Monday, June 10, 2013

Film Critique: 'George Washington'

George Washington (2001)
Drama – 91 minutes
David Gordon Green

David Gordon Green's 'George Washington'

I heard about ‘George Washington’ in a recent film article, and I was intrigued after it was compared to the work of Terrence Malick. I was surprised to find that the director, David Gordon Green, shot part of the film in my hometown of Winston-Salem after graduating from North Carolina’s School of the Arts. I was further intrigued after I found that the director went on to shoot several raunchy comedies such as ‘Pineapple Express’ and ‘Your Highness’ - A huge shift from the subject matter and style of the subtle, dramatic, indie 'George Washington'.

But I was delighted to find that the article I had read was correct- There were hints of Malick’s influence strewn throughout this film: The cinematography, the setting, the subtle voiceovers. ‘George Washington’ beautifully captures a glimpse into several children’s lives in a charmingly depicted, but decaying southern town.

The strength of this film is the characters – they are authentic and vulnerable, and at times reminded me of Zeitlin’s ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’.  As in ‘Beasts’, the film is punctuated by voiceover narration sequences, which offer a thoughtful introspective view into the life of the town. The dialogue is divisively either authentic character development or philosophical musing on life – there isn’t much in between, but it doesn’t cause an issue in the film.

I found some of the technical aspects of the film, such as the transitions between scenes, jarring or disorienting (David Gordon Green has a thing for fades, apparently), but the simplicity of the cinematography and the strength of the characters make up for the mildly distracting transition techniques.

Even more impressive is that 'George Washington' marks David Gordon Green's debut feature film as a director - A debut film that was selected for the Criterion Collection.

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