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Proposed Panel: Gus Van Sant

SCMS New Orleans - March 10-13, 2011

Organizer: Justin Horton, Georgia State University

Respondent: Nick Davis, Northwestern University

Few contemporary filmmakers have amassed a body of work as intriguingly
heterogeneous as that of Gus Van Sant. Ranging from New Queer Cinema (Mala
Noche, My Own Private Idaho) to more mainstream “indie” successes (Drugstore
Cowboy), Hollywood acclaim (*Good Will Hunting, **Milk*) to an art cinema
“death trilogy” (*Gerry, **Elephant, **Last Days*), Van Sant’s career is
marked by abrupt shifts in subject matter, style, and mode of production.
Further, he proves himself to be quite the rarity—both an art house critical
darling and a Hollywood “A-list” director. And yet, in spite of this
heterogeneity, there remains a distinctive authorial temperament.

Van Sant's films are such that it may be approached from many angles and
lends itself to a number of theoretical lenses. This panel seeks to explore
this rich body of work, one that has received relatively scant scholarly
attention. We are presented now, 25 years after the release of Van Sant’s
debut feature, Mala Noche, with an opportune moment to consider more fully
this singular filmmaker.

Potential topics might include:

-Adaptation of novels (Mala Noche, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, To Die For)
and other films (Psycho)

-Van Sant’s appropriation of historical events and figures, both overtly
(Harvey Milk) and by approximation (the Columbine massacre in Elephant, Kurt
Cobain in Last Days)

-Queerness in/and Van Sant’s films

-Inspiration/citation/simulation (Warhol, Hitchcock, Bela Tarr, etc)

-Non-linearity and temporality

-Outsiders and marginality: Van Sant as “outsider art”; “indie” auteur;
outcasts as characters

-Van Sant and locale: the centrality of Portland as both location and
setting; the city and the suburb

-Van Sant and youth: the figure of the boy protagonist; initiation as theme


Please send 300-word abstract with 3-5 bibliographic sources and a brief
author biography by August 8, 2010 to Justin Horton ([log in to unmask]).
Notifications of acceptance will be sent by August 13, 2010.

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