Monday, February 23, 2004

One Last Introduction

My thoughts on THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, which I saw earlier today, are forthcoming. In the meantime, here's the last of my introductions regarding Gus Van Sant's visit to Otterbein this past weekend. This was how I introduced him at Saturday night's presentation:

Good evening. I’m Mark Pfeiffer, Assistant Director of Television and film critic at WOCC TV3. You have just seen a montage of the feature films in our guest’s distinguished career. Tonight it is my great pleasure to introduce the award-winning director Gus Van Sant. Serving as moderator with him is Dave Filipi, Associate Curator of Film/Video at the Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University.

Those living in society’s margins frequently populate the films of Gus Van Sant. From drug addicts and male hustlers to an aspiring TV anchorwoman who plots to kill her husband and a brilliant but troubled janitor, the characters in his films find themselves searching for ways out of their current situations. One of Van Sant’s most recent films, GERRY, strips this recurring theme to its basics in having two men get lost in the wilderness.

Van Sant’s ability to treat his characters objectively, choosing to observe rather than to judge, is one of his strengths as a filmmaker. You can see this in how he presents the pharmacy robbing junkies in DRUGSTORE COWBOY. Their behavior is neither demonized nor glamorized. Instead Van Sant shows how their choices affect their reality.

Gus Van Sant’s ten features range from artier fare like MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO and ELEPHANT to more mainstream pictures like GOOD WILL HUNTING and a shot-by-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO. In 1987 the Los Angeles Film Critics Association named his debut MALA NOCHE Best Independent Film. He won Independent Spirit Awards for his screenplays for DRUGSTORE COWBOY and MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO and in 1998 received an Academy Award nomination as Best Director for GOOD WILL HUNTING. Last year the Cannes Film Festival recognized Van Sant as Best Director for ELEPHANT. That film also took the festival’s top prize, the Palm d’Or. Please welcome Gus Van Sant to Otterbein College.

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