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Posted: 5/26/2003 6:53:29 AM EDT
[url]www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1052251603421&call_pageid=968867495754&col=969483191630[/url] or [url]www.drudgereport.com[/url] Van Sant hits bullseye with teen gun film PETER HOWELL Two American high school teens, Alex and Eric, discuss their plan to brighten up a dull day. It involves the assault rifle they've just received from a friendly courier. They have a small arsenal of other guns and ammo to go with it. Alex and Eric are going to their school to hunt students. "We'll just be able to pick them off one by one," says Alex, the mastermind. "Most importantly, have fun." The scene is from the chilling final reel of Elephant, the new film by U.S. indie veteran Gus Van Sant that premiered to acclaim here yesterday at the 56th annual Cannes Film Festival. It put a badly needed jolt into the Palme d'Or competition, which until now hasn't offered up anything prizeworthy. Unlike Michael Moore's Bowling For Columbine, which premiered at Cannes last year and later went on to win the Academy Award for best documentary, Elephant doesn't scold, preach or point fingers, despite having a similar focus on the Columbine High shootings. It simply observes, with the detachment of a curious child, as a regular day in an ordinary high school suddenly runs red with blood. It is understatement at its most powerful. Filmed in just 20 days last November, in a decommissioned school in Van Sant's home town of Portland, Ore., the film uses actual students to recreate the events of April 20, 1999, when Colorado teens Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot and killed 12 fellow students and a teacher at Columbine High, before turning their guns on themselves. The odd title is a nod to a 1989 BBC documentary by the same name, which depicted Northern Ireland's sectarian violence as nothing more than a series of senseless killings. It's also a metaphorical reference to "the elephant in the living room that nobody talks about," which to the flannel-shirted Van Sant, as to Moore before him, is the alarming rise in gun violence. Van Sant, the Oscar-nominated director of Good Will Hunting, told a press conference he'd planned to make a straight documentary about Columbine, focusing on the stories of Harris and Klebold and what motivated them to kill. The two teens weren't alone in their rage: between 1997 and 1999, there were eight fatal student shooting sprees in American schools. Van Sant started work on the project, looking at two Columbine-themed screenplays, including one written by fellow filmmaker and friend Harmony Korine. The result, after Van Sant wrote his own script, was a movie that uses most of the events and situations of the Columbine shooting, but changes the names, dates and locations. The school where the Elephant shootings occur is meant to be taken as Anytown, U.S.A. "I do have my own ideas about why something like Columbine happened, but some of those things aren't really in the film," said Van Sant, measuring his words. "I was really trying to get at more of a poetic impression, and to sort of allow the audience's thoughts into that impression, rather than to dictate an answer or a reason." For most of the 81-minute film, we watch with a rising sense of dread as various students — all using their real names — go about their affairs. Some have personal problems — one kid has a drunken dad to contend with — others just have homework to do or gossip to share. As they march through the school's hallways, the camera tracks them from behind, like a sniper following a target. The film repeatedly shifts time and location, so we see the two killers Alex and Eric — played by Alex Frost and Eric Deulen — from various vantages, before the shooting begins very late in the film. As he spoke yesterday, Van Sant was flanked by three of the Oregon students who are in Elephant: Alex Frost, John Robinson and Elias McConnell. The teens pronounced themselves to be "pretty amazed" to be in competition at Cannes with the first film they've ever acted in. The dark-haired Frost, who cites skateboarding and piano playing as his hobbies, naturally commanded the most attention since he plays one of the killers. He agreed with the decision not to give a lot of back story or explanation about the motivation for the shootings, other than to hint at the bullying that reportedly spurred Harris and Klebold into exacting violent payback. The movie's arms-length approach to such an emotional topic leaves Van Sant open to the charge of failing to have a point of view. But such a claim misses his point that evil acts are often committed for the most banal reasons. His camera watches as the teen killers play violent video games (always shooting people in the back) and surf the Internet for online gun shops. No surprises there. But Alex also likes to play Beethoven. (Beethoven is heard repeatedly on the soundtrack, a reference to the amoral killer of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.) There's also a scene in Elephant where Alex and Eric climb into a shower together and share a passionate kiss. The real Columbine killers were rumored to be homosexual lovers. Van Sant, who is openly gay and often addresses tough homosexual themes in his films, said the scene is one of innocence, not sexual politics. "I think of it more that they are planning their own deaths, and one of the guys has never kissed anyone before," he said. "It's a spontaneous move." With Cannes now at the halfway mark, Elephant is the first real contender for the Palme d'Or, which will be handed out at Saturday's closing ceremonies. Other potential challengers include today's main ticket, Dogville, a film by Denmark's Lars von Trier starring Nicole Kidman. But few of the remaining films, I'll wager, will make as eloquent a statement as Elephant.
Link Posted: 5/26/2003 7:11:35 AM EDT
Holy Shit!!!! [puke]Moore
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