The Gus Van Sant Touch

A Thematic Study—Drugstore Cowboy, Milk and Beyond


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About the Book

Beloved, controversial, influential, the creator of such fascinating and award-winning films as My Own Private Idaho, Good Will Hunting, Elephant, and Milk, Gus Van Sant stands among the great international directors, equally at home in Hollywood and the avant-garde. Examining his films thematically, this book finds consistency of vision in Van Sant’s unique approach to cinema, which deploys postmodernist techniques such as appropriation, nonlinear narrative, and queering—not in the service of the chic but to apply an all-inclusive viewpoint to ageless tales of life, love and death. Van Sant’s films are viewed through a multi-genre prism, including the work of Bruce Weber and Derek Jarman, the westerns of Sam Peckinpah, the music of the Velvet Underground and Nirvana, the fiction of Sam D’Allesandro, and especially the “cut-up”/collage practice of intertextual authorship pioneered by William Burroughs.

About the Author(s)

Justin Vicari is an award-winning poet, essayist and film writer. He lives in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania.

Bibliographic Details

Justin Vicari
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 259
Bibliographic Info: 27 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2012
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7183-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0097-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface: My Own Private Academy Awards 1
Introduction: Filmmaking as Sampling 9

Part One : Experiential Texts 19
1. Van Sant and Intertextualty 20
2. Cloudscapes and Pietàs: Visual Intertextuality 50
3. Schizo-ing Psycho: Quotational Intertextuality 62
4. “Where’s Dad?” Thematic Intertextuality 80
5. Finding Forrester: Postmodern Skin, or, The End of Whose History? 112

Part Two : Time Names 127
6. Van Sant and Queer Cinema 128
7. The Mirror in the Mirror: Gerry 146
8. Queering the Iconographies of Fashion and Militarism in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Elephant 159
9. Back from Interzone: Reading William Burroughs’ Sexual Politics Through the Films of Van Sant 180
10. Secret Histories 201

Conclusion: Beyond “Private” 226
Chapter Notes 233
Works Cited 243
Index 247

Book Reviews & Awards

“Views Van Sant’s films with an eye for postmodernist techniques…Vicari is rigorous in his attention, but conversational and witty.”—Reference & Research Book News; “discusses the film director ‘equally at home in Hollywood and avant-garde’…asserts a consistency of vision in Van Sant’s cinematic approach, one favoring appropriation, nonlinear narrative, and queering”—Communication Booknotes Quarterly.