David Gordon Green: From Art-House to HALLOWEEN

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I hate to write about film theories, nobody cares about, or seems to anyway. Still, I do find some enjoyment in said theories, so let’s keep this going, shall we?

So, because two critics have already posted their thoughts on the Halloween reboot on this site, and because it seems like no one is interested in my thoughts are, I suggested I cover it from the art-house perspective. After all, David Gordon Green got his directorial career started with character driven art house films, and moved up the ladder, well after a couple of days of soul searching and figuring it out, I have a way to connect his art house debut, the 2000 film George Washington, and the 2018 Halloween, the answer may surprise you.

You ever get the strange feeling, you’re watching a Terrence Malick film, even though you’re not?

So, about our director, David Gordon Green. First-off he is a great director, when he’s allowed to write the scripts for the films he directs, this may sound like a cop-out, but it isn’t. The problem is Hollywood doesn’t really want him to write screenplays and considering the film I watched to compare Halloween (2018) to, I understand their concern. You’ll see what I’m talking about when I get into my attempted plot synopsis of George Washington.

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This is a frankly bizarre film about an African-American kid named George, who wears a helmet, because of a birth defect. After a murder is accidentally committed, we follow George as he tries to be a proverbial superhero for the small North Carolina town he resides in. If you’re lost, I don’t blame you. This is one of those films with what I call a magic eye plot, you can find said plot if you look at exactly the right direction to find it. Still there is a unique directorial style, and a vision on display, which is frankly interesting. I never felt bored with the picture, due to said directorial vision.

Regardless of my jokes, this is a beautiful looking film, and it’s worth recommending for shot composition alone.

By contrast, Halloween (2018) was relatively straightforward, which is okay, because nobody really wants to see a Terrence Malick inspired horror film, (although I’d love to see somebody try). Still I was straining my brain trying to figure out similarities: there are only a few I know of, both plots involve murder, and both films have great performances by actors you wouldn’t expect, and both have a story arc of character redemption.

So aside from these comparisons, I feel both films involve a theory posited by my favorite filmmaker Martin Scorsese, in his 1995 BFI documentary: A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies. I cannot remember which episode he talked about this theory, however, I remember the contents, and I think they apply to our subject. Scorsese was talking about the late King Vidor, and how in the studio system he would make a populist film, which sold a lot of tickets. He would then go make a personal project, which wouldn’t sell a lot of tickets, but would fulfill a creative urge. Scorsese’s exact words were: “one for the studio, and one for yourself.” Scorsese himself is no stranger himself to this theory. For every The Color of Money, Cape Fear, or Shutter Island, he’s made a Last Temptation of Christ, Gangs of New York, or Silence.

I love this irony, the man who directed this shot, would later direct stoner comedies, seriously.

Green’s filmography is legitimately bizarre. His first four films were of a uniquely directorial vision (he wrote and directed all four of those of films, mind you) then decided to make two films for the studio, and then switched, between those two extremes, with varying quality. The consensus being when Green is making his art house films, they’re significantly better than his commercial films.

Still it does show promise, he can at least have a directorial vision, even if it’s to make terrible comedies. In a way there’s something admirable about this, yet I can’t tell you why.

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Matthew Simon
If he isn't watching a forgotten library title, Matthew Simon is watching anime or attending anime conventions.