Thursday, January 5, 2012

Art House

There are predictably interesting questions bubbling under here, concerning the nature of art, what makes an artist, and how one decides the aesthetic worth of their work. Perhaps with equal predictability, the film is content to coast through a stock story of slacker students struggling to prove their worth in the face of the comic-evil dean who’s trying to convert their bequeathed-to-art dorm house into a golf-team club house; they must knuckle down and actually make some art in order to save the decades-long tradition of a free space for art students to live and work. It’s a fine concept, such an art-haven, although it hardly looks as though many of the students actually deserve the cushy set-up.

Whilst trying to save their living space, terminally nice house leader Greta Gerwig must also contend with the emotional demands of a wimpy but hetero best friend, the amusing older (piss-)artist who hangs around, and the latter’s visiting bo-hunk photographer nephew. Gerwig’s surprisingly shaky early on, but resigns herself to the blandness of the role; indeed, no-one is required to exhibit more than two dimensions apart from Chris Beier as the morally ambiguous man-candy, but he is the least well-equipped of the cast to manage it, woefully inadequate in even the simplest dialogues.

Iggy Pop is on only fairly good form, but takes ages to turn up, despite being second-billed; what’s more, despite neatly setting up an amusing reappearance for the finale, the film (or perhaps his schedule) denies us the pleasure. We are also denied the pleasure of seeing much art – Gerwig’s portraits for the final show are almost intriguing, but we see them only obliquely, and most of the other pieces are strangely sidelined: an odd decision that functions deliberately or not as a satirical jab at effort and craft, since the piece that finally saves the house is created by accident, purely through drunken emotional outpouring, with none of skill, intention or concept.

It’s unlikely that this is the message, however: the film has no interest in the philosophy of aesthetics even on the most basic level, and the saving of the house is entirely in the tradition of giving the sensitive oddballs a safe place and a free ride, than it is about engaging with or encouraging art-making. Rather than probing or thought-provoking, it’s a film intended to be fun and warm-hearted, but it’s barely either of those things (compared to the wit of (untitled) or the evocatively-drawn milieu of Unmade Beds), and it’s at least twenty minutes too long.

d Victor Franchi p Debashis Mazumber, Eddie Rubin sc Kris Brown, Victor Franchi ph Shawn Grice ed Carmelle Flanagan pd Jennifer Durban cast Greta Gerwig, Chris Beier, Hayes Hargrove, Timothy Brennan, Danny Mooney, Iggy Pop
(2010, USA, 95m)
posted by tom newth at

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