TIFF 2011: Toronto International Film Festival

Friday | October 31, 2014

Van Sant stays outside the lines


Gus Van Sant (WENN.COM)

Director Gus Van Sant has made a career breathing celluloid life into the lives of young outsiders.

From the street hustlers of 1991’s My Own Private Idaho, to the murderous outcasts in 2003’s Elephant, Van Sant has been Hollywood’s go-to guy when it comes to telling stories chronicling disaffected youth living outside the lines.

In Restless, which had its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Van Sant directs a Jason Lew-scripted coming-of-age tale in which two funeral crashers Annabel (Mia Wasikowska) and Enoch (played by Dennis Hopper’s son Henry) fall in love.

“They are two outsiders who join up and remain outside to the point where you don’t really see anyone else,” said Van Sant, ahead of a screening at the Ryerson Theatre.

They have secrets, and have to accommodate for Enoch’s WWII Kamikaze ghost pal Hiroshi, but together they find themselves.

“Focusing on outsiders is a storytelling device for me,” said Van Sant.

“Just like how the Western was a convention John Ford used for letting people see how he viewed the world, the outsider genre allows me to show audiences a certain way of looking at the world.”

With the exception of his 2008 biopic, Milk, Van Sant has also rooted himself firmly in the telling youthful tales.

“It’s a period of time that’s the most interesting part of your life,” said Van Sant, who scored Oscar nominations for Good Will Hunting and Milk.

“You kind of freeze up after you turn 22,” he said with a chuckle. “There is a certain type of accepting you undergo as you mature. Some people are able to delay a little longer, but when you decide to become responsible, you start conforming.”

And playing inside the lines is something the director isn’t interested in. Save for his frame-for-frame remake of Psycho, Van Sant’s work has pushed the boundaries thematically and visually.

“By the time I did To Die For, there was a common denominator in my films, which was everybody was working outside the lines,” said Van Sant. “So even when I made movies like Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester, which were both life-affirming and positive, that to me was risky because I had never made anything like that before.”

In addition to Restless, actor James Franco has reconceived Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho as an art installation at this year’s festival.

Franco’s Memories of Idaho includes the feature-length film My Own Private River, which reassembles scenes starring the late River Phoenix.

While on the set of Milk, Franco told the director that My Own Private Idaho played a part in him wanting to become an actor.

“But I haven’t seen it yet,” said Van Sant. “I literally just got here.”

Restless will be released September 16.

 

 

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