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April 08, 1991 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-04-08

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r
r ,~
:The
~Sky
:dir. E

lichigan Daily

ARTS

Monday, April 8, 1991

Page 5

ky's limited in film adaption

INrvew

Sheltering
Bernardo Bertolucci

by Brent Edwards

The task of adapting a novel to the
screen can vary widely, depending on
the form that the book takes.
Adapting such a straightforward
novel as Silence of the Lambs is a
simple matter of deciding what
story elements should be left out of
the two-hour telling. Novels that
consist of more than a simple narra-
tive, however, test the screenwrit-
ers' skills of translation and fre-
quently the result is a movie of the
story without any attempt to in-
clude the other more literary and
philosophical elements of the text.
Books such as The Sheltering Sky
and The Unbearable Lightness of
Being are two examples of this ap-
proach to adaptation. In the film
The Unbearable Lightness of Being,
Milan Kundera's twisted and recur-
sive story was linearized without
any of Kundera's brilliant ideas or
playful narrative manipulations
remaining. The film, however,
worked because the narrative, while
not the only part of the book, was
strong and interesting enough to
stand on its own; reading the book
and seeing the movie became both
enjoyable and complimentary expe-
riences. This is not so with the
adaptation of Paul Bowles' The
Sheltering Sky.
The story involves three Ameri-
cans journeying through Tangier
just after World War II. The rela-

tionship between Port (John
Malkovich) and his wife Kit (Debra
Winger) seems decidedly on the
rocks, and the presence of their
friend Tunner (Campbell Scott)
adds to the strain rather than
relieving it. They travel from town
to town, becoming more and more
removed from their version of
civilization, losing themselves in a
foreign and alien experience which
finally culminates in Kit becoming
the sex slave of a camel trader.
Bowles' story, biographical in
certain respects, has spawned many
Bowles-acolytes who have travelled
to Northern Africa, looking to lose
themselves in a foreign land and
find the same metaphysical experi-
ence that Port and Kit sought. In
Bowles' words, they are attempting
to "pierce the fine fabric of the
sheltering sky" which, Port says, is
"a solid thing up there, protecting
us from what's behind... nothing...
darkness. Absolute night." Unfor-
tunately, director and co-screen-
writer Bernardo Bertolucci (Last
Tango In Paris, The Last Emperor)
has expanded on this idea to create
the sheltering camera, transforming
the book's meaning into nothing and
darkness, and reducing the audience's
experience to an existential night-
mare of sitting in the dark and
watching the void, silently emitting
a primal scream.
Bertolucci and co-screenwriter
Mark Peploe, in translating the nar-
rative story only, failed to capture
any of Bowles' ideas or his charac-
ters' motivations. What remains is
an excruciatingly boring story of a
group of Americans wandering

Dance your
life away
Linda Spriggs and Friends, this
weekend's performance at the
School of Dance, proved to be an up-
lifting extravaganza for dance crit-
ics and novices alike. The perfor-
mance maintained a no-frills,
viewer-friendly quality as it pre-
sented universal and flexible
themes in a warmly personal fash-
ion.
Each piece illuminated upon a
fundamental element of life with
unbridled emotional and physical
energy. In "Interlude," the dancers
seemed to transform themselves
into volatile molecules. With grace
and power they moved as individu-
als, before smoothly flowing into
cohesive formations.
Energy of form and matter gave
rise to the force of human feeling as
Spriggs took the stage in four daz-
zling solos. Amidst a barrage of
concise splits, leaps and spins,
Spriggs emanated her inner state of
being through dramatic gestures.
With her hands, she intermittently
portrayed the fluttering of her heart
in "From the Heart." In "Eye to I,"
her fingers shielded and then un-
veiled her eyes, depicting her per-
sonal revelation.
The pieces were usually wide
open to personal interpretation. A
piece like "Dream Variation" ap-
plied to all who have ever dreamed.
However, the dance was also specif-

