Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Art School Confidential

Directed by Terry Zwigoff and written by Daniel Clowes that is based on his comic book series, Art School Confidential is the story of a young artist who enters a prestigious art school where he deals with snobbish students, untalented teachers, and all sorts of people while falling for a young model. The film explores the world of art school where a young man aspires to be a great artist only to deal with the dos and don’ts of the world while a murder mystery occurs. Starring Max Minghella, Sophia Myles, Anjelica Huston, Matt Keeslar, Jim Broadbent, Ethan Suplee, and John Malkovich. Art School Confidential is a witty though messy film from Terry Zwigoff.

The film plays into a young artist whose aspirations to be the best and most important has him going into a prestigious art school where it is nothing as it seems where he deals with snobbish classmates, mediocre classes, and teachers who are really out of touch with the world of art. Yet, it is told in a humorous manner that includes a subplot about a series of mysterious deaths by a serial strangler where one of the students tries to make a film based on these deaths. It plays into the absurdity of art school where there’s students who believe they’re talented but they’re not while there are those who know they’re talented but feel unappreciated just like the film’s protagonist Jerome Platz (Max Minghella). One aspect of the film that adds to his characterization is how flawed he is where he is kind of full of himself and sometimes tries to act cool or whatever where he would take the wrong advice by a famous artist during a seminar.

Daniel Clowes’ script doesn’t just play into the world of art school and a young’s idealism over what he thinks would happen but also in how warped the reality of the art world is. Yet, it is told with an element of satire where many of the art school cliques and wannabes are portrayed in a humorous fashion while there are these many questions about what art is from Jerome’s perspective. Even as he has trouble with the work of one classmate in Jonah (Matt Keeslar) whose work is quite conventional yet receives the praise of classmates and their teacher in the local art figure Sandiford (John Malkovich). Being forced to compete with Jonah over admiration as well as the heart of the model Audrey (Sophia Myles). While the film’s subplot about the strangling of locals does make the script messy, it would add to key moments in the third act as it relates to Jerome’s desire for admiration.

Terry Zwigoff’s direction is very simple in terms of its compositions as well as the way he presents the world of art school. Shot largely on location in Los Angeles and Pasadena, California, the film does have this sense of a community that is part-Bohemian and part-high art as the latter relates to a scene where Jerome goes to a party held by an eccentric gallery owner. The usage of wide and medium shots add to this unique world of local art while Zwigoff also goes for some intimacy in some scenes including meetings Jerome would have with a reclusive yet brilliant artist named Jimmy (Jim Broadbent). While Zwigoff’s approach to humor is quite engaging, he does falter a bit on the suspense as it relates to the subplot of this mysterious strangler where it does make the film very uneven film that loses sight in what it wants to be. Though it does come to ahead in its third act, it does play into the fallacy of the desire of fame and glory as well as the fact that art is never meant to be taken seriously. Overall, Zwigoff creates a very compelling yet flawed film about a young artist’s desire to be great at art school.

Cinematographer Jamie Anderson does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the colorful scenes in the daytime to the low-key lighting in some of the classrooms as well as some stylish textures in some scenes set at night. Editor Robert Hoffman does nice work with the editing as it‘s mostly casual in terms of its cutting style with a few slow-motion cuts as well as a few stylish cuts in the suspenseful moments of the film. Production designer Howard Cummings, with set decorator Barbara Munch and art director Peter Borck, does fantastic work with the look of the classrooms and art studios as well as the galleries for the students to express their love of art.

Costume designer Betsy Heimann does terrific work with the costumes as it is mostly casual with the exception of some of the classmates as it plays into every kind of cliché in the world of art school where some look grungy or some try to look trendy. Sound editor John Nutt does superb work with the sound to play into the atmospheres of the parties as well as some of the intimate moments that occur during the classes. The film’s music by David Kitay is wonderful for its piano-based score as it features some unique melodies and textures that play into its humor and suspense while much of the film soundtracks include some classical pieces as well as a few rock songs.

The casting by Ann Goulder and Cassandra Kulukundis is brilliant as it features some notable small roles from Ezra Buzzington as a nude model, Katherine Moennig as a friend of Audrey, and in various roles of the art students, Scoot McNairy, Shelly Cole, Brian Geraghty, Jeanette Box, Lauren Lee Smith, and Isaac Laskin as the many kind of clichéd art students who all think they’re great. Ethan Suplee is terrific as Jerome’s aspiring filmmaker roommate Vince who wants to make a film about the mysterious strangler while Nick Swardson is just fucking awful as a closeted fashion designer who tries to be funny but it feels forced and unnatural. Joel David Moore is funny as Jerome’s friend Bardo who is an observer who had seen all kinds of students while Anjelica Huston is fantastic in her brief yet crucial role as an art teacher who had seen everything as she would give Jerome some really spot-on advice.

