The Sydney Morning Herald from Sydney, New South Wales on May 11, 2000 · Page 16
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The Sydney Morning Herald from Sydney, New South Wales · Page 16

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Thursday, May 11, 2000
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We j5)bne) Horning pgeralb 16 www.smh.com.au THURSDAY, MAY 11, 2000 ARTS Getou the Transported to a war ID mankie Bus he via iff fsz J m L , 7; . Vrgir Sgg ir4 --- -.. - J ' - i f tQ0 Paul Byrnes MUSIC OFTHE HEART Directed by Wes Craven Written -by Pamela Gray, inspired by the documentary Small Wonders by Allan Miller Rated PG Cinemas everywhere With its sappy title, Music of the Heart sounds like it will pluck the cardiac strings hard, and it does. It's about poor kids from East Harlem, mostly black and Hispanic, who learn to play violin with an extraordinary teacher, played by Meryl Streep. Eventually, they get to play Carnegie Hall with some of the world's great violinists, such as Isaac Stern, Itzhak Perlman, Arnold Steinhardt, Mark O'Connor and Charles Veal jnr. It's so sentimental.it has to be a true story, and it is. Roberta Guaspari-Tzavaras has taught thousands of disadvantaged kids to love and play music, in the belief that it benefits them in countless ways. When the New York school authorities cancelled her funding, she fought back with the benefit concerts and survived (support was restored, strangely enough, during the making of the film last year). For most of the second half of the film, Streep seems to have tears in her eyes; I'm not sure, as I was having unexpected problems with my eyes at this point. It's the damned kids with the Cross-cultural fertilisation . . . stuffy Tories and Balkan soldiers populate this mordantly funny debut feature set in London. demands of the National Health System are nothing alongside those of his new patient a Muslim woman giving birth to the baby conceived as a result of her rape by Serbian soldiers. And Danny Nussbaum (from Shane Meadows's Twenty Four Seven) plays a football hooligan, whose life takes a turn for the Pythonesque when he misses his flight to Rotterdam for the World Cup qualifier and winds up in a Bosnian forest being shot at It's heavyweight material, yet Dizdar uses laughter to pump it up to the lightness of helium. It's not that he's shy of sentiment, but because of the film's helter-skelter pace, there's no time for it to congeal into sentimentality. Blood is another matter. The Bosnian sequence gives us plenty of that, as well as a bravura display of Dizdar's command of the shock tactic, but it's in a good cause. At the heart of it all for it's a film with a big heart is the paradox that while we know more about other people's wars than Roberta isn't so strong at the start Her husband, a naval officer, has just run off with another woman, leaving her with two young boys and no job. She is destroyed, a pitiful wreck, despite Cloris Leachman's attempts as her mother to rebuild her. "If I'm so beautiful and talented, why did Charles leave me?" she cries. Thus, the script makes her-self-esteem an issue. This helps to make her less the white do-gooder later, when she goes to-Harlem to see school principal Helen Williams (Angela Bassett) at the suggestion of Brian Turner (Aidan Quinn), an old school friend who becomes her lover. Facing a sceptical black parent, she says she didn't come to rescue poor black kids. "I'm a single mother and I needed the job." Teaching makes her stronger and tougher. She insists on commitment from her kids and she's hard on them, to the point of complaints from parents. If anything, the real Roberta is even tougher, as anyone who saw the documentary Fiddlefest (later renamed Small Wonders) will recall. The movie is based on that film, which was Oscar-nominated in 1995. It showed Roberta as a demanding, driven woman. Streep's character is softer, but that may be true, too ; a feature film can go where a documentary may be . excluded, into a personal life. The film's concerts are a culminating joy, despite the really bad acting of some of the great fiddlers (as an actor, Isaac Stern makes a great violinist). Streep learned enough violin to be convincing in her playing, and many of the 50 children on stage are real Guaspari students. The sight of these small people on that huge and venerable stage is genuinely moving. Ultimately, the film earns its tissues. moter the late Kenn Brodziak were honoured with the inaugural James Cassius Awards two years ago for their outstanding contributions to live entertainment. Edna Edgley spent the evening at her son's home for a family dinner on Monday. "Before dinner she watched a video of 42nd Street and then we had a wonderful meal and she went back to her nursing home at 10pm," Michael said. "Not only did she have a phenomenal life, she went the best way that anyone could hope for, without pain, very