Criterion Sunday 152: George Washington (2000)

I really like this spare, fugue-like elegy for the dispossessed in all its overtly Malickian sensibilities. Perhaps seeing it at a film festival when it was released, before a lot of other filmmakers had jumped on that particular ride (and the one who made this had very much jumped off), was more surprising but there’s still beauty and warmth, in those magic light colours of a place where the South meets the rust belt, and the feeling in the non-professional actors. A really vivid take on the coming of age that does most of its thematic work in little vignettes of community life and almost throwaway dialogue, preferring stretches of contemplative reflection of quiet desuetude.

Criterion Extras: Besides a trailer, there’s also quite a few interesting extras, most notably two student short films by Green, Pleasant Grove (1997) and Physical Pinball (1998). Both share quite a few similarities with George Washington, which lifts the first’s story of a boy with a stray dog who can’t take it home as a little detail for George. While this first one is a sweet slow little film that sets up some ideas that would be progressed by the feature, the second feels more fully rounded. It’s about a father-daughter relationship (both actors would return for the feature), and has a nice sense of how out of his depth the father is after his wife has passed.

Along with these is A Day with the Boys (1969), a short by actor Clu Gulager, a wordless film with a hazy nostalgic tone, all slo-mo running set to plaintive trumpet (very much of its era), jazzed up with all kinds of visual touches. It all turns a bit Lord of the Flies, as I suppose many days with the boys will, but it’s a diverting mood piece.

Aside from this there’s a Charlie Rose interview with a (very young!) David Gordon Green, which covers a few of his influences, not to mention some insights about how he cast and shot the film, though it is quite short. A deleted scene of a town hall meeting imparts a sense of some of Green’s verité reference points, as the camera does quick zooms and pans in the style of those fly-on-the-wall documentaries from the 60s. Finally, there’s a short piece interviewing its child stars a year after release in 2001, as they expound on how it was to make the film, and some of their aspirations.

FILM REVIEW: Criterion Collection
Director/Writer David Gordon Green; Cinematographer Tim Orr; Starring Candace Evanofski, Donald Holden; Length 89 minutes.

Seen at Te Papa, Wellington, Friday 20 July 2001 (and most recently on DVD at a friend’s home, London, Sunday 7 May 2017).

All the Real Girls (2003)

FILM REVIEW || Director David Gordon Green | Writers David Gordon Green and Paul Schneider | Cinematographer Tim Orr | Starring Zooey Deschanel, Paul Schneider | Length 108 minutes | Seen at Cameo, Edinburgh, Saturday 2 August 2003 (and on DVD, most recently Saturday 30 March 2013) || My Rating 4 stars excellent

© Sony Pictures Classics

I started this blog as my cinema-going reviews, but I sometimes rewatch old films (or watch old films anew) at home, and I know it doesn’t quite fit into the ‘at the cinema’ theme, but I thought I’d try revisiting a film of the past. It’s now 10 years since All the Real Girls was released. I saw it in the cinema at the time, when I was roughly the same age as the film’s protagonists, and I accounted it my favourite film of the year when a few months later I made a list. I had very recently moved from New Zealand back to the city of my birth (Edinburgh). I was living in the basement under my aunt’s house, and feeling fairly disconnected: living on savings without a job, between relationships, feeling rather transient. I recount these autobiographical details, because more than most films, I really think such details are relevant to my response to this film. Somewhat like Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995) — which I may have been too young to really appreciate at the time, though I adore the follow-up Before Sunset (2004) — it is one so wrapped up in itself, in the narcissism of its twentysomething protagonists, that I can quite believe it would entirely pass under the radar of anyone outside that peculiarly self-involved age. In this case, the two people at the centre of the film are Paul (Paul Schneider), a directionless small-town lothario, and Noel (Zooey Deschanel), the sister of his best friend who has just come back to town after many years away; their relationship with one another, in the context of their wider circle of friends, forms the narrative.

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