On Sad Cramped Spaces in Terry Zwigoff

 

Watching Art School Confidential last night, I was struck by how inert and generic the scenes at the art school — in the classrooms, the halls, the dorms, the quad — were. I started to fear it was going to be a bad film.

 

But then the camera entered the cramped apartment of the bitter, reclusive older artist who becomes a mentor to the naive protagonist, schooling in the infinite shitiness of the art world, and the whole thing came alive. The dingy, stinky, entropic apartment of this old man was so clearly Zwigoff’s home turf — like the basements in Crumb, like Billy Bob Thornton’s car in Bad Santa — that it seemed a shame to see him working anywhere else. I want to see Zwigoff do claustrophobic dysfunction, not sassy teen drama.

 

 

I think all artists have their things and their places — true style is, as much as anything, a default … a process of arriving at the only thing you can do well, rather than choosing what you want to do from many viable options.

 

I love artists like this.

 

The question is: how big is the region of one’s true style? Is there anything Zwigoff could do to breathe the same life into the college scenes as he did into the apartment? Or should he simply stick to the apartment? Do we all have apartments like this that we’d be better off sticking to, or should we always be trying to outdo ourselves?

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