Art School Confidential

Art School Confidential

I was disappointed in this one. Art School Confidential is a film by Terry Zwigoff, who made Crumb, which is a big favorite of mine, and Ghost World, which I also liked a lot. So I was expecting a lot out of this one.

This is one of the rare movies since I’ve been writing these essays that I gradually lost interest in rather than gained interest in as it went along. Often it takes me awhile to warm up to a movie, but I was pretty interested in this one early, maybe because I expected to like it going in. It was later that it lost me.

The movie is the story of a beginning student at an art school, dealing with all the oddball students and professors (mostly stereotypes exaggerated for laughs), getting a crush on one of the models, and coming to grips with what he wants out of being an artist and what he is and isn’t willing to do to get it.

It plays mostly as a comedy for a while, and as such it’s OK but nothing special. The characters are offbeat enough to be entertaining, and the scenes and dialogue are cleverly enough written to have at least elicited some smiles and an occasional chuckle from me.

But then it gradually turns darker and less realistic. The serial killer side plot—which seemed out of place and unbelievable all along—moves center stage, and the tone of the movie changes.

It’s as if the first half of the film is a semi-autobiographical treatment of something Zwigoff experienced (or at least people in his circle experienced), and then the second half is more a fantasy or allegory about the corrupting of art or whatever that reflects how he reacted emotionally to that life experience.

Oftentimes the characters in a movie that are initially presented as quirky, flawed, and goofy show later that they have considerable substance after all and can “rise to the occasion” that the plot puts them in. This movie had the same kind of set-up, but then instead of the mildly comic characters turning out to be sympathetic figures once you get to know them and get beneath the surface, everyone seemingly turns out to be pathetic, corrupt, a loser, violent, insane, shallow, whatever.

I guess it’s supposed to be a black comedy, but it just has a bitterness to it, like the filmmaker is denouncing in a mean-spirited way the whole subculture of society that takes things like art school and prestigious art galleries and shows and such seriously. I don’t know to what extent those things do or do not deserve a skewering, but as a viewer I just wasn’t buying it the way this movie did it.

Maybe I’m completely missing the point, but Art School Confidential didn’t connect with me.

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