My Own Private Idaho Screen 15 articles

My Own Private Idaho


My Own Private Idaho Poster
  • At least once a year I find myself revisiting My Own Private Idaho, Gus Van Sant’s narcoleptic rent boy road movie. I’m an avid River Phoenix fan, yes (I have devoured anything and everything related to the broody actor since my teens, an obsession that amuses and confuses my friends and family), but it’s the beautiful humanism of Idaho that stays with me.

  • Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho is a jagged, episodic film that's all of a piece by sheer force of will, existing as a collection of conceits, gambits, and gimmicks that are bundled together by a through line of longing. It's Van Sant's freest film, offering the illusion of having arisen fully formed from the ether of its maker's consciousness.

  • Most people would place My Own Private Idaho (1991), Van Sant’s third feature, in the triumph category... The seeds of his subsequent wild variability, however, were originally sown here. In truth, My Own Private Idaho is two separate films inelegantly stitched together, only one of which is first-rate. The other stems from the same sort of harebrained idea that led to a laughable shot of Norman Bates frantically jerking off.

  • In addition to pop-art playfulness, road movie, love story, documentary and Western tropes, the director even finds time to riff (jarringly, but arrestingly) on Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays, most obviously in the form of William Richert’s grandiloquent flophouse Falstaff figure. Yet thanks in large part to Phoenix’s harrowingly vulnerable performance, Idaho packs a real emotional wallop.

  • Van Sant was so open to [Cottrell's] collaborators on this film that he often let them take the lead, and this led to bravura things like the Daddy Carroll sequence but also to a fatal unevenness, lopsidedness and lack of focus. This is a difficult film to consider as a whole, or as the invention of only one person, but so much of what works in it works so strongly that My Own Private Idaho is a seminal movie for many people. It certainly has been for me.

  • My Own Private Idaho is first and foremost a road movie. It’s also a loose adaptation of parts of Shakespeare’s Henry IV and V in which a homeless kingpin replaces a portly knight and a gay street hustler stands in for to the heir to the throne. If this all sounds exceptionally strange, even for Van Sant, it is. But it’s also one of his most visually sophisticated outings to date, as well as an exceedingly interesting take on (and departure from) its source material.

  • It is unclear in such moments how aware the players (and I use this term emphatically instead of “characters”) are of the theatricality of their actions, or if this is pure realism in their cosmos. Tableaux are latent everywhere, even in the non-“Shakespearean” scenes, and though players within the frame do move, there is something intangibly static about these shots that seems to drain life and reality from the frame.

  • One doesn’t look at the film and see the nightmare of an unprotected life: one sees young people enjoying themselves being irresponsible and living without parental authority. It doesn’t seem like such a hard-knock life: though there are a couple of painful accounts of bad dates by real hustlers, the movie is remarkably without panic or sharp edges.

  • Released in 1991, Idaho was Van Sant’s third feature film and remains his most anarchic and, in many ways, ambitious. It’s certainly the film where his art school sensibility and the postmodernist aesthetics that dominated the art world during the seventies and eighties are most in play.

  • Gus Van Sant searched for and found a new vocabulary in this utterly seminal, decade-defining punk of a movie, as restless, densely inhabited, and full of half-cocked brilliance as a tweak house in springtime.

  • Freewheeling and mercurial, this engaging compilation of writer-director Van Sants fads and fancies dances along the narrow line between inspiration and affectation.

  • Gus Van Sant's 1990 feature, his best prior to Elephant, is a simultaneously heartbreaking and exhilarating road movie about two male hustlers (River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves) in the Pacific northwest... The style is so eclectic that it may take some getting used to, but Van Sant, working from his own story for the first time, brings such lyrical focus to his characters and his poetry that almost everything works.

  • Beautifully wrought, darkly funny and finally devastating, ``My Own Private Idaho`` almost single-handedly revives the notion of personal filmmaking in the United States... This is a film of breathtakingly free and constant movement.

  • [Van Sant] mingles tremendous visual imagination with a leaning toward off-the-wall situations and sometimes raunchy images. The picture includes everything from talking magazine covers to scenes borrowed from Shakespeare, and some devices work much better than others.

  • Van Sant has reanimated the tired tropes of the road movie by giving them a wholly new meaning – the road as Whitmanesque/Twainesque ribbon leading to a never-perhaps-attainably unity with the author of being... Portland cinematographers Eric Alan Edwards and John Campbell have risen to Van Sant’s concept with images luminous and numinous; the very clouds and sky and land seem to glow from within.

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