Zwigoff's Not-So-Fine 'Art'

Friday, May 12, 2006

"Art School Confidential" is another collaboration between director Terry Zwigoff and screenwriter Daniel Clowes, the team behind the marvelous "Ghost World." And that's part of the trouble: "Art School" is enjoyable and reprises the same dyspeptic attitude that infused "Ghost World," but ultimately it lacks its predecessor's originality and humanity.

Jerome (Max Minghella) is an idealistic student with dreams of making it in the art world. But he's ground down into a cynic by the self-absorbed teachers, pretentious students and unctuous suck-ups he encounters in art school. More and more, the jaded wisdom of a burnt-out artiste (Jim Broadbent) -- who issues drunken, graphic metaphors about what academe is really about -- makes sense.

Zwigoff and Clowes want to mock art academia's familiar stereotypes. But beyond their surface nihilism and graphic language, they offer little else. Jerome becomes attracted to an art model, Audrey (Sophia Myles), with good connections and even undergoes radical change, but the story lacks affecting development. Where "Ghost World" had live-action characters who sprang to fully fleshed life from comic book source material, "Art School" has comic book types (including one played by Steve Buscemi) that stay as flat as the page.

-- Desson Thomson

Art School Confidential R, 102 minutes Contains nudity, profanity, sexual references and violence. Area theaters.

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