OPB’s State of Wonder recently featured the Northwest Film Center’s Essential Gus Van Sant film series (opening April 23) along with a great interview with film writers Mario Falsetto and Shawn Levy. Falsetto, the author of the recently published Conversations with Gus Van Sant and professor emeritus of film at Concordia University, is teaching a School of Film course on Van Sant’s films starting this Saturday, April 25.
Listen to the interview:
Excerpts from April Baer’s OPB interview:
On Van Sant’s influence beyond his own films:
Mario Falsetto: He does have a whole history of being a key player in the independent film world, but his connection to Hollywood, I think, is complicated. He does consider himself an independent filmmaker.
Shawn Levy: I think Gus also has a strong role as a father figure to a lot of other filmmakers [and] a wonderful mentorship role to a lot of actors. Actors love him. He’s directed so many actors to, arguably, their best work. people who haven’t necessarily been thought of as important actors have done really substantial work in his films. He’s one of the greatest directors of non-professional actors since Visconti and De Sica.
Mario Falsetto: Studios and producers will use Gus’ name. They’ll feel out someone like Brad Pitt… ‘How would you feel about this film if Gus Van Sant were directing it?’ Or the actor will say, ‘I’m interested in this project if you can get somebody like Gus Van Sant as the director.’
On choosing films for the series:
Mario Falsetto: I approached NW Film Center about teaching a course, and we discussed the idea of a film series. My idea was a complete retrospective! That wasn’t quite possible, because of scheduling. We eventually decided on the Portland trilogy (“Mala Noche,” “Drugstore Cowboy,” and “My Own Private Idaho”) because of its importance in this city, and at least three of the later, smaller, more aesthetically adventurous films (“Gerry,” “Last Days,” and “Elephant”), “Milk,” and a bunch of influence films. Taken together, I think it presents a nice portrait of the different aspects of Gus Van Sant. We’re not getting the most conventional films in the series. What are the films people need to see but they can’t see anywhere? If they want to see “Good Will Hunting,” it’s pretty easy to see.
Shawn Levy: I think the underrated film in Gus’ catalog is “Finding Forrester.” I had a couple of middle-school-age boys living in my house when that film came out, and that hit the sweet spot. Hollywood had not really made movies for young adult boys. Boys went straight from kiddie fair to action movies. And here’s a movie about a boy who could write, play basketball, who had a little bit of a romance going on. I felt it was an experimental film for Gus.