Sony's October '06 Releases
Art School Confidential (October 8/06)
Based on the strength of filmmaker Terry Zwigoff's first collaboration with writer Daniel Clowes, 2001's Ghost World, Art School Confidential generally comes off as nothing less than a substantial disappointment. This is despite an opening hour that's surprisingly effective, as Zwigoff offers up an authentic, distinctly off-kilter look at Jerome Platz's (played by Max Minghella) trials and tribulations within a seemingly typical art school. But there comes a point at which Zwigoff - working from Clowes' screenplay - drops the loose, free-wheeling tone and instead places the emphasis on a silly subplot involving a serial killer, undercover cops, and Jerome's bizarre downward spiral. Clowes' efforts to infuse the story with elements of satire come off as forced and heavy-handed, with the astoundingly misguided conclusion the most overt and obvious example of this. The smug tone - coupled with the inclusion of a strangely conventional subplot involving Jerome's efforts to woo a fellow student - ultimately transforms Art School Confidential into a woefully uneven piece of work, though the whole thing never quite sinks into complete tedium (something that's due mostly to the uniformly stellar performances).
The Woods (October 13/06)
Long delayed and with good reason, The Woods is a well-made yet thoroughly impenetrable riff on Dario Argento's Suspiria from up-and-coming genre filmmaker Lucky McKee. The baffling storyline revolves around a rebellious teenager (played by Agnes Bruckner) who unwittingly finds herself sent to live at a sinister boarding school, where - as becomes obvious almost immediately - something very strange is afoot. Though McKee infuses The Woods with a memorable, visually-innovative sense of style, the filmmaker comes up short in terms of offering the viewer a single reason to actually care about any of this. That screenwriter David Ross has populated his script with unpleasant, broadly-drawn characters certainly doesn't help matters, nor does the unusually deliberate pace with which McKee allows the film to unfold. The film's various problems are exacerbated by the oppressively mysterious atmosphere, as McKee stresses dream sequences and is-it-real-or-isn't-it moments to such an extent that it's virtually impossible not to wish that the filmmaker would just get on with it already. The anti-climactic conclusion only cements The Woods' status as a complete misfire, though there's no denying that Bruce Campbell is a lot of fun in his lamentably small role (he even gets to wield an axe at one point!)