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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 28.92%
Average: 4.82%
Pretty Bad: 8.43%
Total Crap: 14.46%

7 reviews, 41 user ratings

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by Jason Whyte

"'It's been a good year for Gus Van Sant.'"
5 stars

Back in May, I saw Gus Van Sant's "Gerry", the thrilling, operatic, hypnotic spell of a film that let its characters wander and wander through the desert, the Cinemascope photography dwarfing their existence, the Tarkovsky brood, the Arvo Pärt score oozing through the frame. Many people despised this film for what they felt was a glacial pace, for me, it was a revelation to see bold risks still being communicated through film. And somehow, through some miracle, his latest film "Elephant" towers into beauty. Here is what great filmmaking is all about.

"Elephant" shows a group of kids in a very ordinary school in Oregon, from the good-looking jock to the geeky kid, the bleach-haired surfer kid, to the teeny-bopper girls to two miserable looking boys who appear to have something else on their mind. The school looks depressingly ordinary, from the naked walls to the staff (Matt Malloy, best known for playing Aaron Eckhart's buddy in "In The Company of Men", is the only known actor in this movie.), and everyone seems to be lost in their own little world.

Shot by shot, the film unveils its plot and its events, and my mind was racing, screaming "Something is happening...something is happening here!". We think we know what it is, but watch how Van Sant plays seemingly little events and then replays them from different angles. The first time he does this, I was astounded. You don't see this moment coming, but everything suddenly clicks at this point and we are thrilled as to where it is taking us next. I will not reveal what happens, but if you don't know, please do your best to avoid other critics who like to reveal the surprises. (Oddly enough, the film's theatrical trailer, in a day of "show-me-everything!" mentality, is free of spoilers.)

Van San't referenced Tarkovsky and Bela Tarr greatly in "Gerry," and here, he seems to be fully in love with the camerawork of Stanley Kubrick. Watch the careful shifts in light, the long stedicam takes, the buildup of music and sounds, the sudden shocks of noise...Mr. Kubrick seems to be oozing quite a bit into every frame. As well, this film was filmed and screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio theatrically, which Kubrick also did so nothing would be lost in translation to pan and scan videos. A bit of honor, perhaps?

This film won the top prizes at Cannes, both the Golden Palm and Best Director. And I can see why. I loved this film for presenting its complex material in a fascinating, interesting way, always original and compelling. I hate to sound cliche, but this is why I love going to the movies.

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originally posted: 10/01/03 17:59:07
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell disturbing & well made 4 stars
10/11/10 Simon Unforgivable flaws in characters and gratuitousness, yet directed so artfully and chilling 3 stars
7/31/06 Davina Interesting, though not for everyone. 4 stars
5/28/06 jean Claude this is a fucking film 1 stars
4/14/06 Glenda Each scene is thought-provoking and crucial. Routine day gone bad. Almost like a nightmare. 5 stars
4/10/06 Jonathan What interesting cinematography, ive never seen anything like it before. 4 stars
12/22/05 Titus Two gay teenage Nazi's admirers take their happy revenge on a typical high-school. classic. 4 stars
11/14/05 Hyde Japan A moving tribute to those who suffer the random violence afforded by a gun-obsessed society 5 stars
10/19/05 Agent Sands Few movies dare to portray a school shooting like action sequences, if at all. 4 stars
10/14/05 Dekeeshia I had to force myself to stay interested, but the movie did leave me with profund curiosity 4 stars
10/13/05 christopher love the walking scenes! gives you time to think about whats to come on this 'normal' day 4 stars
9/18/05 Brian Horrible acting. Majority of the movie is just watching the characters WALKING. 1 stars
5/06/05 ELI Jesus... this is a happy-go-lucky movie. 4 stars
2/01/05 Wendy S. Excellent and thought provoking. 4 stars
1/06/05 Katie really f*cking stupid - trying to hard to make a point and missed 2 stars
12/30/04 Liora eric frost was sexy. i loved the gay shower scene. 5 stars
12/07/04 Kurt Cobain Chilling.... 5 stars
11/16/04 Zel just... not that good.... didnt see the point 3 stars
8/29/04 tank wish the motives would have been better established good other wise 4 stars
7/31/04 DM Haunting, and has something to say (unlike "Gerry") 5 stars
7/10/04 MorallySound Haunting. 5 stars
6/21/04 Dick Logan Cannot believe anybody liked this; Exploited Columbine in an attempt for GVS to daring. 1 stars
6/15/04 A F Very well shot. This style only works if it is done right. 5 stars
6/14/04 MyGreenBed Having the two be gay (also the vomit scene) only muddles an otherwise very worthy film. 4 stars
6/02/04 tatum Van Sant scores another one, creepy 5 stars
5/17/04 j Good movies like this are rare anymore 5 stars
5/07/04 gray why oh why did they have the anti-hero's be gay? 5 stars
5/06/04 TGD Amazing 5 stars
4/28/04 Roman Ostrovsky I was in Elephant I played the Red Head Kid. Gus is a great director to work with. He is so 3 stars
3/29/04 Paul a magnificent movie 5 stars
3/29/04 Jean experiMENTAL nightmare, i liked it, a lot 5 stars
1/18/04 fliss + matt elephent? they should have called this one sloth. 1 stars
1/01/04 Edler Outrageous! Outrageous! Outrageous! Outrageous! Outrageous! 1 stars
12/25/03 Kyle Wow. 5 stars
11/28/03 RomanPOstrovksy/The Red Head Kid/ It was Great playing the Red Head kid in Elephant. 5 stars
11/17/03 Daniel Provost Great movie... 5 stars
11/13/03 DM Utterly amazing- boring at first but builds to a mind-blowing climax 5 stars
10/28/03 Serious George It's about everything in-between. It's about what's missing. It 5 stars
10/23/03 Britta Erickson couldn't be a more unnecessary film 1 stars
10/11/03 Lynn Bredeson Elephant is a great movie if you have lived the life of these students. 4 stars
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  24-Oct-2003 (R)
  DVD: 04-May-2004



Directed by
  Gus Van Sant

Written by
  Gus Van Sant

  Alex Frost
  Eric Deulen
  John Robinson
  Jordan Taylor

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