Long ago I actually liked Gus Van Sant’s movies. In high school, I got all excited about Drugstore Cowboy -- Kelly Lynch's swagger and Matt Dillon's eyebrows, sure -- but mostly that counterculture allure that'll never again be so tantalizing. Pills, yes, pills -- I wanted to float above myself and dream my way into drugstore heists too. I got especially excited when William Burroughs threw down a cameo as a junkie priest -- that was before I knew he'd killed his wife.
By the time My Own Private Idaho came out, with River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves, I’d graduated high school so I had a bit more critical engagement -- I refused to see it until years later, after I’d already turned my share of tricks -- of course I recognized the trick’s worldview in the depiction of the wayward boys, but it was a relatively benevolent glamorization, mostly it was just kind of silly. Elephant, which reenacted a Columbine-style high school massacre, jaded art fag style, was the movie that made me promise never again to see a Gus Van Sant movie. Right after the movie, a woman came up to me and said, “Who do you think shot the second guy, was it his friend or a third gun? It looked like he was shot from behind. That’s really intriguing.” Intriguing.
Sure, the lighting varied from scene to scene, focus faded in and out while time ran in circles, and if this sounds like a distant assessment when the movie was about murder, well that's how it was made -- to make you think: who cares. And: teenagers are so stupid! What scintillating cultural analysis.
But now I hear that Gus Van Sant is filming a biopic on the life of Harvey Milk, the gay world's Martin Luther King figure. Filming will take place in the legendary gay Castro district in San Francisco, former home to Milk's camera shop, from where he mounted a campaign to become the first openly gay elected official, a few years before getting gunned down by another member of the San Francisco city council (Board Of Supervisors).
Oh, but wait -- you'll love this -- Sean Penn will be playing Harvey Milk. That should be convincing.
But this is the best part, I really love this quote from Dan Jinks, one of the producers: "Our great hope is this will revitalize this district and make it a major tourist destination."
Who the fuck is this moron? Revitalize the Castro, where you're lucky if you can rent a flat for under $4000, or buy property for under a million? Make it a major tourist destination? Everyone who's ever set foot in the Castro knows that it's filled with tourists from around the world, who else do you think buys rainbow flag toilet paper and sock puppet briefs, or whatever trinkets they're selling at those cheerful underwear boutiques?
Oh, I know what Jinks means -- straight tourists. Prepare for the next wave of gentrification...