quietly and with great dignity. It was a just a splendid exit for a splendid lady." Her passing will be mourned by many in the industry. "Everyone respected her. . . she really was a genuinely loved woman," said Melbourne publicist Susie Howie. Edna Edgley is survived by her two children, Michael and Christine Trostle, and six grandchildren. fellow passengers record the British public's response to the mayhem. Then, at last, London Transport rules prevail and they're turfed out into the street, where they promptly resume hostilities at a pace that wouldn't disgrace a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. It's no mean feat to move at breakneck speed while keeping your tongue firmly tucked in your cheek, but such agility is a characteristic of Balkan filmmakers. It's as if they're in a fever to deal with each of their region's upheavals before being engulfed by the next This time, however, there's a difference. Dizdar has been a Londoner for the past 10 years, and his film marries Balkan freneticism with a laconic, bitten-down humour that's distinctly British. Beautiful People is essentially about displacement the experience of being uprooted and replanted in a country full of exotics. But we're watching it through a two-way mirror. To us, after alL the exotics are virtually natives British character actors who pop up night after night on our living room screens. The film is circular in shape, like something by Robert Airman. It scoots all over London, but it also clambers up and down the social ladder to bring you a clear, comprehensive and mordantly funny picture of British bureaucracy in action although action is hardly the word for the baffling rigmarole that the refugees come up against as they try to make themselves at home. But in the end, the locals are the ones whose lives are really shaken up by all this cross-cultural fertilisation. Elfin Charlotte Coleman (Hugh Grant's flatmate in Four Weddings and a Funeral ) startles her stuffy Tory family out of its congenital complacency by falling for a former Bosnian soldier (Edin Dzandzanovic). Solemn-faced Nicholas Farrell (a regular in Kenneth Branagh's films) finds that his troubles as a doctor ground down under the Sandra Hall BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE Written and directed by Jasmin Dizdar Rated MA Dendy Opera Quays, Dendy Newtown, Cinema Paris at Fox. Advance screenings this weekend. This ebullient first feature from British-based Bosnian emigre Jasmin Dizdar begins with a bout between two old enemies. One's a Serb, the other's a Croat, and they meet by chance aboard a London bus. There are no preliminaries. They just set about restaging the Balkan wars in microcosm, while the camera does its best to keep up with them. Thunderstruck close-ups of their zone ever before, we probably care less. Knowledge, which ought to bring about empathy, is doing the opposite and conferring immunity unless it's the kind of knowledge that can somehow be boiled down to the unforgettable. While watching Beautiful People, I thought of Australia's repatriation last month of the Kosovar refugees, and how glib and windy the debate seemed when compared with the reports of what the Kosovars faced on their return. The story that stuck with me was the one about the man who, by force of habit took out the keys to what had once been his home and opened his front door onto a pile of rubble. Dizdar is a film-maker who understands the power of pictures like that As a result, he's made a film that plays effortlessly in all languages. It also has more energy and spirit than the bulk of what's being produced for 20 times its miraculously modest $2 million budget toughs played well by Justin Ros-niak and Matthew Wilkinson, and a musician (Joel Edgerton) trying to get his girlfriend (Paula Arundell) off a good-time bender. Smith's original script had many more characters but he setded on an even dozen, which is about six more than he can handle. Highly experienced directors baulk at large ensemble casts, but 27-year-old Smith leaps in with more courage than judgment It's a film with a funky-retro-Newtown-'TOs-nostalgia look, and a soundtrack to match (new versions of Russell Morris's Sweet, Sweet Love, and Skyhooks' Horror Movie but these are just icing. The characters are the cake and they haven't risen here. pbyrnes: a attglobaLnet powerful duet from Berlin at the gala didn't make it to the touring program. Philippe Charluet's video montages give a fascinating coverage of the company and its dancers since Murphy became artistic director nearly 25 years ago. They contribute to a sense of living history, along with the previews and echoes of Murphy's creative choreographic style captured in the program of which the above are only highlights of the highlights. Kristian Fredrikson's set is a miracle of stylish restraint; his previous designs for the company have been richly textured