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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

IndieSeen Favorite: Gus Van Sant

Gus Van Sant is one of those directors we can appreciate because his career has had hits and misses. And isn't that what this industry is all about? You can't get it right all the time, but Van Sant's films has certainly made an imprint on the conscience of young filmmakers everywhere.

It all started with an indie film called Drugstore Cowboy. Van Sant wrote and directed this edgy black romatic comedy about a group of drug addicts who are so desperate for their fix that decide to live a life of crime by robbing drug stores. The film stars Matt Dillion and Kelly Lynch as a heroin driven duo that gets their "stash" by any means necessary.

Then he made a phenomenal indie drama called My Own Private Idaho. The film starring Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix (in one of his finest perfromances) as two hustlers who prostitute themselves on the streets and are also addicted to drugs. There is a homoerotic relationship between the two chracters which was quite controversial at the time of the film's release. However the film did critically well and is now considered to be a cult classic.

Van Sant had some misses with films such as Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, and he recast Matt Dillion again with Nicole Kidman in the film To Die For (which starred River Phoenix's brother Joaquin Phoenix). Then Gus Van Sant made an ultimate mistake by making a risky decision to remake Alfred Hitchcock's classic thriller Psycho. Instead of shooting it as a remake, he basically regurgitated the original version and filmed it "shot-for-shot" as Hitchcock had back in 1960. The film was an utter disaster and was detested by movie critics.

He made a comeback though and directed Good Will Hunting. Van Sant was nominated for an Oscar for Best Director in 1998. He's continued on to make films like Finding Forrester and the ever-so-controversial Elephant that is based on the 1999 Columbine shootings. The film can be quite disturbing, for there is barely any dialogue, and instead probes into the minds of these two kids who decide to shoot up their high school. Most of the film is actually improvised by the actors.

What is quintessential about his movies are that they deal with teen angst. Typically young adults coming of age trying to find out who they are and where their place is in life. He's not afriad to tap deep into the minds of youth and visualize their experiences on the big screen. We need more directors like Van Sant to express our ideas and our thoughts. So therefore, he is an NYIndieSeen Favorite.

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