ically focused on the personal mean-
ing of dreams for Spriggs. Dancing
to the poignant poetry of Langston
Hughes, she pantomimed the con-
struction of a wall, which symbol-
ized the obstacles preventing many
African Americans from realizing
their own dreams.
The performance added to its
easygoing quality by avoiding ul-
tra-abstract modem maneuvers and
sprinkling in a few elements of the
good-old-fashioned jazz genre. One
abstract piece, "Abscrap," was made
accessible to the audience through a
casual introduction by Spriggs. She
described the dance as dealing with
"a schizophrenic bag lady who has
trouble with society or about noth-
ing at all." The upbeat, intriguing
accompaniment in this piece capti-
vated the audience as the dancer
flung her legs to reach incredible
heights. Her wild movements
seemed to be generated from an un-
known source of spastic energy.
The power emanating from the
dancers in Spriggs and Friends was
of a unique, personal quality that
can be attributed to the talent and
devotion of the performers. They
danced for the sake of dancing, pro-
voking the audience to relax and
watch for the sake of having fun. As
the dancers contracted with wave-
like undulations during the final
piece, "Timeline," the audience
moved along with them in their
seats and smiled at a night of great
entertainment.
-Justine Unatin

John Malkovich and Debra Winger comfort each otner Deneathl
Bernardo Bertolucci's sheltering camera in the film adaptation of Paul

Bowles' The Sheltering Sky.
around Africa looking bored. The
movie does pick up somewhat near
the end after Kit has joined the
camel traders. Bertolucci provides
dazzling shots of the Sahara, which
haven't been depicted so powerfully
nor beautifully since Lawrence of
Arabia. That relatively brief time,
however, is the closest the film ever
comes to greatness.
Interestingly enough, Bowles
himself makes an appearance in the
film as "the narrator," perhaps in an
attempt to satisfy Bowles fans who
would otherwise be totally disap-
pointed by the film. He appears in

three short scenes as a customer in a
restaurant and in a caf6 at which Kit
and Port dine. Seeming like a mysti-
cal shaman, he never speaks, but as
"the narrator" he provides a couple
of voice-overs in those scenes that
hint at the quest the characters are
on, which the film otherwise ig-
nores. It is these moments, perhaps,
that we pierce the fabric of Ber-
tolucci's sheltering camera and
glimpse not the void but the essence
of Bowles' work.

THE SHELTERING SKY
shown at the Michigan
through Friday.

is being
Theater

Deee-lite is deee-with it, dig?

Conductor leads Orchestra to new heights

by Peter Shapiro
"The depth of hula groove/ move
us to the nth hoop/ we're goin' thru
to/ Horton hears a who..."
- "Groove is in the Heart"
In one single quatrain, the three
groove-niks that comprise Dece-
Lite manage to encapsulate my
first grade experience. The struggle
of an awkward six year-old to re-
late to his pelvis enough to shake
his thang in a vain attempt to keep a
hula hoop rotating about his waist
during Miss Briley's gym class and
the clandestine regression back to
pre-school days by sneaking peeks
at Dr. Seuss instead of "see Dick
run" are captured in their refer-
ences to everything hip/camp.
On one hand, Deee-Lite is the
most affectedly hip band since, oh,
the Happy Mondays. Their celebra-
tion of nerdom (Jungle DJ Towa
Towa), mockery of the suave,
debonaire foreign swinger (Super
DJ Dimitry) and glorification of
'70s chic (Lady Miss Kier) seems
to be coldly calculated to win the
hearts of everyone who spent their
formative years in the
Thermidorian Reaction to the '60s.
People with copies of the Saturday
Night Fever soundtrack hidden (or
not hidden) inside the fold-out
jacket of Exile on Main Street can-
not help being suckered in by their
image, if not their slightly mod-

