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Indie Gay and Lesbian Cinema Gus Van Sant Fresh distinctive voice in cinema His style is so personal that unlike Tarantino he has not been easily imitated Films Mala Noche 1987 Drugstore Cowboy 1989 My Own Private Idaho 1991 To Die For 1995 Good Will Hunting 1997 Elephant 2003

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Gus Van Sant

  • Fresh distinctive voice in cinema

  • His style is so personal that unlike Tarantino he has not been easily imitated


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Films

  • Mala Noche 1987

  • Drugstore Cowboy 1989

  • My Own Private Idaho 1991

  • To Die For 1995

  • Good Will Hunting 1997

  • Elephant 2003

  • Last Days 2005


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Depiction of Outsiders

  • Drug addicts and Male prostitutes are shown for their humanity and not for “their tawdriness”

  • Eccentric point of view provides a look at down-and-out characters on the fringes of society whom he never romanticizes or pities

  • We’re looking through a peephole, dropping in on the secret lives of people

  • -J Hoberman


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Van Sant’s attraction to street people

  • Is based on the belief that they are more interesting

  • There is more drama in their lives than middle class characters


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Expressive imagery

  • Odd rhythms and a jagged camera style

  • Studied painting at Rhode Island School of Design

  • More concerned with images as a means to tell stories than other directors


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Mala Noche 1986

  • Self Financed

  • Follows the doomed infatuation by a skid row liquor store owner with a Mexican immigrant

  • 25,000. Budget (grainy b&w film

  • Received scant attention until it won the Los Angeles Film Critics Award for best independent film


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Drugstore Cowboy 1989

  • Depicts the life of Bob(Matt Dillon), a drug addict and dealer who supports his habit by stealing pharmaceuticals

  • Van Sant’s non-judgement of the characters caused Hollywood funders to back off

  • Van Sant saw it as an anti drug story

  • Won best picture and best screenplay in 1989 from the National Society of Film Critics (upset: beating Spike Lee and Steven Soderbergh


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Van Sant turned down Lucrative Hollywood Offers to make My Own Private Idaho 1991

  • A retelling of Shakespeare’s Henry IV with street hustlers

  • Having teenagers lapse into Shakespearean verse doesn’t always work, but it suits the story.


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Narrative Own Private Idaho 1991

  • Veers off the conventional track

  • Pileup of open parentheses within parentheses that never get satisfactorily closed


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Characters Own Private Idaho 1991

  • Instead the filmmaker chooses to develop rich and interesting characters

  • Most interestingly the central character Mike Waters played by River Phoenix a narcoleptic hustler trying to search for his lost mother who has abandoned him


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Scott Favor Keanu Reeves Own Private Idaho 1991

  • Mike’s tragic unrequited love for Scott

  • Bob Pigeon is the film’s Falstaff (Scott’s true father)

  • Scott is the Prince Hal figure who plans to renounce his street life once his father dies

  • Class difference


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Reviews: Own Private Idaho 1991

  • Uneven yet lyrically shot

  • Elevates Van Sant’s issues to a lyric, poetic, and intensely sad place


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Controversy Own Private Idaho 1991

  • Treatment of homoerotic exploits of male hustlers

  • He ignored warnings that male prostitution and homosexuality were taboos in a social climate marked by hysteria over the AIDS epidemic


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Mike Own Private Idaho 1991

  • What does it mean when a protagonist suffers from narcolepsy?


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Non-active central character- Own Private Idaho 1991

  • Misses most of the crucial developments of his own life

  • Depends on others’ compassion

  • Dreamy detachment

  • Not a great hustler

  • No long range plans

  • Film is about each single moment

  • Not about the destination


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Gay Sensibility not new to Hollywood Cinema Own Private Idaho 1991

  • Had to be hidden

  • George Cukor, Mitchell Leison, Dorothy Arzner, Nicholas Ray

  • Open secret in Hollywood, but kept out of the public eye


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The Celluloid Closet Own Private Idaho 1991 Vito Russo Book 1981, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s Film 1996

  • Surveyed hundreds of films

  • Looked at all the different gay stereotypes depicted in Hollywood film:

  • Comic sissies, lesbian vampires, pathetic queens & sadistic predators


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The Film Points Out Own Private Idaho 1991

  • Depiction of homosexuals in Hollywood film has been used to get cheap, easy laughs from straight people

  • This reinforces ignorance and prejudice


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Under the Studio System Classifications of Own Private Idaho 1991

  • Acceptable

  • Morally Objectionable

  • Condemned

  • Meant that gay characters had to be shamefully degraded


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