Some Kind of Talent 

Want to stink-bomb an academic cocktail party? Harrumph loudly and ask, “Neil LaBute: genuine talent, craven misogynist or both?” By the time the heated opining dies down, the following facts should make it into evidence: The KU grad’s first feature film, The Company of Men, features a pair of guys who are really, really mean to women. The Shape of Things, his slicing and clever play (and, later, movie), centers on a female artist who is quite spectacularly mean to her idiot male lover. In LaBute’s smartly wicked film Your Friends and Neighbors, each gender squares off against the other for two hours of every-couple-is-all-fucked-up nastiness that makes Closer look like an episode of Friends. If the evidence is sifted honestly, the answer is clear. LaBute is fascinated by us at our ugliest and most cruel and by the things we secretly suspect women or men might be up to. In the case of The Wicker Man, for example, women might be up to subjecting a bear-suited Nicolas Cage to terri­fying fertility rituals. That flop notwithstanding, LaBute’s work stings and compels. He’s a rare thing: a director of American films worth arguing about. Tonight at 7, you can dig for further proof when LaBute comes home to KU’s Woodruff Auditorium, in the Student Union, where he’ll give a speech called “Life Onstage and On Film.” Tickets cost $5; call 785-864-7469 for information.
Fri., Oct. 12, 7 p.m., 2007

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