emnist disco.
On the other hand though, Deee-
Lite's music and look traps the
ebullience of childhood and the
best moments of adolescence under
a glass and lets you in to groove on
the vibes. Their house-ish disco is
more than the most cohesive col-
lage of sampling and found-sounds
since the dense songs on the Jungle
Brothers' Done By the Forces of
Nature. The comic sound bites, like
the door bell and the munching
potato chips in "Who Was That"
or the slide whistle in "Groove Is
in the Heart," are a hearkening back
to the days when you drove your
parents crazy by playing a rubber
band wrapped around a bread pan or
plucked a saw or even screeched on
a violin behind doors that weren't
thick enough.
Similarly, their lyrics recall the
pre-academe joy of messing around
with language. "How do you say... /
Deee-gorgeous?/ Deee-with it?/
Deee-groovy?/ Deee-line?/ Ooh lala
lalalalala" ("What is Love?"),
"E.S.P. ouijee yeeyee" ("E.S.P.")
and "My supperdish, my succotash
wish" ("Groove is in the Heart")
all tap into the familiar inarticu-
lated pleasures of being somewhat
outside the system that pre-
heartbroken youth affords so well.

by Liz Patton
D o you remember that movie with
Tom Hanks, The Money Pit, where
the young couple buys a huge coun-
try house that falls apart on them
(literally)? The wife played the vi-
olin in an orchestra with a stereo-
typically tyrannical European con-
ductor. Cindy Egolf-Sham Rao, the
doctoral conducting student cur-
rently directing the University
Campus Orchestra, doesn't quite fit
that mold. For one thing, she's
American, and second of all, she's
female! Egolf-Sham Rao grimaces
when I bring this up. "I don't know
how difficult or different it is to be
a 'woman conductor,"' she explains.
"I've always been a woman, after
all. That's the only perspective I
have. And conducting isn't an easy
profession to break into, for men or
for women."
That's where Campus Orchestra
can help. In addition to giving our
conducting students a large group to
work with, it provides an opportu-
nity for non-music majors to enjoy
ensemble playing. Enough people
auditioned last year to form two
such orchestras. The group is con-
tinually evolving - it's not a ho-
mogeneous group of music majors,
but people from widely varying
backgrounds: engineering, anthro-
pology, you name it. As Egolf-Sham
Rao puts it, "We're not talking

white bread here." What the mem-
bers all do have in common is a love
of music.
For tomorrow night's concert,
assistant conductor Matthew
Savery leads Mendelssohn's tone
poem, Fingal's Cave, with Egolf-
Sham Rao taking Brahms'
Symphony No. 2 and Liszt's Les
Preludes. "One of the things I re-
ally like about Les Prludes ," says
Egolf-Sham Rao, "is the incredible
range of emotion. It has very tender
moments, and huge bombastic
places, and it has spooky, intense
moments, straight out of a.

Hitchcock movie."
It's Egolf-Sham Rao's job to
shape the sound of the group as a
whole, and her enthusiasm for the
music shows as she describes how
she gets the orchestra to do what she
wants. "I try to draw a picture for
them," she explains. "The big
sounds are always the easiest -
there are plenty of examples of BIG
sounds in American culture. And
ninety people playing as big as they
know how to play can put out a lot
of sound!"
The little sounds pose a greater
challenge. For example, in the
Brahms symphony, there is a lovely
serenade. "I told them, 'It sounds

like you're playing for your grand-
mother and she can't quite hear you!
Think of someone you feel tender
and romantic about,"' Egolf-Sham
Rao says. "Suddenly, it was a new
sound, like a brand new orchestra."
This breakthrough is a tri-
umphant moment for everyone in-
volved. "But I can't be too demand-
ing, she muses. "I find a way to let
them enjoy themselves. And the
best way to have fun at something is
to be good at it." Sound interesting?
"Come and audition next year," she
urges.
The CAMPUS ORCHESTRA per-
forms tomorrow at hill Auditorium
at 8 p.m. Admission is free.

F E;P
r

JRussianl )[aa'1:ilgv

" Start Fall term, speak it in Moscow next year.
" Also, Russian Literature in English, Hu. Distr.
" For information, call Slavic Dept., 764-5355 or
check CRISP
TornRobb~inS
"The man is a vital natural resource."
-Portland Oregonian
S

DEEE-LITE appear
tomorrow night at
Pontiac.

tonight and
Industry in

Egolf-Sham
Rao

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