Gus Van Sant / Icônes


There is the world of Gus Van Sant in the exhibition Icônes. The whole path of an independent filmmaker, capable of moving sinuously even through the paths of the Cinema in Hollywood and go with the same grace from the directing a hit film to painting, photography and music.

On display until July 31 at the Cinémathèque Française in Paris, the exhibition will arrive in Italy in the autumn at the Museo del Cinema di Torino (October 6 –  January 9, 2017). On display photographic works, paintings, music and props that reveal the poetics of the American director.

An eye careful to the depths of the human psyche, to the analysis of ethical issues and to the most controversial aspects of American society. A world seen through the eyes of an outsider that nourishes the excoriating and provocative narratives of the author, poised between suburbs and discrimination, burned adolescence, violence, death and lives on the edge. Since his first self-produced experiment Mala Noche, inspired by a story by Walt Curtis, and shot in black and white, showing the relationship between a young homosexual and an illegal Mexican immigrant, and later with the journey of My Own Private Idaho with Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix. With the Trilogy of Death, Van Sant continues to distort the reassuring canons of youth and of the American dream: the massacre at Columbine High School in Elephant, the days preceding the suicide of Kurt Cobain in Last Days, the sense of loss evoked from the hypnotic Gerry. And yet the political activism in the biopic Milk, based on the life of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to assume public office in the United States, that led to the Academy Award for Sean Penn in 2009 and a nomination for Van Sant for the direction. Oscar for the direction also touched in 1998 for the critically acclaimed Will Hunting – Rebel Genius: Robin Williams to won the statuette as Best Supporting Actor and Matt Damon and Ben Affleck for the screenplay. 1999 is the year of the Razzie Award as the worst director, who won for the obsessive remake frame by frame with the addition of a single Scene of Hitchcock’s Psycho.

In the exhibition Icônes there are photos and props of Van Sant’s production, from the beginning until his last -and far less lucky- The Sea of Trees. The photography has a central place in the exhibition: since 1980 the director began to take hundreds of Polaroid on the sets of his films that portray the actors with whom he worked: Nicole Kidman, Drew Barrymore, Keanu Reeves, Matt Damon among others. Also on display cut-ups, photo-collages in black and white, digitally created from Polaroid negatives, where the images of two people overlap. The technique was conceived as a tribute to the cut-up of William S. Burroughs, where words were cut and mixed together. The exhibition is completed with paintings, including watercolors that Van Sant has made at different times of his life.

An interactive constellation, on the website of the Cinémathèque, provides an overview of the extensive network of artists, collaborators and inspirers of Van Sant!/ Between the connections of the constellation, ranging between photography, Hollywood star system and music, one is dedicated to the authors of the Beat Generation: William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey, Walt Curtis. Van Sant has always declared his affiliation with the American counterculture values ​​and has always recognized these authors real spiritual fathers. He directed Burroughs in Drugstore Cowboy where he plays a drug addict priest. Always with the author of Naked Lunch he then realized in 1991 the experimental short Thanksgiving Prayer. For Ginsberg has instead made the video of Ballad of the Skeletons, became cult thanks to the music of Philip Glass and Paul McCartney: a poem-complaint against the hypocrisies of contemporary society. Having learned the lesson of independence and challenge from the Beat Generation poets, Van Sant takes it on his works giving the image of a disjointed reality from certainties and conventions. Raw, authentic.


Casey Affleck et Matt Damon dans Gerry de Gus Van Sant (2002) – My Cactus Inc. Copyright (US) All Rights Reserved


River Phoenix dans My Own Private Idaho de Gus Van Sant (1991) © Warner Bros Inc.


John Robinson dans Elephant de Gus Van Sant (2003) © HBO


Cut-Ups (2010). Collage numérique réalisé par Gus Van Sant à partir de Polaroids. © Gus Van Sant.

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