Other set designers include Andrew Carter, Brian Thomson, George Gittoes, George Freedman and Matthew Serventy. Jennifer Irwin's costumes are everywhere, like John Rayment's lighting, though Damien Cooper lit this production as a whole. Body of Work is just a sample of the artistic cross-fertilisation triggered by Murphy in his pursuit of dance but don't miss it You'll never see it quite like this again. Farewell to an entertainment entrepreneur extraordinaire violins. About midway through the film's 1 18 minutes, when they finally get to play a concert for their parents, having worked for months to master Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, you're as psyched as they are. You want them to sound good for their parents; you remember what Roberta (Streep) said in an early lesson: "If you don't listen to me, you're going to sound so bad that your parents might get sick when they hear you they might even throw up." We see them smile at this thought, while Roberta's face tries to remain serious. She has given them a compliment, a joke. By . trusting that they will get it, she has shown them a little respect Movies can sometimes make you cry without earning the right; you feel cheated for having your buttons pushed by tawdry material This one has all the right elements for that and it's dogged in pursuit of emotional moments, but that's not the same as being forced. It's a question of touch. In his earlier films, Wes Craven has touched us less delicately. He's the reigning American, master of light horror, with the huge success of the Scream films, and as the originator of the truly frightening Nightmare on Elm Street (the original only, not the sequels). A good horror director is a master of subtle manipulation, which is why he's better suited to this story than you might expect His job here is to get us soaked without us noticing how he's doing it; the degree to which one doesn't notice is also the degree of enjoyment In a way, Craven does what Roberta does with the kids; he shows us some respect by keeping a light touch. In technical terms, he does it by making Roberta seem very human; she's a tough cookie, and the best role Streep has had in a good while. for five years, and she was instrumental in my decision to go on with the business. "She really was an icon in her own right and the longer she went on, the more her reputation grew. She was basically involved in the theatre for 83 years; she literally began on the stage at age six." Edna Edgley was still at it last year, travelling around the country helping to promote the Moscow Circus, and in 1988, aged 78, she was asked to perform with the Australian Ballet as the nurse in Romeo and Juliet a role she would reprise for the next five years, later describing it as a career highlight Born Edna Luscombe in Carlton, Victoria, in 1910, she began dancing at six, and at 10 was cast in the pantomime Aladdin, starring English vaudeville duo Eric Edgley and Clem Dawe. Twenty years later she and Eric were married in London. Edna Edgley and fellow pro Association Oh, the agony ecstasy indie By GABRIELLA COSLOVICH Showbiz pioneer Edna Edgley, the mother of prominent Australian promoter Michael Edgley, has died at the age of 89. Behind every great man is a woman, the saying goes, and behind Michael was the vivacious, irrepressible Edna, a trailblazer who, in the 1960s with husband Eric, organised the first tour of Soviet artists to Australia. The couple mortgaged their Perth home to bring out the Moscow Variety Theatre. Australians also saw the Bolshoi Ballet and Moscow Circus thanks to their efforts, and, later, the likes of Marcel Marceau, Mikhail Bary-shnikov, and Torvill and Dean. "She was a wonderful support to me," Michael Edgley said, speaking from his Gold Coast home this week following his mother's death on Monday night "My father died in 1967 in Perth and I had been working with him of the Australian Film Corporation's investment This is a pity, because Hindley Street doesn't look like Sydney; the film might have had more chance if debut director Clinton Smith had been able to shoot on his home turf. On the other hand, the film's problems go way beyond location confusion. With Kylie Minogue, Ben Mendelsohn and the rarely seen but usually memorable David Field heading the cast the film has some casting credibility, but none is well used. Mendelsohn pouts and flutters as a bisexual barfly called John in a spectacularly kitsch performance ; most of the other characters in the film get to punch him at some point and no wonder he's so irritating. Kylie is a femme fatale, a gangster's moll in too much oily pharmaceutically altered American high school flick for twenty-somethings. Apart from lack of budget, a common problem is that they're simply narcissistic the creative impulse for the makers often goes no further than wanting to see hisher kind on a big screen. Not that that's unusual, but