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Film critic Henry Sheehan

Film critic Henry Sheeham reviews the new Stephen Spielberg film A.I.


Other segments from the episode on June 29, 2001

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, June 29, 2001: Interview with Eric Idle; Interview with Michael Palin; Interview with John Cleese; Interview with Graham Chapman; Review of the film "AI;" Obituary for…


TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Filler: By policy of WHYY, this information is restricted and has
been omitted from this transcript

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Review: New science fiction film "A.I."

Stanley Kubrick spent years working on the film "A.I." but died before he
could make it. Now Stephen Spielberg has finished the task for him. The
result is a science fiction saga set in the near future when global warming
has caused the oceans to flood and science has taken huge steps forward in
robot technology. Film critic Henry Sheehan has a review.

HENRY SHEEHAN reporting:

It's way too early to decide where "A.I." will finally fit in the frequently
fascinating, sometimes exasperating and always intriguing career of Stephen
Spielberg. The movie, whose initials stand for `artificial intelligence,' is
in many ways a mess. It's structured in the conventional three-act Hollywood
style and its first two acts are typically tight. But the third act features
two apparent climaxes, then an extended denouement and then finally just wafts
away into a conclusion that fails to resolve any key tensions. But the very
fact that a filmmaker so orderly as Spielberg has made such an ungainly movie
is arresting in itself. Even without that last third, "A.I." would still be a
compulsively watchable movie.

Haley Joel Osment delivers a compelling performance as David, a little robot
who's been designed not just to love, but to be loved in return. He's created
by a Professor Hobby, played by William Hurt, who isn't just an inventor, but
a businessman out to satisfy the growing market for second children. In a
world devastated by floods, wealthy nations like the US have maintained their
resources by rationing their population, subjecting couples to a one-marriage,
one-child formula. David is placed with the Swintons, Henry, an employee of
Hobby, and Monica. Their own 10-year-old has been cryogenically frozen till a
cure can be found for his terminal disease. David is meant as a replacement.

The entire first third of the movie is taken up with David's intense,
altogether real bonding with Monica and his subsequent expulsion from the
Swinton household. Although David doesn't fully understand, Monica leaves him
in the middle of a forest and tearfully warns him to avoid humans because he's
slated for scientific demolition.

This fairytalelike turn leads to the more action-packed second section.
David, who has been entranced by Monica's bedtime reading of "Pinocchio,"
decides to look for the blue fairy, the magical being who turned the wooden
puppet into a boy and might do the same for him. Along the way he picks up a
friend or two from a world of runaway robots. His closest pal is Gigolo Joe,
a professional sex partner for human women, who's been framed for murder.
Joe, well-played by Jude Law, is frustrated by David's refusal to accept his
status as a task-oriented collection of wires. Here he addresses the boy in
the bluntest terms.

(Soundbite of "A.I.")

Mr. JUDE LAW ("Gigolo Joe"): She loves what you do for her as my customers
love what it is I do for them. But she does not love you, David. She cannot
love you. You are neither flesh nor blood. You are not a dog or a cat or a
canary. You were designed and built specific, like the rest of us, and you
are alone now only because they tired of you or replaced you with a younger
model or were displeased with something you said or broke. They made us too
smart, too quick and too many.

SHEEHAN: Joe is also telling us what the movie is all about. He's telling
David that he can't be loved because of his own unhuman nature. But there's
also a third implicit point Gigolo Joe makes. He himself is a robot designed
to pleasure women without getting them pregnant; love that is facile and
manufactured, love that cannot be returned, love that cannot be born. These
are the three great tensions that run through "A.I.," the ones that Spielberg
ultimately can't resolve. As if rummaging through old cures, the filmmaker
employs favorite images from the past and finds them wanting.

The moon, that crucial symbol of freedom in "E.T.," in "A.I." turns out to be
a symbol of enslavement, used by a bizarre entrepreneur played by Brendan
Gleeson. He rounds up runaway robots for demolition in fiery autos-da-fe that
bring to mind Spielberg's own effects-laden movies.

But all the film's fire is eventually subsumed by water and the troublesome,
troubling and magnificently clumsy third act. The sea, the mother of us all,
now bringing death or at least indifference as its swells swallow the world.
Spielberg, after a lifetime of making movies about Peter Pan-like fathers, has
made a movie about mother love.

GROSS: Henry Sheehan is film critic for the Orange County Register.

Coming up, we remember Chico O'Farrill, one of the creators of Afro-Cuban
jazz. He died this week. This is FRESH AIR.

