Proposed Panel: Gus Van Sant
Organizer: Justin Horton, Georgia State University
Respondent: Nick Davis, Northwestern University
Few contemporary filmmakers have amassed a body of work as intriguingly heterogeneous as that of Gus Van Sant. Ranging from New Queer Cinema (Mala Noche, My Own Private Idaho) to more mainstream “indie” successes (Drugstore Cowboy), Hollywood acclaim (Good Will Hunting, Milk) to an art cinema “death trilogy” (Gerry, Elephant, Last Days), Van Sant’s career is marked by abrupt shifts in subject matter, style, and mode of production. Further, he proves himself to be quite the rarity—both an art house critical darling and a Hollywood “A-list” director. And yet, in spite of this heterogeneity, there remains a distinctive authorial temperament.
Being that Van Sant’s work is so diverse, it may be approached from many angles and lends itself to a number of theoretical lenses. This panel seeks to explore this rich body of work, one that has received relatively scant scholarly attention. We are presented now, 25 years after the release of Van Sant’s debut feature, Mala Noche, with an opportune moment to consider more fully this singular filmmaker.
Topics might include (but are not limited to) the following:
-Adaptation of novels (Mala Noche, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, To Die For) and other films (Psycho)
-Van Sant’s appropriation of historical events and figures, both overtly (Harvey Milk) and by approximation (the Columbine massacre in Elephant, Kurt Cobain in Last Days)
-Queerness in/and Van Sant’s films
-Inspiration/citation/simulation (Warhol, Hitchcock, Bela Tarr, etc)
-Non-linearity and temporality
-Outsiders and marginality: Van Sant as “outsider art”; “indie” auteur; outcasts as characters
-Van Sant and locale: the centrality of Portland as both location and setting; the city and the suburb
-Van Sant and youth: the figure of the boy as protagonist; initiation as theme
Please send 300-word abstract with 3-5 bibliographic sources and a brief author biography by August 8, 2010 to Justin Horton (firstname.lastname@example.org). Notifications of acceptance will be sent by August 13, 2010.
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