My Own Private Idaho

My Own Private Idaho ★★★½

Still think that Van Sant's handling of the Henry IV material is misguided, but I do like it significantly more for a number of reasons: (1) it's not nearly as dire as I initially thought, (2) Van Sant integrates it far better into the overall structure than I'd remembered, and (3) the theatrics are actually a relatively small portion of the runtime—about 20-80 as opposed to 50-50. (To be clear, I think the way Van Sant reworks the actual plot of Henry IV is inspired; it's that he retains the language and theatricality in certain sections that bothers me.) Or maybe it's just the difference between seeing the film on a gorgeous 35mm print versus a crappy DVD. Having now seen Welles' Chimes at Midnight, I'm also better able to appreciate the attempt (or homage?) here, rather than just thinking: "Why the heck are you ruining your own movie?" Still can't help feeling that a potential masterpiece was squandered, though, since there's so much raw brilliance in this: the dreamlike, stream-of-consciousness type editing; the heartrending close-ups of Phoenix; the barrage of sex scene tableaux (preceded by a brilliant Udo Kier performance); the abrupt move to Rome, which is brilliant for how much and how little changes; but then, it would have been less distinctive, I suppose, though I'm confident that it would have been canonized anyway. And maybe it's just knowledge of what happened later, but River Phoenix—what a tragic face. (Also, kind of amusing to see Jim Caviezel for all of two seconds in a throwaway role. Took me a second to place him, after which, I thought: "Jesus!")

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