Art School Confidential

Art School Confidential

Film review by: Witney Seibold


            Director Terry Zwigoff and screenwriter/comicbook author Daniel Clowes made Ghost World in 2001, and it was one of the best films of the year. They have now, in 2006, reteamed to make Art School Confidential, one and it is one of the best films of this year. May they continue to make films together. Art School deftly handles a balancing act between genres; it is as once a teen sex comedy, a romance, a noir send-up, a realist drama of student life, and a wry satire of the art world. And it never stops being fun, funny, dark, or biting. It’s one of the only films I’ve seen that manages to be simultaneously immature and profound.


            At the fictitious Strathmore Art College, the students work every hard on their respective arts, and are often greeted with scorn and snotty criticism by their peers and professors. The professors are all petty, belittling boors who always take the intellectually superior stance which looks like smarts to the neophyte, but is really just an excuse to insult people. Everyone is desperate to land an art show, and they are not beneath flattery and favors to get them. In these respects, the film is surprisingly authentic. In this world, we meet Jerome (Max Minghella, son of director Anthony), a naïve virgin looking to hone his craft, and get laid by one of the many moody art chicks that lurk everywhere on campus. He falls in love with one of his classes’ models, Audrey (Sophia Myles), and becomes convinced that the only way to win her to become a Great Artist. Of course, when your professor is Mr. Sandiford (a delicious John Malkovich), and your art advice comes from snarky, sarcastic friends (represented by Joel Moore), and from a bitter, reclusive alcoholic ex-student (Jim Broadbent, in one of his career’s best performances), it’s hard to tell what a “Great Artist” actually is. Ultimately, Jerome discovers that personality and pretension actually do matter more than the actual artwork. Oh, and there’s a subplot about a strangler than has been lurking around the campus, which begins to feature more and more as the film progresses.


            The film is brilliant. Sure it has biting commentary, but you’ll be spending most of your time laughing. The film is populated with the same kind of horny young people one would usually encounter in a sub-par American Pie sequel, but manages to make them seem real, more frustrated, more comfortable inside their own skin. And amidst its arch humor, it occasionally pauses for some genuinely poignant moments. It’s worth it just to see Jim Broadbent depressively slamming the universe-in-general while The Facts of Life theme song blares in the background.

 -May 5th, Sony Pictures Classics

Published in: on March 27, 2008 at 1:41 am  Leave a Comment  

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