Sunday, October 15, 2006

Art School Confidential: Grade B


Art School Confidential

Max Minghella, Sophia Myles, John Malkovich, Anjelica Huston, Steve Buscemi. Director Terry Zwigoff

This is a deliciously funny comedy for anyone who has been to art school or for anyone who appreciates the visual arts. A young man (MM) is burning to be “the next Picasso.” His talent is obvious to the audience but in school his portraits are overlooked for stupid trendy work, including “found art” sculpture, meaningless scribbles, and trite pop culture clichés. Each of those pieces is an “in” joke itself. The critical commentary on it all from burned out art teacher Malkovich and the other students is extremely funny. Huston and Buscemi give standout performances in bit parts. MM tries to find his own style and get noticed so he can win the heart of a girl (SM), but to no avail. Meanwhile there is a serial killer stalking the campus grounds and that theme eventually plays into the highly contrived ending. I was really engaged by the struggle to find an original artistic voice and identity. There were so many ways that story could have gone, all the while keeping the jokes flowing. But instead, the serial killer mystery swallows the story and crashes it into a lame clichéd ending. A lost opportunity there, but maybe the filmmakers were afraid the movie was becoming too highbrow. A DVD extra of Malkovich delivering a short speech in three different modes of acting is revelatory. MM’s distracting pouty lips remind me of Gael Garcia Bernal.

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