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Click for full sized poster

Elephant

Starring nobody
Written and Directed by Gus Van Sant
website: www.elephantmovie.com

IN SHORT: They loved it in France . . . [Rated R for disturbing violent content, language, brief sexuality and drug use - all involving teens. 81 minutes]

. . . and we remind you all that it was a French critic who posited the idea that the best films were the ones which recreated life in a manner as close to the "real thing" as possible. With the advent of steadicam technology, which has been with us for a number of years now, this theory of film making can be well explored. Gus Van Sant's Elephant -- not from the old story about blind men describing an elephant but from a BBC documentary about neverending and pointless violence in Northern Ireland -- displays this stream of life as well as anyone can. We've written it before and we'll do it again here: Life is boring. This film is boring and if there is a reason why two kidlets should take pleasure in trying to burn down their school and kill their fellow students, nothing in this film gives you the slightest reason as to why. Thus, "elephant".

Of course, we don't get to hear the conflicting descriptions of the perceptions of the participants and/or victims of shootings at Watt High, somewhere in Oregon. That's a deliberate choice of the filmmakers; not to write a dialogued story, but to let their novice actors improvise as if to recreate life. Not to show cause, just effect. Actually, we don't get to see much effect, either. The film goes to black even as the killings continue. That's what happens when you have no point to make, no story to tell, nothing but the craft of making the film. Thus, France.

We begin a day before and meet a whole passel of potential victims, each of whom get their own titled portion of the film: John McFarland (John Robinson), whose father is a drunk; Elias (Elias McConnell) a budding photographer; Carrie and Nate (Carrie Finklea and Nathan Tyson) who discuss "the appointment" [wink wink]; Benny (Bennie Dixon) the one black student we meet; Eric and Alex (Eric Deulen and Alex Frost ) who arrive in camouflage gear lugging duffel bags and warn John to "get the hell away"; Michelle (Kristen Hicks) a nerdish girl; Brittany, Jordan and Nicole (Brittany Mountain, Jordan Taylor and Nicole George) the most popular clique in this crowd of kidlets. They've got their own disorder but, since it's the high point, comedy-wise, in this film we'll leave it to surprise those who plant.

Well, someone out there likes deliberately point-of-view-less films. If that's you, you'll be in hog heaven. Buy your cappuccino and discuss motives and perspective and all those lovely film theory things long into the night. Those that sat through Van Sant's last epic, another point-free waste of time called Gerry, know from comparison whether or not they'll enjoy the equally point free Elephant.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Elephant, he would have paid . . .;

$0.00

Avoid. Just like the bullets flying through the halls.

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