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Monday, March 28, 2005


Finally catched up with David Gordon Green (the sioen geek in the middle) and more specifically his first two films: George Washington & All The Real Girls. Now literally every review starts off with comparing him to Terence Malick and it's sort of getting on my nerves. One side is shouting "Malick ripoff omggg!!" while the other one says "genius, new jesus, omgggg!!".

So what do you know: he's actually neither. Let me try and get some arguments across.


Obviously as these images show, the Malick presence is there in Green's movies. There's a good share of Magic Hour to be found in both movies and Green likes to use that same loose Malickian approach towards telling a story in pictures, eg he may intercut his story all of sudden with images of the surroundings: nature, factories, animals etc in an effort to get a certain lyrical atmosphere to come accross. Plus the voice-overs in George Washington are stylistically related (a slow more contemplating intonation).

But it absolutely doesn't feel like a ripoff because the content is so much different. I wonder how come noone hasn't mentioned Harmony Korine yet because George Washington is like Gummo meets Badlands. So for the sake of the argument let's say there are as much Malick nods as there were Kurosawa nods in Star Wars.

And from now on let's leave the bullshit "you're a ripoff" argument in the children's closet because don't make me come down and beat you to death with Jarmusch's mantra: "Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination... Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent."

So then, what I like about DGG:

(i) the cinematography is just absolutely beautiful: Tim Orr is the name here to remember.

(ii) the off-screen-voice-over: the interesting thing here is maybe not the George Washington voice-over but All The Real Girls. Everything in there is just off-screen voices from the following scene that Green already puts in a scene earlier on. And sometimes he does that for quite a long time, which works out really well. The main example would be the moment our male character is driving in his car and we hear a fight with his mother for several minutes off-screen, when all of a sudden we immediately cut to that fight. Small things really but great impact.

(iii) the music: a really really big shoutout to the music department. Especially All The Real Girls has a great soundtrack with Will Oldham, Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai & Sparklehorse. But that's not all really. The actual use of the music is so powerful and it's in both of the films the same. First of all what he does, is let the music play for a LONG time. This may go on for 10 minutes (or shorter off course) but it's mostly on top of very different scenes, not that loud, in the back, slowly building up. The great thing about it is (again) building an atmosphere. The viewer slowly hooks into what's happening and stays there, due to the music. Post-Rock is great for that. It can be long, warm, wide & etheric and it fits such an imagery just perfect. (BTW: not only post-rock is capable of this. The Fennesz-likes of this world also do it brilliantly. Recenlty saw this experimental film S*CKMYP by Kurt D'Haeseleer, with music by Köhn and it just created the same wonderful thrilling vibe. Green does exactly that with feature film.)

(iv) and lastly: DGG likes costumes. A trivial thing but some people will know why I mention this:

What I'm not so fond of:

His stories: well that is to say: the storylines don't really have that impact (on me I must add). But I think it's more of a personal thing. I don't really seem to be that much interested in the issues he's bringing forth. And the thing is that's all there is. The movie centers around the issues it's presenting and since there's such a strong lack of plot, you are only left with either an appreciation of the questions being raised in the film or not.

In that sense it's more like Gummo or like a Linklater film. You have to care about the problems at hand. Malick for me does a great job at that, since he brings such a fascinating philosophy and depth to his stories. Green hasn't been able to accomplish that (yet?). I hope he'll turn out like Linklater who couldn't do the same thing with his first films. Let's say Green is somewhere in the Before Sunrise stage and I truly hope he'll once achieve that Before Sunset moment.

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