Expert Beginners

[youtube=]Over the past few months, I've made a concerted effort to watch the first features of directors that I admire. As you would imagine, the first films of well-regarded directors are usually the source of that regard. At least that's what I'm starting to find.

I'd like to think that a few great directors started off with a "learning" piece, and then grew into more impressive work. That would conveniently lower the bar for me. I'd be able to say, "Well, Gus Van Sant's first feature film was terrible so I shouldn't let the fate of my career rest on my own first film."

Unfortunately, Gus Van Sant's first film is awesome. Really awesome. Thanks Gus. There goes that crutch.

The film is called MALA NOCHE and it's definitely worth watching if you haven't seen it. In fact, it's an excellent example of what I think is, how shall I put this... an average first film of a soon-to-be admired director. The movie has definite flaws, largely due to budgetary limitations, but there are also a few other things that one might gripe about. But any and all shortcomings in MALA NOCHE seem to be besides the point. The writer/director's voice is so apparent and the manner in which he tells the story so certain, that you forgive or even ignore anything that "doesn't work". It doesn't matter if the whole arc of the story "doesn't work" because Van Sant makes everything work in the way he captures it and presents it. The movie is what it is, and we'll take it.

The word that comes to mind here, and with largely every first feature I've seen lately is "imperfect". Imperfection seems to be present in any debut of someone worthwhile. It's almost as if they were pouring so much of their creativity into the project that they overdid it, or they were restricted by lack of money or bad actors or sound, etc.

So far, the only exception to this rule of imperfection that I can find is Paul Thomas Anderson's SYDNEY aka HARD EIGHT. He was 23 or something when he made it, and it's so good I'm not sure whether it inspires me to make films or just quit.

I think maybe the lesson here is that imperfection is fine, and usually present in any film worth watching. Imperfection is a by-product of going for broke, risking things, pouring everything you have into something for better or worse.

Is that still a crutch?