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Interview: Chico O'Farrill talks about his life as an Afro-Cuban
jazz composer and arranger

Chico O'Farrill, one of the originators of Afro-Cuban jazz, died Wednesday at
the age of 79. He grew up in Havana and moved to New York in 1948 where he
wrote and arranged for Machito, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Kenton and Benny
Goodman. O'Farrill returned to Cuba in 1955, moved to Mexico in 1957 and
stayed there eight years before moving back to New York. Jazz work dried up
for him in the '70s and '80s and he had to make his living writing and
arranging commercial jingles. In 1995 he made a jazz comeback and began
leading his Afro-Cuban jazz big band. Over the past few years, his band often
performed in New York under the supervision of his son, pianist Arturo
O'Farrill. Chico O'Farrill's best-known composition, the "Afro-Cuban Suite,"
was first recorded in 1950. Charlie Parker was one of the soloists. On
O'Farrill's latest CD, "Carambola," he re-recorded the suite.

(Soundbite of "Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite")

GROSS: That's the opening of the "Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite." It's on Chico
O'Farrill's new CD, "Carambola." You wrote the "Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite" after
you moved to New York. And I'm wondering if you heard Cuban music in a
different way once you started living in New York and once you started
composing and arranging Afro-Cuban-inspired jazz?

Mr. O'FARRILL: Well, when I came to New York, my whole musical mind changed
in a way that I was a new musician. For one thing, I was listening to some of
my idols in person, people like Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker. So I was
listening to people in person, which is not the same as listening to records.
And so my mind was very much more attuned to this type of thing than when I
was living in Cuba.

GROSS: When you were living in New York in the late '40s and early '50s, you
did a lot of arranging for other people's bands.


GROSS: You did some arranging for Machito...

Mr. O'FARRILL: Yeah.

GROSS: ...for Dizzy Gillespie, for Benny Goodman...

Mr. O'FARRILL: Right.

GROSS: ...Stan Kenton.


GROSS: And you've described yourself as, `the ghostwriter of the

Mr. O'FARRILL: Yeah, I was the ghost of the ghosts.

GROSS: What did you mean by that?

Mr. O'FARRILL: Well, I'm ...(unintelligible) names to certain big-name
arrangements from Puerto Rico that wrote for Benny Goodman, Count Basie, etc.
And while he wrote a lot of it, he had a ghostwriter write it. And the
ghostwriter actually, you know, had too much work.

GROSS: So you were doing ghostwriting for people who were hired to arrange
things and weren't getting much credit in the first place.

Mr. O'FARRILL: Right, right, right. That's right.

GROSS: But you must of learned a lot doing that.

Mr. O'FARRILL: Of course, I did. That was the main reason I did it, so I
was exposed directly to the musical medium that I loved and learned more about

GROSS: What was your ethnic background in Cuba? Where were your parents

Mr. O'FARRILL: My father was originally from Ireland. Figure that out. And
my mother was--you know, had German background. So I'm a mess, I admit it.

GROSS: So what kind of music did they listen to when you were growing up?

Mr. O'FARRILL: I did not remember much except them listening to Cuban music,
but they didn't listen to much music. They were not music lovers really. I
have to say that.

GROSS: And what did they think of you listening to and then playing jazz?

Mr. O'FARRILL: They weren't very happy about it. As a matter of fact, I
remember when I decided to become a musician, I was supposed to go to law
school and become an attorney.

GROSS: Your father and grandfather were both lawyers.

Mr. O'FARRILL: Right. So I was supposed to become an attorney and follow in
the family's footsteps, but one day decided I was going to become a musician.
And I announced it to the family and I remember my grandma was very austere
saying, `You are do-do. If you're going to be a musician, be a good one.
Remember Mozart. Mozart. Remember Mozart.'

GROSS: So she wanted you to play classical music.

Mr. O'FARRILL: Yes. She wanted me to do classical music. For them jazz,
you know, ...(unintelligible) most popular music jazz and always was like a
little bit vulgar music.

GROSS: I want to play another track from your new CD, and this is called
"Crazy City (...But I Love It)." What's the city that this composition is

Mr. O'FARRILL: Well, guess. Guess. Chicago? Nah. Toronto? Nah.

GROSS: Havana or New York?

Mr. O'FARRILL: How about New York? Try New York.

GROSS: New York. OK.

Mr. O'FARRILL: Yeah. Of course.

GROSS: And what were the impressions of New York you wanted to capture in
this piece?

Mr. O'FARRILL: I wanted to go back to the musical sounds and the feeling of
the city and the mixture of Latin and jazz rhythms, which is so typically
unique of New York.

GROSS: Well, this piece is called "Crazy City (...But I Love It)." Did you
always love New York when you moved there, or did it take you awhile to adjust
to it?

Mr. O'FARRILL: No, I loved it. The first minute I walked in here, I loved

GROSS: How come?

Mr. O'FARRILL: There was something about the atmosphere. It was such a
dynamic city, such a vibrant city. And especially I was in love with jazz at
the time, and this was the center of jazz. It became the center of my
(unintelligible) so I loved it.

GROSS: Thank you so much. I love your music, and I wish you the best.

Mr. O'FARRILL: Yes. Thank you. And I thank all the--for listening to me,
and you'll have a good time.

GROSS: Chico O'Farrill, recorded last February. He died at the age of 79.
I'm Terry Gross.

(Soundbite from "Crazy City")
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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