• Art School Confidential (MVD Marquee Collection) Blu-Ray Review



    Released By: MVD Marquee Collection
    Released On: November 6, 2018.
    Director: Terry Zwigoff
    Cast: Max Minghella, Sophia Myles, John Malkovich, Ethan Suplee, Matt Keeslar, Steve Buscemi
    Year: 2006
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    Art School Confidential - Movie Review:

    I was seriously so excited to find out that Art School Confidential was playing in my shitty, one-horse town in 2006, that I rushed out that day to buy advance tickets, just to make sure it didn't sell out. Right. In my shitty, one-horse town, I packed into the theatre with about six other people on a Friday night, sat down with my popcorn...and was wickedly disappointed with what unfolded on the screen before me. Art School Confidential, outside of a couple of forced laughs, was not what I was expecting, not what I thought I had paid for, and judging by the lack of applause or laughter in the theatre, I was not the only one going home with shattered hopes and dreams.

    Hindsight is, of course, 20/20, and I can now assess and understand that heartbreak. 2001's GHOST WORLD, featuring the same writer/director team of Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff responsible for Art School Confidential, was a monumental film for me. I'd already been out of high school for almost eight years when Thora Birch and a young Scarlet Johansson seemed to speak directly to me through the TV screen, and Ghost World is a film I revisit often, and fondly. But for some reason, my early-thirties self wasn't mature or worldly-experienced enough to appreciate the biting satire and subtle humour that Clowes and Zwigoff were pushing; now, I can recognize Art School Confidential as the perfect follow-up, the transition from teenage high school angst to post-secondary you're-an-adult-now life mission fixation.

    Like Thora Birch's Enid before him, Max Minghella's Jerome is out of step with the world. From a very young age, Jerome has dreamed of nothing but becoming a world-famous artist like his hero, Pablo Picasso, and everything seems to be falling into place when he's accepted into the prestigious Strathmore Institute of Art, which brings the lad from upstate New York into the downtown proper. No longer drawing sketches of pretty classmates in an effort to win adulation and maybe the occasional slap and tickle from the fairer sex, Jerome feels he's finally become legit; and if he had any doubt, his filmmaker (Ethan Suplee) and fashion designer roommates lend authenticity to his feelings of success.

    Of course, it doesn't take long for Jerome to realize that he's not living in an artist's Utopia. First off, there's a strangler on campus, and police already have their eye on an art student as a prime suspect. And his first day in sketch class destroys his dreams of drawing gorgeous, naked women when a douchey long-haired dude with tan lines and a large, flaccid wang disrobes and takes centre stage. His teacher, Professor Standiford (John Malkovich), is an angry, failed artist his own self, and his introduction to Strathmore grad and famous painter Marvin Bushmiller (Adam Scott) gives the impression that success means disappearing up your own ass and being a total dick to everyone around you. Fed up with his prospects in life, Jerome finds wisdom in the words of another former Strathmore grad and famous artist, Jimmy (Jim Broadbent), who convinces him, through a haze of poverty, alcohol, cigarette smoke, and masturbation, that it takes the combined talents of licking ass and sucking cock to make it in the art world.

    That all changes, though, when Jerome meets Audrey (Sophia Miles), the gorgeous sketch class model and son of a famous pop artist, who gives him some false hopes and a mission; to rise above the Jimmys and Marvins of the world, to make his mark on Strathmore, and to get the best grade in his class, which will surely lead to a a showing of his work at Broadway Bob's (Steve Buscemi) gallery, the natural progression from student to world famous talent. But as the Strathmore Strangler fells another victim, and Audrey falls for the remarkably untalented but horribly dreamy Jonah, Jerome faces his own private reckoning; how far will he go for his 15 minutes of fame?

    Subtle, biting humour, a near-perfect cast, and a subject matter that only some will relate to within the confines of that subtle, biting humour, Art School Confidential was born to be a niche film, a cult favourite, and it has certainly persevered in that medium. Clowes' writing style is transformed wonderfully to film, and Zwigoff once again proves that he is the man to bring that style to the screen. Zwigoff also brings some curious influences to this murder/mystery/comedy as well, with nods to Kubrick and Argento standing out, and indeed, the killer subplot has at least one foot in the giallo camp at times.

    It's fun to revisit a film such as this; years and years ago, I didn't rate it as much more than an attempt to recreate Ghost World, one of my favourite films. Wisdom, age (and beauty), and a wealth of experience, though, have proved the genius of Clowes and Zwigoff; not for everyone, but for those who can tune into the nuances, a greatly rewarding excursion.

    Art School Confidential - Blu-Ray Review:

    MVD Marquee brings Art School Confidential to Blu-ray in an AVC-encoded 1.85:1 transfer that looks decent. The picture isn't going to pop out and bite anyone, but a natural colour palette, decent blacks, a hefty amount of detail, and minimal dirt and debris provides a nice viewing experience, free from compression artifacts.

    There are a number of audio tracks available, but the DTS HD MA 5.1 track fit the bill just fine, with tasteful use of the surrounds, dialogue up front, and a lack of hiss and distortion. For those who prefer a straight stereo experience, there's a perfectly serviceable 2.0 PCM track (also in English) provided, with a French Dolby Digital 2.0 and Portuguese and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks also on tap. English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Chinese Subtitles are available.

    A Making of (8:27) featurette can be found in the supplements, which features Clowes, Zwigoff, and other cast and crew talking about the film and their various art school experiences, which is pretty fun to hear about. The actors also discuss working with Zwigoff and Clowes.

    Sundance Featurette (7:05) is a clip from the 2006 world premiere of the film, with Zwigoff talking about how he hates premieres, and other participants in the film giving their impressions on, er, the film.

    Deleted Scenes (11:15) contains some very funny moments that were left on the cutting room floor, and an Additional Scene - Testimonials (1:09) is just that.

    It's worth noting that these are ported over from the DVD in SD.

    Bloopers and Alternate Takes (4:45) is also worth watching, and trailers for Art School Confidential, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Barbershop, and Went To Coney Island On A Mission From God...Be Back By 5 are also available.

    Art School Confidential - The Final Word:

    It took about thirteen years to realize it, but Art School Confidential is a worthy followup to Ghost World, and one of the few chances to see the brilliance of Daniel Clowes transmitted to the screen. MVD Marquee's Blu-ray is a great way to check it out.

    Click on the images below for full sized Art School Confidential Blu-ray screen caps!