Tuesday, February 17, 2004

An Introduction

Busy, busy, busy... For lack of other updates, here's the introduction I gave to last night's screening of Gus Van Sant's DRUGSTORE COWBOY:

The drug movie presents quite a challenge for the filmmaker. On one hand, depicting the use and enjoyment of drugs can glorify the behavior, which such films typically do not intend to communicate. At the same time, there’s a desire to avoid being little more than a public service announcement about the scourge of narcotics. With DRUGSTORE COWBOY Gus Van Sant finds the middle ground between demonization and glamorization of drug use.

The film stars Matt Dillon, Kelly Lynch, James Le Gros, and Heather Graham as a de facto family of addicts and thieves who get their fixes by robbing pharmacies in 1971 Portland, Oregon. Van Sant takes a decidedly objective view of these people, watching them as they conduct lives that are preoccupied with getting high and staying in that state. The drugs keep them on an even emotional keel, except for when they don’t, leading to paranoia most prominently. DRUGSTORE COWBOY doesn’t bother with what got them hooked. Instead, it looks at what keeps them that way.

In watching this film, consider what drugs substitute in these characters’ lives and how Van Sant conveys this. Pay attention to the shots of the drug preparation in the beginning and the corollary shots later in the film. If you’ve been viewing the other films in this retrospective, take note of the wide shots of clouds and how often they are presented through time lapse photography. How do these shots fit in this film and in Van Sant’s oeuvre?

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