Movie Reviews 173 – Art School Confidential (2006)

Art School ConfidentialI’ve only seen two other Terry Zwigoff movies before and they were both fantastic movies that I could not recommend more. Both are radically different from one another and yet both are quirky and unusual when compared to their ‘conventional’ counterparts. Another common trait of both films is that they are universally loved by genre fans. The first is the excellent documentary Crumb on the life of legendary comic creator Robert Crumb and his dysfunctional family. The fact that he was even able to convince the reclusive Crumb to make the movie was a coup in itself. The other movie is the adaptation of Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel Ghost World. Most people today would call it notable it being one of ‘Scarjo’s’ earliest movies, although truth be told the acting accolades go Thora Birch for that one (and a great Steve Buscemi role). The movie is worthy just to hear the sixties Indian rockabilly song Jan Pechan Ho, but beware you won’t get it out of your head once you’ve heard it.

When I first found Art School Confidential in a DVD cheapie bin the description along with the cover hinting at a comic book angle was enough to entice me to buy it. Upon closer look once I got home I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this was another Zwigoff movie which made it all that better. But imagine my surprise when the opening credits proclaimed that it was written by none other than Clowes himself. Another Ghost World perhaps? Well, not so fast.

While the movie does has some unique, and yes somewhat eccentric aspects, it is certainly a more traditional movie than I’ve come to expect from Zwigoff.  The core story is simply about a new art school student Jerome (Max Minghella) trying to get through his first year, and his infatuation with Audrey (Sophia Myles) a girl that once posed as a nude model for one of his classes. John Malkovich plays a frustrated teacher trying to have his own art show, while praising most of the crap pseudo-art being submitted by some of his students in class. There is also a back story of one particular student who isn’t all he seems to be, and a current murder spree for which our protagonist accidentally becomes the prime suspect, all unbeknownst to himself. Aside from the quirky characters there isn’t anything else unusual or innovative in the presentation that I’ve come to expect from Zwigoff. Perhaps I’m being overly harsh, as it isn’t a bad movie per se, but not not as good as the other films I’ve mentioned.

I’m sure art students and aficionados will enjoy it more as the art aspect impinges on everything and everyone in the movie. The ‘making of’ features on the DVD also talks about the art used in the film that was quite interesting.

It is based on a Clowes short comic story in one of his Eightball issues, but I don’t have it in any of my Clowes books. At only 4 pages, I won’t go out of my way to seek it out, but will probably eventually come across in one of his collection books.



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