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Friday, October 30, 1998
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 49








About the Cougar
 

Apt Pupil, Love is the Devil andVampiresarrive in theaters



Apt Pupil

Starring: Brad Renfro, Ian McKellen
MPAA Rating: R
**** (of five)

Playing at: local theaters


By John Harp
Daily Cougar Staff

A quiz for the student (select the most nearly correct answer):

The new Bryan Singer film Apt Pupil is:

A.) Unspeakable, just like the Holocaust itself. No one who has been through it really wants to talk about it.

B.) En vogue, just like the Holocaust itself. Everyone wants to talk about it and discuss the monsters and the victims, and everyone will capitalize off the shock value come Oscar time. What's unspeakable once it's been said?

C.) A warmly shot, chillingly performed living portrait of the psychological layers people wrap around themselves, and a peek at the festering decay that consumes buried secrets.

D.) A mostly engaging interplay of montage sets and extended conversations that runs a little dry in the last 20 minutes.

E.) All of the above.

I suppose Nazis don't really frighten movie audiences today, but way back in 1984, the frame year for Apt Pupil, a horde of Hitler's henchmen chasing a fedora-topped archaeologist was the stuff of high cinema.

And that's where Singer, the director, gets his hooks into the postmodern audience: To us, Ian McKellen's character, a former SS officer, is just an old man with a stained, forgotten past. He's absolved of guilt because his persecutors -- us again, of course -- have undergone a major cinema catharsis regarding World War II over the past 20 years (see relevant entry, Spielberg).

And our culture as a whole is finding it easier and easier to forgive anything wholeheartedly, if time has tormented the sinner long enough. (Don't believe me? Some of Apt Pupil's roots are in Erica Jong's Fear of Flying, with a much more human, and humane, character's response at meeting a former Nazi. Take a peek.)

But for Stephen King (writer of the short story that spawned this film project) and our semi-generic suburban '80s cast, especially Brad Renfro as high school student Todd Bowden, McKellen's Kurt Dussander is simply a monster. That's what fascinates Todd and intrigues us, too, after a while.

It seems, as the antiquarian saying goes, "That is not dead which can eternal lie." Half of the wicked entertainment in Brandon Boyce's script is watching the typical intelligent boy who can't leave well enough alone and who is obsessed with the Holocaust (OK, so it isn't quite a stereotype) forcefully strip back the tired layers of Dussander's persona to get at the demon still thriving underneath.

The other half of the fun is McKellen himself. He's already established as John Gielgud's own secret sharer, the dark shadow of modern Shakespearean performances. I recommend his starring role in the recent Richard III as an example of the sinister presence he has cast over the globe's theater scene in the last half-century.

He's wholly convincing in his circuit from cynical to sardonic to sadistic to psychotic to Satanic, and his voice lets Dussanker's sickening war anecdotes ring true. He, in fact, manages to upstage the otherwise brilliant collages/flashbacks to concentration camps that Singer stitches into the action. "The sound of rustling leaves" may make me shudder for the rest of the season; the controversial shower sequence won't.

But he won't win an Oscar for Apt Pupil; unfortunately, he outdid himself this year. He'll appear in Gods and Monsters next month and give a tragic performance that'll get Stanley Kubrick blubbering with pity. That one's worth Academy gold.

The film's only other drawback involves its length; the relentless progression that Singer continues to pound into the audience could leave some viewers feeling emotionally punch-drunk. Still, to be effective, the movie has to pursue the "pupil's" transformation into his teacher. 

When he leaves Kurt Dussanker, Todd Bowden is but the learner. By the tale's end, he is the master.



Love is the Devil

Starring: Derek Jacob, Daniel Craig
MPAA rating: R
*** (of five)


By Andrew Sandoval
Daily Cougar Staff

Love is the Devil introduces Francis Bacon (Derek Jacob) as one of the greatest artists of modern times. John Maybury, the writer and director of the film, uses camera angles, distorted lenses and extreme close-ups to narrate a story of decadence and addictions.

Bacon leads a very unusual life in that he lives obsessed with evil and destruction. Love is the Devil explains how Bacon's mind works. During many scenes, Bacon goes through his routines and mood swings while his monologues describe his morbid fascinations. He enjoys boxing matches as well as gory movies, and he hangs around bars. Bacon's drinking partners are extremely colorful, with nontraditional jobs and carefree lives. 

Most of the film jumps back and forward between the bars, Bacon's house and his painting studio. Love is the Devil is not done in a traditional way, and some scenes seem to lack any conclusion, leaving the audience with a feeling of uneasiness and disorientation.

