October 1, 2007
Reviews: Elephant, and The Squid and the Whale
Elephant (directed by Gus Van Sant; who also directed: Good Will Hunting, Finding Forrester, Gerry, To Die For) is a film about one day in the life of several high school students that ends in a violent school shooting. There isn't much story development, instead it is focused on character development; so it feels very cross-sectional, which is effective way of showing one day in a high school setting. To accomplish this the camera is constantly shadowing the characters, and the chronological order of events is obscured by disjointed sequences during the movie that allows you to get to know each of the students involved (the same technique that Taranteno used in Pulp Fiction, which is a technique he borrowed from the Film Noir era) but it also significantly increases the viewers' sense of anticipation and dread about the impending shooting. Each sequence introducing the characters ends closer and closer to the terrible event to which the movie is ultimately leading.
I really liked the film Gerry, which was similarly very cross-sectional as well as a situational drama about two men who become lost. In both of these films mix in bits of dry humor. But in contrast to Finding Forrester and Good Will Hunting, which are uch story driven films, it really shows the range of directing ability of Gus Van Sant.
Elephant is an excellent conversational movie. I'm not sure if it's suitable for viewing in high school settings considering the subject; but on the other hand, perhaps it's better if students are made aware. But if not there, it would be great for any environment where people are discusing social problems.
I was really excited to discover The Squid and the Whale most of all because I've really enjoyed every Wes Anderson film (He has a new film starring Jason Schwartzman that is coming out soon) and the writter/director of Squid and Whale has been involved with some of Anderson's previous films.
There were a lot of similar traits between Squid and Whale and Anderson's films. The characters have interesting quirks, such as the father being overly analytical and emotionally distant (similar to Gene Hackman and Bill Murray's roles in some of Anderson's films). And as with Anderson's films, often the camera is cleverly used to tell the story, which is the true story of the director's family going threw a divorce when he was a boy. So it's a little darker than a typical Anderson movie. There is a lot of dark humor prevalent throughout. After seeing this I'm pretty excited about Margot and the Wedding which will be released the day after Christmas this year.