Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho

REGARDLESS OF ANY REVIEWER'S claim that X director has brought an “edge” back to filmmaking, or Y star has transcended screen acting for something “beyond,” or Z writer’s imaginative process is both literary and visual, the success of most American movies is based on the fulfillment of our demand for closure. Mom almost never dies and Dad will almost always eventually provide, and we regard this condition as satisfactory for the task of watching. What we, as Americans, mean when we say we “like” a film—particularly an American one—is that it does not penetrate us beyond what is projected an the screen: the star in his or her proper vehicle, transported through a story line that ultimately leaves nothing to be desired. And we want all this from a director whose sensibility does not obscure our own, one whom we “get.” In short, what we want is the sense that life and its complexities regarding

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