Since the late 80s Gus Van Sant has been directing movies that have resulted in cult classics and box-office pullers. A film is a film for him regardless of the budget and he doesn’t wear a storytelling straightjacket. Van Sant has now collaborated with Gucci on a seven-part film titled Ouverture of Something That Never Ended, but before you cry “sell out”, for him it’s more just another experiment. DAMN° spoke to Van Sant about this latest project, his directorial career, and his fanhood for 24-hour rolling news channels.
Photos: Paige Powell, courtesy of Gucci
Making a movie with a basis in reality is a losing game, but that hasn’t stopped scads of film-makers from trying. Adhere faithfully to the record, and the work starts to take on a book report’s matter-of-factness, calling the necessity of the artistic representation into question. Exercise some creative licence, and nitpicking detractors will come out of the woodwork to levy accusations of distorting the truth.
It’s a big, tangled Gordian knot, and nobody has sliced through it more effectively or frequently than Gus Van Sant. Over three-plus decades directing feature films, he has demonstrated a unique facility for translating the drama of real life into cinematic terms, often by leaving realism behind along the way. He’s tackled the lives of famous figures and notorious events ripped from the headlines, sometimes while naming names and sometimes through a thin veil of fiction. In either case, he’s met with success where so many have failed by taking a relaxed attitude toward the question of authenticity. He can engage with celebrity and scandal without being made a slave to their details, using only what’s useful in his pursuit of a deeper honesty. Across genres, in and out of the studio system, a commitment to a more abstract method of interpretation over hard accuracy has led Van Sant to insight, transcendence, and ecstasy.
His instincts to reconcile his boundary-pushing aesthetics with commercial cooperation have now led him to the fashion house Gucci and its creative director Alessandro Michele, with whom Van Sant has collaborated on a seven-part film titled Ouverture of Something That Never Ended. Despite its origins as a promo, the project offered Van Sant the chance to indulge his formal whims with the meticulous, legato composition he prefers. It looks a lot like his Kurt Cobain biopic-of-sorts Last Days, and not just because some of the pieces from Gucci’s latest collection have a ratty thrift-store flair. Sombre models saunter in and out of beautifully appointed rooms, a clear sign that however we define the Van Sant-esque, it can be fitted into a corporate architecture and thrive there.
The imperative to sell the Gucci name is just another facet of the real from which he can build outward, no different from a slice of urban life or a star’s persona or repurposed IP. “Sometimes I’m in service of the larger script idea, and I try to push it in a direction of my choosing,” he says. “And there are other times when I’m completely on my own.”...