Comments on watching and making films.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

David Gordon Greene - Asserting his independence from independents

David Gordon Greene has made quite a name for himself over the past eight years, or so, since the 2000 release of his debut feature George Washington. Greene had heaps of praise laid on him for the lyrical poeticism of the film, many even going so far as to refer to him as the successor to Terrence Mallick. With his follow up, All The Real Girls, Greene explored some of the same lyrical poetics, and a similar visual style, though he used the backdrop of young love as his story, instead of the ennui of small town youngsters, trapped in a world they will never emerge from.

Both films were amazing feats, done on incredibly small budgets, with amazing acting, and the gorgeous cinematography of Greene's NCSA classmate Tim Orr. His next film, however, would try to incorporate some of his style into a more mainstream thriller. Undertow is the story of two brothers, on the run from their psychotic uncle after he kills their father. Undertow is definitely a departure from the glacial, yet beautiful, worlds of his previous two films. It is raw, and it is dirty to the point where it almost feels like artifice. I remember when Undertow came out, a lot of critics and fans were crying "Sellout".

His follow up to Undertow, a film called Snow Angels, I have not seen,unfortunately, so I can't comment on it. I do know, however, that it has gotten fair to bad reviews, and seems like the sort of film that will probably end up being buried by the studio on DVD.

His next film, coming out in a few weeks, is the Seth Rogen (Knocked Up/Superbad) penned comedy-thriller Pineapple Express. I say thriller loosely, as their is action involved in the film, but it definitely comes off more as a comedy than anything. It is the story of two pot smokers, one of which witnesses an execution style murder, while trying to get high. The two friends go on the lamb, when the killer finds out who they are, and sends some goons to hunt them down and kill them. 

And most of you that have seen Greene's work are saying, "Really?". Really. I love the trailer for Pineapple Express, and I have to say that if Seth Rogen co-wrote Superbad, and co-wrote Pineapple with his same writing partner, I think we are in for one hilarious ride. But why David Gordon Greene? He does seem like an awkward fit for a stoner comedy.

If you're looking for the back story, I don't have it. I have no idea why Greene took the directors position, but I can only assume that it was because after George Washington and All The Real Girls, which were incredibly similiar in style, that Greene has been looking for some way to break away from the expectations that film critics and audience members are putting on him. And why shouldn't he? A director is not unlike an actor, in that he (or she) wants to try out as many different avenues of their craft as is humanly possible. No one wants to get stuck doing the same kind of films every time (well, John Carpenter doesn't seem to have a problem with sticking to a single genre, but...). Even George Romero, the man who essentially invented the modern day zombie film, refused to cash in on his success with Night of the Living Dead for years, because he was afraid of being typecast as "The Zombie Guy". Of course, that's probably not the best example, seeing as how he did eventually get typecast that way (I mean, c'mon... who has even seen There's Always Vanilla, or heard of Knightriders or The Crazies?).

Personally, I'm looking forward to Pineapple Express. I'm looking forward to Greene spreading his wings, and seeing what he can do outside of his first three films. I have loved all of the films he's made, and look forward to seeing him try new things and (hopefully) succeed. I think he is an incredibly talented director who has a real gift at, not only working with actors, but creating a visual experience with his crew to put up on the screen.

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