one: "Sorry, sir. Iceland is
closed.") Rather, the impressions of
ways of life that are different from
our own, and yet not unobtainable,
remain memorable. The fact that
there are no unbreakable bonds tying
us to our current path is shown by
the wanderers who have found a bet-
ter niche eating psychedelic mush-
rooms on the sandy beaches of Goa,
seeking nirvana in the rarified
heights of Nepal or simply living
happily in the mountains of the
most peaceful nation in the Ameri-
cas (Costa Rica, if you're thinking
of moving: no military - only
tropical rain forests just aching to be
preserved... ). That these hidden
"Shangri-las" exist is incredible, but
their reachability is incredibly allur-
ing. Yeadon's book leaves one with
an appetite for what lies beyond the
boundaries of the norm, for what lies
waiting in the "wild places" of the,
-Jonathan Harrison

by Diane Frieden
The lights went down, the curtain
rose and the orchestra started play-
ing... the theme to Gilligan's Is-
land? Well, it was just a piano, but
what other show in town uses tele-
vision theme music to change
scenes? It was the Comedy Com-
pany this past weekend in their Big
Show & Tell, and one of the fun
"audience participation" tactics
hauled out was singing along with
the pianist, Hannah Hensel. Fortu-
nately, the audience was aware
enough to sing along. Unfortu-
nately, the producers and directors
who were prompting the audience
from the back of the auditorium
didn't know all of the words. The re-
sult was laughter and some silly-
looking directors and producers.
Most of the skits revolved around
a central male character. Even when
a couple was central, as in the "Love
Story," the boy received slightly
more attention than the girl. Only
one sketch, "Susie's Secret," featured
a female lead; it dealt with Susie's
(Deborah Grayson) dilemma as a
young girl with cooties.
The laughter was riotous at the
show-stopping "Time for Mike," a
sketch that blended detective Mike
Hammer with rapper M.C. Hammer.
"His name was Fred, and now he's
dead," rhymed Jon Glaser as the title
character. In "Telegram," the silli-
ness of Dave Kahn's over-exagger-

ated character of Current Husband
rubbed off on the audience. The Ven-
dor (Mike Blieden) who appeared in
"Ice Cold Date Here" also showed up
in the second act as the President of
the United States, saving an other-
wise flat sketch.
Some great work was done by the
cast members who were not spot-
lighted. Wendy Shanker and Charly
Schwartz, who played contestants in
"Crackpot," were as wacky as their
psychiatric selves. The Little Inves-
tigators (Schwartz and Chris
Pentzell) backed up Mike Hammer+
with dancing worthy of In Living
Color. And a hilarious portrayal of;
kindergartners was achieved by
Grayson, Schwartz, Michael Sturtz+

and Amy Fabrick in "Memoirs."
Some of the sketches attempted
the abstract, like "Mannequin Pic-
nic," in which the mannequins didn't
move, but enjoyed themselves any-
way. Others, like "Random Vio-
lence," fell sh6rt of achieving the
humor goal - killing children didn't
hit the audience's funny bone. Over-
all, there was a great deal violence-
related activity within the sketches,
including lots of screaming and a
high percentage of police officers and
doctors. In a (deliberately?) sequen-
tial finish, the show ended in "Game
Show Hospital." Where else could
you put all of the dead people or
contagious teenagers with cooties?

Daily Fine Arts needs writers with background in
classical music. Are you interested? Telephne
763-0379 and ask for Elizabeth Lenhard


Extra Ball
Plain and simple, Diblo Dibala is
the greatest guitar player in the
world. Although his style may not
translate well to an audience that is
accustomed to guitarists who are ob-
sessed with the size of their geni-
talia, his timbre is a thing of beauty.
The fuzzed distortion and histrionics
Westerners are used to are replaced
by a clarity, a fluidity that signifies
the "purity" that Allan Bloom ascer-
tains in "true" art.
Like most other African music,
Dibala's soukous groove is not cre-
ated by endless chordal riffing, but
by intensely rhythmic and effort-
lessly graceful single note runs. On
Loketo's previous American re-
leases, Dibala was front and center.
Unfortunately, on their latest effort,
Dibala's guitar takes a back seat to
gimmickry that is meant to be an ef-
fort to cross-over into a "world beat"
market that is getting larger by the

Don't get me wrong. The guitar
is still prominent and this is still an
amazing record, but all too often the
sound effects in the background and
the blasphemous distortion on
Dibala's guitar reek of pandering to
American consumerism. With the
explosion of zouk and the production
style of Kassav' dominating the
French soukous studios, soukous
has become hi-tech music. But on
Extra Ball, hi-tech has become
bloated, grotesque commercialism.
The metallic-psychedelic effects on
"La Joie de Vivre" and "Mondo Ry"
are transgressions equal to backing
Muddy Waters with strings, and the
John Schofield guitar licks of
"Tcheke Linha" are nearly as nox-
ious as Pat Boone crooning Little
Richard. -Peter Shapiro
Mica Paris

young Mica (pronounced meesha),
Paris has been touted as Britain's
finest new female soul singer - and
it's not hard to see why. In a year
when the hottest dance/soul acts
(outfits like C+C Music Factory,
Black Box and the 49ers) have turned
out to be no more than slick produc-
tion vehicles - slender Ebony mod-
els fronting for the vocals of veteran
studio belters - Paris is the real
thing. And given material like the
fizzy "South of the River" - which
resembles the current Mariah Carey
hit "Someday" - the chart potential
in America of Paris' second album,
Contribution, seems equally strong.
The important distinction,
though, is the impeccable taste that
Paris (assisted by producer/writer duo
Camus Celli and Andres Levin)
demonstrates in her studio players
and choice '70s influences - as well
as her controlled, no-grandstanding
She easily handles tepid material
See RECORDS, Page 8

- T

Mr. & Mrs.
Bridge (PG-13)

Cyrano De
Bergerac (PG)

Free 46 oz. Popcorn






at 18 in 1987 by Island,

his music has taken
him on a sometimes
swerving path-from
austin to nashville to
london. along the way,
he has earned acclaim
for his solo work
("endearing and
genuine" -cmi). as
wellas his col-
laboration with boo
hewerdine ("-evidence'
captures the exhilara-
tion of two young song-
writers coming into
their power"-rolling
stone). "trouble no
more" succeeds in
capturing his con-
stantly unfolding talent
and experience as a
songwriter and per-
darden smith

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