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September 13, 1995 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-09-13

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10 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 13, 1995
See the light of'Burnt By The Sun'

By Michael Zilberman
Daily Arts Writer
Nikita Mikhalkov is arguably the
least location-specific director ever to
emerge from Russia. For that, he has
acquired a somewhat uncomfortable
reputation asan author who directs with
foreign distribution already in mind.
His movies are said-to possess a weird
chameleonic quality; they tend to
change according to viewers' level of
awareness with the'same ease as their
titles do. "Burnt By The Sun" was re-
leased as "Blinded By The Sun" in
France and "Exhausted By The Sun" in
Russia. You don't have to know abso-
lutely anything about their settings and
heroes to comprehend what's going on.
The plot of"Burnt By The Sun" begs
for a comparison to a Chekhov play: it
takes place entirely on one sunny after-
noon, beginning with an idyllic family
scene and gradually slipping into quiet
nightmare. Kotov, a fictional retired
revolutionary hero, lives in a country
cottage with his mnch younger wife, an
extended family of intellectual oddballs
and a pair of perennial houseguests. On
that particular afternoon, an old friend
Mitya comes by: Tea parties, soccer
games and picnics follow, but there's a
faint trace of danger in the way the
Shakespeare-quoting, piano-playing
visitor exchanges glances with Kotov
and his wife. Before too long, from
seemingly innocuous bits and pieces of
dialogue his secret agenda starts to
emerge.
The scariest part of the movie is the
fact that Kotov's family lives in a
happy political vacuum while their
beloved country is quite visibly com-

RIVIEW
Burnt By
The Sun
Directed by Nikita
Mrkhalov; withOleg
Menshzkov and Nikita
Mikhalov
At Ann Arbor 1&2
ing apart around their quaint house-
hold. The immediate past, which "the
legendary colonel" Kotov obviously
helped shape, is reduced to a topic for
a lazy exchange over morning coffee.
The characters are indeed blinded
rather than burnt by the sun - the
pain will come a little later.
The socialist system, however,
starts to infiltrate their tranquility,
mostly in the form of sinister, surreal-
istic intrusions: a Fellini-esque caval-
cade here, a maddeningly incompre-
hensible slogan there. Thus, Mitya's
visit is essentially a wake-up call.1936
is the exact moment of Russian his-
tory when the last hint of genuine
enthusiasm about the Marxist idea
was forcefully replaced by the fear of
a faceless bureaucratic mechanism
that the system had become.
"Burnt By The Sun" is a French-
Russian coproduction, with the French
mostly handling the financial side,
and technical credits are superlative
throughout. The cast is simply sensa-
tional. Mikhalkov is a credible lead-
ing man, but the real discovery of the
film is his daughter Nadya, who, con-

sidering her young age, gives an au-
daciousperformance. She's cute with-
out being cutesy, and although it's
not clear at this point whether she's
facing a fate of a Jodie Foster or a
Shirley Temple, her debut effort is
impressive.
In addition, Oleg Menshikov, oddly
reminiscent of Liam Neeson, is great
for the role of Mitya. On top of that,
there's a bit of adventurous ironic
casting: Vyacheslav Tikhonov, the
favorite blue-collar hero of the Soviet
era, plays a cranky grandfather dis-
pensing anti-communist one-liners
left and right, much to the confusion
of the family.
Unfortunately, there is a very easily-
spotted moment when the authors de-
cide to go for the overkill. Having
brought the actual plot to an end with a
devastatingly somber farewell se-
quence, Mikhalkov starts frantically
piling up metaphorical postscripts. The
last 15 minutes are devoted primarily to
beating the viewer over the head with
incredibly heavy-handed symbolism
that possibly one-ups everything Oliver
Stone has ever committed to film.
A giant portrait of Stalin hovers in
the skies (just in case you didn't get the
idea); a fireball flies through the win-
dow, setting fire to old photographs; a
hapless truck driver gets lost in the
endless fields with the sole purpose of
providing yet another metaphor for a
country gone down the wrong road.
Unfortunately, it's the movie that has
taken the wrong turn. There is a couple
of terrific sequences, but they feel
tacked-on to an already completed
movie.

Dr. John has the prescription for a great Blues and Jazz Fest
Look at Dr. John. Why, he couldn't be happier. He's got a new album, "Television," that features guest stars like Anthony Kiedis,
Randy Brecker and David "Fathead" Newman. He just helped open up the Rock and Roll Halt of Fame with a performance at the
opening ceremony. He's even won two Grammys. But these accomplishments pale in comparison to his upcoming engagement:
He's kicking off the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival this weekend with a Friday show at the Michigan Theater. No wonder he's
smiling. He's probably also thrilled that the festival runs through Sunday, and will include Booker T and the MGs, Cassandra
Wilson, Fontella Bass, the Carribbean Jazz Project and many others. He might still be smiling about those Grammys, too. There
could be other reasons why he Is smiling, but we don't know what those are. Maybe he'll explain Friday night. Or maybe he'll smile
some more. Or maybe he won't smile at alll You'll never know unless you go.

