Art School Confidential

Art School Confidential


Reviewed by: Chris

Sometimes when I'm going to write a film review I try to just lean back, soak up my feelings about the movie, and wait for inspiration. When I was at Art College, many wrinkles ago, I did it with a spliff in one hand. Nothing to do with movies, you understand, it was just a good excuse, "I'm waiting for inspiration," I'd say, if a teacher asked what the hell I was doing lounging about on the steps.

Events like that didn't get me through art college, but they provided the basis, with suitable embellishments, for many an after-dinner story about college life. Little did I realise that almost any ex-student from any art-school of the period would have almost identical stories. The nude model you fell in love with. The life-like representation of genital organs, dramatically smashed in front of an admiring audience before the clay could be fired. The teacher who was so pitiful we took it in turns to go to his classes just to stop him from losing his job. The list is endless, unique to art students, and covered in large part within the first segment of Art School Confidential.

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The annoying thing is that it isn't even a very good film - potentially hugely enjoyable - I squirmed in my seat as the college know-it-all identifies the list of 'typical' students, knowing he would get to me before he finished (he did); but, given the huge expectation one might reasonably have after the critical success (with Ghost World) of director-writer team Terry Zwigoff and Daniel Clowes, Art School Confidential strays worryingly out of its comfort zone. You may find the art school sketches anything from hilarious to mildly amusing yet, when we throw in a lack-lustre murder-mystery and some self-important musings about art and love, adeptness at comedy is not reflected in the sudden genre switches.

Jerome Platz is a talented painter, entering art school full of sincere dreams of being the best thing since sliced Picasso. He gets a rude awakening from his more worldly-wise fellow-students. The only one to appreciate his sensitive work is the art school model, but she is too cool to openly fancy a jerk like Jerome, and also happens to be the daughter of a famous painter. Not a very inventive story, you might remark, and you would be right, although the reasonably witty script, aided and abetted by Art Prof John Malkovich on top form, may have kept you smiling to this point. But enter the Strathmore Strangler, a murderer who has been bumping off students. An interesting film-within-a-film could have been made here, as one of the students starts basing his movie on the stranglings, but such opportunities are missed. The love affair between Platz and art model Audrey is also of the lowest calibre of Hollywood chic, with very little to make it stand out.

The ending, which raises some interesting questions about the limits and integrity of art and our toleration of artists, does lend the film some redeeming influence. And also, as I said earlier, that this is not a particularly good film doesn't stop it being enjoyable. After a hard day, it was like a healing balm to the bruises of the stonemason's worn fingers - and superior to anything I had seen for... oh, I don't know... at least a few hours... I couldn't have wanted a better no-brainer with which to put my feet up, but don't take that as too high a recommendation. More inspiration and less spliff-appeal is needed to get this team back into the echelons of great artistic achievements.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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Art School Confidential packshot
An artist learns to adapt his vision to the world around him.
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Read more Art School Confidential reviews:

George Williamson **1/2
Keith Hennessey Brown **1/2

Director: Terry Zwigoff

Writer: Daniel Clowes

Starring: Max Minghella, Sophia Myles, John Malkovich, Jim Broadbent, Matt Keeslar, Ethan Suplee, Joel Moore, Nick Swardson, Anjelica Huston, Adam Scott, Jack Ong

Year: 2006

Runtime: 102 minutes

Country: US

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