Bacon, a very rude and cynical man, gets away with being a jerk because of his cleverness and talent. 

He gets bored with people and the adulation of his fans. Bacon frequently has attacks of anger and behaves strangely. Often during the movie, he throws paint at the canvas and walks away from his work.

In one scene, in an act of frustration, Bacon smears paint on his face and shouts angrily in his studio. 

George Dyer (Daniel Craig), Bacon's lover and model, also leads a very strange life. His character is also very smart, but lives under the shadow of the artist.

After having an argument with Bacon, Dyer takes off with his friends and confesses his jealousy for all the praise received by the artist. Dyer has terrible nightmares, drinks constantly and frequently attempts to commit suicide. Daniel Farson (Adrian Scarborough), Bacon's friend and biographer, tries to convince the artist to get some help for Dyer. She also explains how his stage suicides are a call for attention.

Bacon refuses to help his model, and even enjoys his partner's pain. Their relationship is intense, and the incriminations and reproaches frequently end in angry arguments.

Bacon is a character who loses almost all sense of compassion and love for people. He has feelings for his lover, but they are secondary to his work. For Bacon, Dyer as a subject is more fascinating than Dyer as a person. 

Love is the Devil proves to be a very cleaver and artistic movie that presents a world completely unknown to most people because it probes deep into the mind of a brilliant man with a psychopathic personality. The cinematography of the movie is very realistic, and at the same time surreal. The repetition of situations, arguments, dialogues and anger makes this film realistic.

On the other hand, the strange camera angles, out-of-focus shots, Bacon's monologues and Dyer's nightmares make the film surreal.

Love is the Devil has the appeal of a car crash, because it is interesting in a gory way, but after a while it becomes quite disturbing.

Reach Sandoval at
andrew.sandoval@gte.net.


John Carpenter's Vampires

Starring: James Woods, Thomas Ian Griffith
MPAA rating: R
***1/2 (of five)

Playing at: local theaters


By Isabella So
Daily Cougar Staff

There is only one word to describe John Carpenter's Vampires: bloody.

This movie is not only action-packed, but it is filled with blood and gore. Well, I know that's a given since it's a vampire movie, but at times it simply becomes really gruesome -- and that's the best part.

The movie starts off with vampire slayer Jack Crow (James Woods, the comic voice of Hades in Disney's Hercules), who is the leader of a group of Vatican mercenaries involved in a long-waged war against vampires.

After the successful defeat of a nest of vampires, "Team Crow" celebrates at a nearby hotel and is ambushed by the first created vampire, Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith). 

Being the first vampire, Valek's strength is by far the most powerful. He is in search of the Berziers Cross, which will give him -- and all vampires succeeding him -- the power to walk in daylight.
 


James Woods and Daniel Baldwin (front row) lead members of Team Crow in preparation for battle against bloodsucking ghouls in John Carpenter's Vampires.

Neil Jacobs/Columbia Pictures

With his team massacred by Valek, Crow and the only other survivor, Tony Motoya (Daniel Baldwin), start their pursuit to stop Valek and to seek revenge. They are accompanied by a young priest, Father Adam Guiteau (Tim Guinee), and a prostitute, Katrina (Sheryl Lee), whom Valek bit and who is being used to track him down by the mental connection he has with his victims.

The plot is semi-decent only because the summer flick Blade has already used this particular storyline. But don't get me wrong, Vampires is totally different fromBlade. The vampires in this movie are stronger, not affected by the sight of a cross, and are more vicious.

Woods puts on an excellent performance as the leader and as a smart-ass, making the movie lighter and not so violence-heavy. And you can't help but notice Daniel Baldwin who, although heis looking a little chubbier these days, puts on a solid performance as the faithful sidekick and friend.

Vampires is directed by Carpenter, who is known for his horror movies like Halloween and In the Mouth of Madness, movies which leave the audience to question itself about what is real.

Carpenter does not go by the typical rule book of vampirism. A stake in the heart will only injure, but not kill, the fully developed vampire. Only direct sunlight will kill these nocturnal beasts.

This change, among others, is what makes the movie more interesting to watch than your average vampire flick. I had a great time grimacing at the blood and gore, and I was very entertained. But be sure not to look too deep into Vampires, or else you will begin to see the flaws and no longer enjoy what is otherwise a pretty enjoyable movie.

I would much rather pay to watch this movie than going to a haunted house. It's cheaper, lasts longer, has more thrills and chills and you don't have to wait in an annoyingly long line.Reach So at

Isabellaringing@hotmail.com.
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