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Art School Confidential

Movies | At first humorous, this film becomes cynical and depressing

Issue: "Houses divided," June 3, 2006

The so-called "art world," as social chronicler Tom Wolfe has pointed out, is not so much a world as a small town, a few thousand people who set the artistic fashions for the rest of civilization. That small town is animated with cliques, social climbing, vicious politics, and raw greed. It is populated with bohemians, posers, and wealthy hangers-on. In this climate, gifted artists are often at a disadvantage.

Art School Confidential (rated R for art-model nudity and bad language) is a satire on the contemporary art scene that is at first humorous and entertaining, but ends up cynical and depressing.

We first see the artistic Jerome (Max Minghella) as a little kid getting beat up at school. Next we see him as the nerdy high-school kid. He applies for college at a New York art school, where he hopes to launch his ambition to be the greatest artist of the 21st century.

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Jerome paints sensitive, realistic portraits. But he still doesn't fit in. One classmate covers his body with paint and jumps on a canvas. Another does scribbles that are lauded as creative masterpieces. Another never turns in assignments, explaining that his work has nothing to do with form or color or light, just questioning of aesthetic standards. Jerome's drawing professor took 25 years to perfect his drawings of triangles.

In the course of the movie, which includes a love story and a murder mystery, we see Jerome's spirit killed. Untalented players get all of the acclaim, while his beautiful pictures are ignored. The movie is funny at first, but watching Jerome degenerate into nihilism is unbearably sad. Not only for him but for the contemporary art scene, which has declined so far away from truth, goodness, and beauty.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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