Dazed and bemused
One night last summer, an audience of 40 or so crowded into the back of the Angry Dog in Deep Ellum, craning to hear the whispery voice of the striking young girl singing by the pool table. Surrounded by musicians who more closely resembled a band of gypsies, each bandmate performing on such exotic and ancient instruments as the Keyfiddle and the Nyckelharpa and a mandolin, the young woman shimmied and swayed, beckoning her small and attentive audience to move in closer--nearer to her and further away from the roaring happy-hour chatter up front.

The whole experience of watching Milla Jovovich--a model at age 11, star of the soft-core pedophilia classic Return to the Blue Lagoon, a bit player in such films as Chaplin and Dazed and Confused--do her thing in such oddball surroundings was as surreal as it was alluring: dressed in a ratty T-shirt and old jeans, wearing no makeup and looking haggard and stunning all at once, the Russian-born Jovovich appeared displaced by time and place, glamorous thrift-store royalty performing for the peasants.

Jovovich turns 19 three days after her December 14 performance at Deep Ellum Live, and her label, EMI, rather insanely pegs her in promotional materials as "the embodiment of a college-aged generation whose vanquished innocence has hurtled them headlong into premature, uncertain adulthood." Which means that musically, she's a liter, airier version of Tori Amos and Kate Bush, a deft enough songwriter with a better ear for melody than language alone ("It's my heart in your hands," she sings on "It's Your Life" from her debut The Divine Comedy, "keep it or just let it fall, another stone placed in my wall").

But Jovovich's musical abilities are just half the draw: she's not merely a performer, but a bona fide presence. Her brief appearances in Dazed, as the stoner chick who sang of aliens ("And they fly," she exhaled, lost in a pot-induced reverie) as Christian Slater rambled on about George Washington and the "cash crops," was among one of the film's most memorable moments. And before her brief showcase--part of a promotional tour her record label had sent her on, spreading the gospel of pretty-girl angst and pretentious poetry to record-bizzers--Jovovich sat on the pool table, signed posters and album covers, and chain-smoked her cigarettes. She appeared bemused and delighted by the attention paid to her by people who had yet to hear her sing a single note.

Milla Jovovich opens for Toad the Wet Sprocket December 14 at Deep Ellum Live.
--Robert Wilonsky


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