Steve Buscemi is superb in a cameo appearance as an eccentric gallery owner in Broadway Bob D’Annunzio as someone that is typical of the pretentiousness of the art world. Adam Scott is excellent as the famed artist Marvin Bushmiller as someone who is a fuckin’ asshole as he provides some bad advice to young artists in making it which only puts Jerome into a path that ends up being unrewarding. Jim Broadbent is amazing as Jimmy as a reclusive artist who is gifted but very cynical about the art world as he reveals some of the fallacies about trying to be great. Matt Keeslar is wonderful as Jonah as an art student that is known for making very conventional art yet proves to be a very nice guy with a secret of his own.

John Malkovich is phenomenal as Professor Sandiford as this artist-turned-professor who is quite odd in his teachings and views on art only to be seen as someone that is really just mediocre. Sophia Myles is radiant as Audrey as an art student/model who shares Jerome’s sense of disdain toward some of the idealism of art but is also confused by what people see as art. Finally, there’s Max Minghella in a marvelous performance as Jerome as a young artist that aspires to be great only to contend with some of the demands of compromise, bad critiques, and other odd things that forces him to ponder if his own art means anything.

***The Following 2 Paragraphs are from the Original Review of the Film Written for Epinions.com on 12/17/06 w/ Additional Edits***

The 2006 Region 1 DVD from Sony Pictures Classic & United Artists presents the film in the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen ration with 5.1 Dolby Digital in English, Spanish, and Portugese, and 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound in French. Subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Portugese, and Chinese are available, especially in some of the film's special features. The special features includes five several featurettes starting with a making-of scene where Zwigoff and Clowes discuss the inspiration of the film while talking to several of its actors including Max Minghella and Sophia Myles, who are both British, as they enjoyed working with Zwigoff. The Sundance Featurette which includes interviews with several cast member including crew members as they discussed the screening. Minghella, admits that watching himself is depressing yet he enjoyed the audience reaction.

11-minutes worth of 12 deleted scenes are revealed in which some of them are funny and heartwrenching. One funny scene reveals the frustration of Sandiford while another reveals more of the tension between Jonah and Jerome including a scene where Jonah learns something that Jerome had said. Another deleted scene featurette involves the film's ending where Jerome's classmates make comments about a character's artwork and give their opinions. The blooper reel is really hilarious where all the actors are laughing including a scene of Malkovich trying to destroy a painting and another where he makes Minghella laugh by saying "Charo, Charo" repeatedly. The reel also includes an alternate take of an interview with Malkovich for the film. Finally, the DVD includes several trailers for films like The Devil & Daniel Johnston, Pedro Almodovar's Volver, Zhang Yimou's Curse of the Golden Flower, Stranger Than Fiction, and the teaser trailer to Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette.

***End of DVD Tidbits***

Art School Confidential is a stellar yet flawed film from Terry Zwigoff. Featuring a great cast as well as a humorous critique on the world of art and art school, the film is a unique look into the world of art and the fallacies of those wanting to be famous. In the end, Art School Confidential is a superb film from Terry Zwigoff.

Terry Zwigoff Films: Louie Bluie - Crumb - Ghost World - Bad Santa - The Auteurs #53: Terry Zwigoff

© thevoid99 2016


Dell said...

I watched this years ago. I remember liking it, but not much else. I forgot all about that subplot you mentioned and the only scene I can recall is that nude model dude leaning back and stretching with his junk right in that girl's face. I might revisit one day, but I'm not in a big rush.

ruth said...

Oooohh! I LOVE Sophia Myles, but I hadn't heard of this one. Thanks for the review, I definitely will watch this even if it's not perfect. I wish she had been more famous (or just get more work), same w/ Jena Malone whom I know you love.

Btw, hope you check out my latest Music Break, it's my most personal post in that category yet, I think you know what the subject is ;-)

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-For me so far, I think this is Terry Zwigoff's weakest film as I realized that I never did post a review of the film as it took me a while to find my old one and re-write the whole thing from scratch while watching it on my head. The nude model was the Weird Al waiter in Ghost World. Yeah, that's one of those individuals you never want to see naked ever again along with all of those Kartrashians.... UGH!!!

@ruth-Sophia Myles is extremely underrated. I don't understand why she's not in big films and such. She deserves better. I have of your music breaks and I always look forward to those.