Film-Forward Review: [ELEPHANT]

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ELEPHANT
Directed by: Gus Van Sant.
Produced by: Dany Wolf.
Written by: Gus Van Sant.
Director of Photography: Harry Savides.
Edited by: Gus Van Sant.
Released by: Fine Line/HBO.
Country of Origin: USA. 81 min. Rated: R.
With: Alex Frost, Eric Deulen & Timothy Bottoms.

Director Gus Van Sant takes aim on a Columbine High School-like massacre in this exercise in style, which provokes merely by its subject matter. The first two-thirds consists of long roaming tracking shots, set to Beethoven, that follow a stereotypical set of students: Nathan and Carrie, the jock and his beautiful blond girlfriend; Michelle, the bespectacled nerd with ringlets (she might as well be wearing a bullís-eye); Brittany, Jordan, and Nicole, the healthiest looking click of bulimics youíll ever see; and the social outcasts, Alex (Frost) and Eric (Deulen). The last third covers the shooting spree. Heavy-handedly, clouds darken as a storm brews the night before the killings.

This slight film raises questions that it doesnít explore, let alone answer. Far from probing, thereís barely any character or theme development. The teenage cast, making its film debut, is self-conscious, as are the professional actors. Obviously improvised, the banal dialogue is at times laughable during the shooting spree. (And the boys in the cast look like they have been picked from the pages of Tiger Beat.) However, Elephant did received the Golden Palm at this yearís Cannes Film Festival, an award which reveals more about international film politics than the state of film. Kent Turner
December 17, 2003

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