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in Filmmaking
on Jul 28, 2007

There’s a new issue of Sight and Sound up and now the BFI has posted selected pieces online. One is a great interview Amy Taubin did with Gus Van Sant about Van Sant’s thoughts on — and similarities to — Andy Warhol.

While Taubin refers to Van Sant as “the most Warhol-like filmmaker around,” Van Sant says his original inspirations were quite different than the work of the great conceptual and Pop artist.

When I started to try to make films, though, the scripts I wrote were John Cheever-esque stories about the place I came from – upper middle class, golf, country clubs. That’s what fascinated me, but I never got to make any of them. Alice in Hollywood was my first film, and it was a reaction to living in Hollywood. It didn’t do so well because it was a comedy and it wasn’t very funny. So Mala Noche was like a regrouping and starting again. The setting and subject matter are something that might be in a Warhol movie but the technique was coming from Schlesinger or Bertolucci or Carol Reed. Midnight Cowboy, Last Tango in Paris and The Third Man were the three films I’d watch over and over again while I was constructing the story.

Later, there’s this great passage, though, in which Van Sant thinks about the reasons which people compare him to Warhol:

One of the comparisons you could make between Warhol and me is that we had a similar manner. I never really met him, but some of his close friends call us alter egos. I think it’s the way we hold ourselves and experience life – we’re both timid and adventurous at the same time. Lance Loud said Andy always looked as if he’d been left in the lurch, and when I’m in a club that’s how I look, even when I don’t feel that way.

So certain similarities in the art come from that. One of my old boyfriends used to point out that everyone’s personality becomes their style, and when you’re in your 40s you begin to play with that. Like shyness becomes your style – it’s your method of operation. So I don’t think the similarities you see in the work are direct – like the influence specifically of his films on mine – but it’s more that we had certain psychological similarities and they come out in the work as similarities in style. In my recent films I’ve been letting the camera roll forever, like he did in My Hustler. When I saw it originally I just thought it was a cheap way to make a movie, but later it felt good to do it: to shoot and not cut away, to keep watching.

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