Thursday, February 19, 2004

Another introduction

The train keeps a-rollin' with preparations for this weekend's Gus Van Sant visit to Otterbein. Here's the introduction I'm giving to tonight's screening of GERRY:

GERRY is a challenging film from a director at the peak of his craft. Opinions on it have been sharply divided. The Washington Post’s Desson Thomson opened his review with, “The most screamingly obvious reaction to GERRY is: what a load of pseudo-arty you-know-what.” The Village Voice’s J. Hoberman said, “Gus Van Sant's new film, GERRY, is an anxious movie-object that might well wonder whether its minimalist aspiration is a matter of ambitious purity or empty pretense.” On the other hand, Roger Ebert said, “The movie is so gloriously bloody-minded, so perverse in its obstinacy, that it rises to a kind of mad purity. The longer the movie ran, the less I liked it and the more I admired it.” The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Wilmington said, “GERRY…will drive some audiences crazy, and inspire in others a kind of guilty rapture.”

I believe that GERRY is an existentialist masterpiece and pure filmmaking at its finest, but you may come to a completely different conclusion after tonight’s screening. The premise is quite simple. Matt Damon and Casey Affleck play two unnamed characters who get lost in the wilderness in search of “the thing”. They walk and walk and walk and walk. Sometimes they engage in mundane conversations about TV shows and video games, but there are also long stretches of time when both are quiet.

GERRY finds Gus Van Sant returning to an art film aesthetic that may jar those most familiar with his more commercial projects FINDING FORRESTER, PSYCHO, and GOOD WILL HUNTING. This film has great ambition and a stubbornly consistent vision, aspects that will either make you love or hate it.

I think that GERRY works best as a meditative experience. The long takes of Harris Savides’ gorgeous widescreen cinematography, the minimal dialogue, and the ambient soundtrack allow you to get lost in the film, to engage with it in, what the influential French film critic AndrĂ© Bazin called, “the holy moment”. In this way, GERRY provides a transcendent experience.

GERRY will not appeal to all tastes, but I encourage you to be open to non-narrative filmmaking and view it with patience. In my opinion, GERRY was the best film of 2003, but whether you embrace or despise GERRY, I think you’ll be hard pressed to forget this unique film.

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