Sacramento Bee October 7, 1994

MILLA - Surprising Everyone but Herself
by J. Freedom duLac

New York- Milla Jovovich - the multitalented Kiev-born beauty with piercing eyes - is curled up in an uncomfortable-looking chair, puffing incessantly on an ever-present cigarette.

She's talking about the dreaded subject of fashion. But in this case, the woman who entered the supposedly glamorous world of fashion modeling at 11, then bailed out six years later with a bitter taste in her mouth ("It's superficial," she says, "and not very intellectually stimulating work") appears to be enjoying the discussion. The laugh is the giveaway. Of course, when it's "Happy Days" character Arthur Fonzarelli you're talking about, it's virtually impossible not to snicker. Especially when his likeness is on her T-shirt.

"Fonzi rules," Jovovich says, at once defending both the man (whose cooler than thou mug-on-a-shirt won't stop staring at you) and the shirt itself. "He's the coolest man in the world...I like this shirt." It's obvious in fact that Jovovich - who, in fact, dropped the Jovovich portion of her name this year for show-business purposes when she released her surprisingly strong debut album "The Divine Comedy" and now simply goes by Milla - isn't your average adult.

After all, how many card-carrying members of the adult ranks would dare to speak publicly about the mystic powers of Arthur Fonzarelli? But then, Milla - a sometimes actress with a questionable resume ("Return to the Blue Lagoon", "Chaplin", "Dazed and Confused") who is now concentrating on music and who opens for the Crash Test Dummies at the Warfield Theater in San Francisco tonight - only turned 18 last December. Given the maturity of her songwriting, that's surprising.

Given the fact that all of the dark, wry songs on "The Divine Comedy" were written two years ago, that's shocking.

To everyone except Milla herself, that is.

"People shouldn't be surprised," she says, gazing out the window of the Manhattan offices of her record company, SBK. "That's the saddest part, that people are surprised that I was writing this kind of stuff when I was 16. There are a lot of young people who are very deep and very thoughtful."

Milla was actually first approached by SBK in 1990, while she was still modeling, to record a cover version of the Isley Brothers' "This Old Heart of Mine". Fortunately, given the result of Milla's own music-making efforts, she declined the offer.

"They wanted to release it as a single in Europe," she says. "I was like, 'Uh, yeah - see ya!'"

"I guess if you're not serious about being a writer or a musician it would be tempting, but those songs hold no meaning for me. They're so generic."

Although they're personal in nature, Milla doesn't quite connect with the songs on "The Divine Comedy", either - at least, not like she used to. After all, she did pen the lyrics two years ago - an eternity during adolescence.

"It's hard to deal with," says Milla, who moved to Sacramento (actually Newcastle) in 1981 with her mother Galina, then to Los Angeles seven months later. "The songs have sort of taken on new life in live performances, but I've moved on; I'm not really that person. Well, it's not that I'm not that person - I'm just a more developed person than I was then. I've learned a lot since then and have changed a lot since then. It's time to start the next album."

Old or not, "The Divine Comedy" is filled with tension and apprehension as Milla's wispy, ethereal voice (think Kate Bush) tells dark, often metaphorical tales. Failed love is a favorite topic, as is life itself, which Milla doesn't exactly sing about optimistically.

Throughout the melodic, often deceptively upbeat songs, mandolins, fiddles, hammered dulcimers and even an occasional hurdy gurdy prance across the soundscape, lending a decidedly folkish feel.

The most beautiful song on the album is "In A Glade", a traditional Russian folk song delivered in Milla's native tongue over a plucky guitar and an angelic chorus. Enya would be jealous.

If that at all resembles a review of "The Divine Comedy", chances are Milla will read it - and won't care.

"I don't listen to good reviews or bad reviews," she says. "I read them all, but I don't really care about them. My music, whether you like it or not isn't really the point. I make real music. It comes from inside me and it can't be different because that's what comes out of me. So how can somebody call me right or wrong? I'm a person; that's me. So it doesn't really matter what people say about the music - they might as well hate me as a person."

There wouldn't, however, be many hateful people because critical reviews of "The Divine Comedy" have mostly been favorable. And like Milla herself, many of those who have heard "The Divine Comedy" are eagerly awaiting the next album - for which, she says, she's already written 11 new songs.

"The new material is a lot of theory,a lot of philosophy, a lot about people being strong and not breaking down," she says. "A lot of people feel so victimized. They love to cover themselves with that comforting victimization blanket. And that sucks, because 100,000 people can tell you that you're wrong, but only you can break yourself. It's you who makes the final decision, not them. They can scream and shout and curse all they want, but it's you who breaks yourself in the end. I don't victimize myself at all. I'm a rational human being. I know what my potential is. I fess up to my mistakes. The way I live my life is going to be the way I live my life. If I'm going to hate, then that's my problem, too. I'm not going to let those negative emotions take control. That's why I write music. I'll let other people get depressed."