Art School Confidential

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Dir. Terry Zwigoff
2006
Like Ghost World, “Art School Confidential” started as a Daniel Clowes comic in Eightball,
but unlike the first narrative, which played itself out over several issues, this was a one-shot, a blast of vitriol aimed directly at the author’s own years at the Pratt Institute (we are told, anyway). Teamed up again with Terry Zwigoff, the film molds the screed out into a narrative of sorts, but lacks the warmth or empathy of Ghost World.
It could be that Clowes is much more sympathetic to the girls of Ghost World, but when faced with a male character, more of his self-loathing enters the picture. The Clowes stand-in, Jerome is a good draftsman and illustrator when he gets to art school. His life studies are the best in class. But this is not what art school is about–it’s about coming up with a gimmick, sucking cock (as an old, jaded artist played by Jim Broadbent tells him), and working the gallery scene (which I suppose is just more cock-sucking).
Meanwhile there’s a strangler on campus claiming lives, a beautiful model (Sophia Myles) to become obsessed about, odd teachers to please (John Malkovich), and assorted character types to react to (my favorite: the Kevin Smith-like film student).
If only Jerome wasn’t such a pushover. He’s easily led by both instructor and mentor, and in the end isn’t even producing his own art (a plot development that feels too much like Enid’s ending gambit in Ghost World). I know that Clowes’ idea of irony, but if a lot of the best comedy comes out of desperation, Jacob isn’t desperate enough.
Now, while watching the film, I laughed and laughed. It is funny, and the scapel-like wit that disects its supporting cast never lets up. But at the end there’s not much left to feel.

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