RECORDS
Continued from page 9
Soultry
soulbty
Motown Records
Here we have four guys trying to
follow in the footsteps of quartets like
Shai and Silk in gaining R&B fame,
all of whom will instantly remind you
of someone you've seen before. KJ
faintly resembles Boyz II Men mem-
be Slim, Baby looks like Dr. Dre (not
the one with Snoop; the one with Ed
Lover), K-Born looks like a cross
4ptween Herman Munster and Shabba
Ranks with plastic surgery and X looks
just like a lighter-skinned version of
the University football team's own
Brian Williams, complete with the
bald head. Physically, this is one weird
imixture, but musically these guys flow
pretty well together producing a de-
but release which has its weaknesses
but is still a pretty darn good piece of
work.
"What I Want" and "Can I Get to
Know You" have got to be the two best
songs on "Soultry." While the topics
are nothing new to modern R&B songs
(ie. women, sex, occasionally love and
long-lasting relationships), it is in these

two songs that the members show just
how well-tuned their singing is. Yet,
while "Sex in the Rain,"which vaguely
resembles the WhiteheadBrothers' "Sex
on the Beach," only faster-paced, sports
some nice, Soultry sounds, "I'll Get
Mine"'sunappealing openingbeats lead
into an even less appealing vocal mock-
ery by the group. Soultry does have
great harmonizing skills, though, which
tare touted full strength in "Where Do
Broken Hearts Belong." Its a capella
opening leads into a nicely-sung body
and finale.
Taking on a playboy look ofrefine-
ment, class and style, the members of
Soultry surely believe that their im-
age will make many putty in their
hands. But, as many up-and-coming
R&B artists have learned, while the
look might propel you to stardom,
only true talent will keep you there.
Soultry has the look and the name,
and there's strong indication in this
LP that this group has the talent. A
little less make-up work and a little
more vocal practice will come in
handy, for it is the group's sophomore
LP which will determine once and for
all whether Soultry is just fluff or if
there's truly a gem of legitimate art-
istry to be found.
- Eugene Bowen

Rottin Razkals
Rottin Ta Da Core
llltown/Motown Records
Onlythesecondgroup from Kay Gee's
(of Naughty by Nature) Illtown label,
two-woman dynamo Zhan6 was first, the
Rottin Razkals are plodding in some foot-
steps deeply rooted in Black music fame.
Hailing from East Orange, New Jersey
(a.k.a. Illtown), Diesel, Fam and Chap,
who formed this group almost four years
ago, don't seem to be sweatin' 'bout it.
They simply decidedto make themselves
into baby Naughty by Nature. (In fact,
lead rapper Diesel is younger brother of
Naughtyby Nature'sleadlyricist, Treach.)
Of course, if you're going to rap like
another group, Naughty by Nature isn't a
bad one to want to be like. So much of
"Rottin Ta Da Core" sounds like they're
straight from the NBN factory, like "Oh
Yeah," "Frustration" and "Come on
Ya'll." Treach even raps with thegroup in
"Life of a Bastard." Why? They sound
like soprano versions of him anyway.
Yet,every bluemoon, somethingweird
happens; Rottin Razkals feature some-
thing completely different and all their
own. The lady singers in "A-yo" will get
a good chuckle out ofyou, and the "Cara-
van of Love" (Isley Brothers) sample in
"Hey Alright" starts the song off on the

we

right foot, even though the refrain is just
another version of "Hip Hop Hooray."
The one great aspect of Naughty by
Nature the Razkals took and should defi-
nitely keep is their non-gangsta-yet-still-
streetwise rapping. Rottin Razkals rap a
great deal about being Black and living in
the hood, something which Naughty by
Nature does often as well. The frankness
with which the Razkals share theirbeliefs
and experiences with the listenerdeserves
our respect.
However, respect would be more forth-
coming ifthe Razkals would cut the NBN
apron strings and find their own identity.
Working off of other people's fame
shouldn't garner much respect or self-
respect. (It's plain stupid. Imagine Zhan6
trying tomake it singing like NBN sings.)
These guys have too much talent and
potential to go out like that. Let us hear
more Rottin Razkals and less of those
"O.P.P."guys. We know that Naughty by
Nature got it goin' on (even if the last LP
was kinda wack); show us that Rottin
Razkals do, too.
- Eugene Bowen

Tarnation
Gentle Creatures
4 AD
Beautiful, heartbroken melodies. Weep-
ing steel guitars and hiccuping, bittersweet
vocals. That's what's in Tamation. And
"Gentle Creatures," the name ofthe group's
albumfor4AD,appliestotheirsongsaswell
as their sound: The songs are mournful,
disturbing, but above all gentle.
Because they're ostensibly a "country
band," some have wondered why Tamation
are on an arty label like 4AD. Well, even
though theme's morethan alittletwanginthe
group's guitars and vocals, they are by no
means a mismatch with 4AD's aesthetic.
Songs like "The Hand," "Tell Me It's Not
So" and "Listen to the Wind"are as moody
and even gothic as anything released on the
label in recent memory.
Instead of calling Tamation merely a
county band, a more comprehensive de-
scription of their sound wouldbe American
Gothic. Song titles like "Halfway to Mad-
ness,"lyrics like"I'll castmyheartdownthe
well" and a lead singer who conjures up

Patsy Cline's ghost are too expansive to be
merely country. Furthermore, the spectral
productionjobon "Gentle Creatures" (cour-
tesyof iisNamelsAlive'sWarrenDefever)
makes it a shadowy, theatrical affair that
wouldn'tsoundoutofplaceasthesoundtrack
to the next David Lynch film.
Standout songs on "Gentle Creatues"
include"Gameof Broken Hearts,"recorded
onleadsingerandsongwriterPaulaFrazer's
4-track, the seedy, disturbing "Big O Mo-
tel," which seems tobeaboutawoman who
tries tosmotherherpain with cheapsexat a
sleazymotel,"Lonely Lights"and"Do You
Fancy Me,"both of which sound like lost
Patsy Cline tunes. "The Well,""Halfway to
Madness" and "Lonely Lights" all feature
Frazer'sbeautifulvoiceandplentyofspooky,
reverb-drenched guitars. Even though
Tarnation has broken up, Frazer is a lasting
talent and "Gentle Creatures" a fine way to
get acquainted with her singing and
songwriting.
-Heather Phares

See RECORDS, page 11

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