characterisation should be more than how a character dresses. Human Traffic, set in Cardiff, was a lively recent example because the characters were more vivid; Sample People is an overdressed home-grown variation where costume is character. It's set in Sydney, somewhere like Newtown. I say "somewhere like" because, apart from a few establishing shots of Sydney, it was shot in Adelaide, a condition of the South make-up and with nothing much to do emotionally. Field chews scenery as her gangster, TT, who deals in large amounts of white powder from upstairs in his dance club, Sample People. Simon Lyndon is a hunky courier, Andy, who's about to rip him off and run away with Kylie. That's only half of the story. Another strand concerns a shy boy (Nathan Page) who works for a philosophical Indian (Ghandi Maclntyre) in the local all-night kebab shop; shy boy fancies funky blonde DJ Lush Puppy (Nathalie Roy), who rides a skateboard and designs trendy clothes (she would, wouldn't she?). None of these characters is developed enough to be interesting, which takes screen time away from the few who might have been a couple of street After the fun comes the serious stuff SAMPLE PEOPLE Directed by Clinton Smith Written by Clinton Smith and Peter Buckmaster Rated MA Hoyts City, Broadway, Fox Studios and selected suburbs Sample People'is an example of a small but growing genre, what I might call the "ecstasy indie". Essential elements: lots of cute young actors, lots of drugs, lots of music and a weekend. Essential locations: pubs, clubs, inner-city streets, back alleys, maybe a party. Essential dramatic events: drug deals, boygirl loses girlboy, often in multiple variations, leading to dangerous levels of drinking, drug use and, inevitably, chundering. The form is a bit like a more BODY Brown in Sheherazade. Opera Reviewed After the Sydney the warm Body of same different program: examination prodigious the past Not Murphy's a part of the quirky, Sequenza in just the by Tracey Bradley from An stage with mock (1995) OF WORK v Neighbourhood & Community Centres for the outstanding work you've achieved throughout 19992000, and for the services you provide in order to maintain caring and cohesive communities in NSW. Neighbourhood Centre Week 8- 13 May 2000 VISIT YOUR LOCAL NEIGHBOURHOOD OR COMMUNITY CENTRE DURING THIS WEEK desultoriness of Wakako Asano, Simon Turner and Josef Brown. The human percussion kit of Synergy with Synergy (1992) makes people laugh. There are scintillating solos headlined by Lea Francis in Piano Sonata (1992), with its relentless surges of energy including a group leap over a lowered lighting baton by the eight dancers to music by Carl Vine. And Bradley Chatfield's dazzling solo from Free Radicals (19), for which composer Michael Askill is one of the onstage percussionists whose instruments include human bodies their own and the dancers' to amusing effect Chatfield's nuggety speed and agility are featured again in a duo with the increasingly interesting Christopher Harris from Soft Bruising (1990). This ballet also makes the notable contribution of a lyrically interwoven quartet, smoothly and sinuously danced by Sally Wicks, Katherine Arnold-Lindley, Matthew Shilling and Xue-Jun Wang. A faux Spanish ensemble from Shining (1986) provides a sizzling start to the evening probably more so as performances settle ?nd this new-generation cast gains assurance. Similarly, the dramatic excerpt from Poppy (1978) needed greater polish to be convincing as a stand-alone extract from a full-length work, despite a video introduction giving it context The shimmering romance of a duet from Sheherazade (1978) is beautifully conveyed by Katherine Griffiths and Josef Brown. They can never replace the original cast in my mind (Murphy and Janet Vernon) but there is no faulting the way they dance it with their own physicality . and interpretation 22 years later. Happily, Vernon can be seen in her original role in The Protecting Veil (1993), moving incisively and projecting a mysteriously moody ambience with the close partnering of Carl Plaisted who, like Lea Francis, is making a welcome return to the company, though I was sorry their Theatre, Opera House, May 9 byJILLSYKES electrifying sparks of the Dance Company gala comes glow of the main event, Work It has a few of the extracts but mostly it is material from the gala a more serious of Graeme Murphy's and diverse output over 25 years. that it doesn't have fun as well humour is too important his work to ignore. There are corporeal jokes of VII (1975), which was done right spirit on opening night Carrodus, Sally Wicks and Chatfield. The sailors' trio Evening (198 1) lights up the acrobatic antics, as does the doleful circus trio from Berlin through the skilfully timed - VvNw tit J The local Community Services Shimmering romance . . . Katherine Griffiths and Josef

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