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"Elephant" Again

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  • David Ehrenstein
    After all our discussions Elephant over the past view days, I realized I hadn t seen it in some time. Luckily my local video store had a copy on sale. (It
    Message 1 of 5 , Mar 4, 2007
      After all our discussions "Elephant" over the past
      view days, I realized I hadn't seen it in some time.
      Luckily my local video store had a copy on sale. (It
      was a DVD I'd always meant to buy so many times but
      for one reason or another hadn't.)

      Looking at it again I was struck by the very original
      way it derails standard narrative expectations. We are
      "introduced" to group of characters -- with a formal
      title card with their names on it to herald that fact.
      Yet the "story" tells us only so much. What it's truly
      interested in its what the Straubs once called their
      definition of cinema: "The application of space to
      time." We see "figures" who arrive at a space, pause,
      and then begin to move. As the camera follows them
      that space alters. But time alters as well in that
      there's no set notion of precisely how many days in
      the lives of these kids the film charts. And it never
      does so in standard one-thing-after-another narrative
      order. The action always "doubles back" over certain
      moments (Eli taking John's picture ) in preparation
      for the arrival of the killers to begin their
      slaughter. These aren't "flashbacks" in the usual
      sense as there's no character-based "consciousness"
      instigating them.

      Re the gay stuff: One of their victims is a kid at the
      gay-straight alliance meeting who goes into the hall
      to see whether the sound he's been hearing is
      firecrackers or actual gunfire. More important, when
      the killers take a shower together one of them says
      he's "going to die today" and has "never kissed
      anyone." So they kiss. Thus their "ultimate" sexual
      identity remains unformed -- as it would for most kids
      their age in less extreme circumstance.

      The camera's drift over figures and spaces is most
      remindful of the eye of HAL in "2001." This is a view
      of "everyday life" from "outer space."

      Last but not least, just as in Fellini everyone in
      "Elephant" is beautiful -- even those figures not
      "meant" to be beautiful like Michelle -- the sullen,
      slightly nerdy girl who doesn't want to wear shorts to
      gym class.

      This disc is equipped with a short "Making of"
      documentary. It shows (among many other things) Gus
      directing this girl's first entrance -- on the soccor
      field where she stops and looks up at the sky. There's
      a real delicacy at work here. Plus a refusal ro
      sentimentalize teenagers even while filming them in
      the most romantic way imaginable.



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    • samfilms2003
      ... I try and avoid getting in to best making of DVD features internet discussions. But Gus Van Sant DVDs have really interesting ones, to me anyway. The one
      Message 2 of 5 , Mar 4, 2007
        > This disc is equipped with a short "Making of"
        > documentary.

        I try and avoid getting in to "best making of" DVD features internet discussions.

        But Gus Van Sant DVDs have really interesting ones, to me anyway.

        The one with Gerry and it's "endless" track laid out on te salt flat could be
        cut directly right to the end of Gerry - it would almost work ;-)

        The "ok we'll redo this as a track back even if we only have 2 8' sections"
        from "Last Days" is pretty funny/inspiring and hit's home for anyone who
        ever worked on a film set, Independent / "low" budget...


        -Sam
      • LiLiPUT1@aol.com
        ... Which few here seem to want to acknowledge as such. Why did Van Sant put this in the film? Just happened, right? Kevin John, who, by the way, is gay Austin
        Message 3 of 5 , Mar 4, 2007
          In a message dated 3/4/07 8:16:15 AM, cellar47@... writes:


          > the gay-straight alliance meeting
          >
          Which few here seem to want to acknowledge as such. Why did Van Sant put this
          in the film? Just happened, right?

          Kevin John, who, by the way, is gay
          Austin





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        • David Ehrenstein
          ... Well yes. A great number of American high schools have Gay/Straight Alliance(s) But like everythign else in the film this scene carries no more narrative
          Message 4 of 5 , Mar 4, 2007
            --- LiLiPUT1@... wrote:

            >
            > In a message dated 3/4/07 8:16:15 AM,
            > cellar47@... writes:
            >
            >
            > > the gay-straight alliance meeting
            > >
            > Which few here seem to want to acknowledge as such.
            > Why did Van Sant put this
            > in the film? Just happened, right?
            >
            >

            Well yes. A great number of American high schools have
            "Gay/Straight Alliance(s)" But like everythign else in
            the film this scene carries no more narrative "weight"
            than any other. A traditional narrative could
            convievably have linked it to the killers. Were they
            "really" gay? Had they been called gay by others and
            was this the source of their anger? The film declines
            to answer.



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          • LiLiPUT1@aol.com
            ... Agreed. My comment still stands. Kevin John Austin ************************************** AOL now offers free email to everyone. Find out more about what s
            Message 5 of 5 , Mar 4, 2007
              In a message dated 3/4/07 11:50:26 AM, cellar47@... writes:


              > But like everythign else in the film this scene carries no more narrative
              > "weight" than any other.
              >
              Agreed. My comment still stands.

              Kevin John
              Austin





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