Art School Confidential – DVD Review

DVD available at

Terry Zwigoff

Max Minghella….Jerome Platz
Sophia Myles….Audrey Baumgarten
John Malkovich….Professor Sandiford
Jim Broadbent….Jimmy
Matt Keeslar….Jonah
Ethan Suplee….Vince
Joel David Moore….Bardo
Anjelica Huston….Sophie

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Art School Confidential. Screenplay by Daniel Clowes. Running time: 102 minutes. Rated R. Theatrical release: May 5, 2006. DVD release: Oct. 10, 2006.

Art school is not a real college experience. You imagine these places as great conservatories that take blossoming students and nurture their talent so they can emerge as true artists. But you quickly learn that an art school is a school of politics. It’s not about the art; it’s about egos and cabals. The instructors act like they are the gatekeepers to the kingdom, but most of them would be starving if they had to work for a living. If they really had an eye for talent, wouldn’t they at least be agents? You discover that a school’s most honored alumni dropped out after getting fed up with idiot instructors. How did they graduate? They were snuck their diplomas after a showing at the Whitney Biennial, or an Oscar nomination since the school wants to use their pictures in the brouchure. Instead of being a reflecting pool that allows you to see your soul, an art school is a giant shark tank. Art School Confidential nails the atmosphere of anger and despair. And I can say that since I graduated from one.

The film follows Jerome, an insecure high school loser. He dreams of escaping the never-ending distress caused by jocks by going to an art school. He believes that in the kingdom of the dweebs, his talent will help him become the next Picasso, and get the girl. He gets his chance with Audrey (Sophia Myles), the nude model in his main class. But before he can seal the deal, she falls for Jonah (Matt Keeslar), a jock. Even worse is seeing Jonah become the class favorite with his child-like paintings of cars and tanks. Jerome becomes bitter at the harsh reality of not moving up the food chain in his new surroundings. He’s still the nice guy who won’t get the girl cause he lacks that bad boy streak. And if dealing with a jock isn’t bad enough, there’s a killer on the loose.

While some might find the serial killer on the campus storyline distracting, it’s not too far from the true art school experience. There’s a constant fear of being attacked as you wander between late night classes. Why are all art schools located in ghettos? Is this is done so the students can get a glimpse of the poverty and desperation that awaits them in the outside world? It is in the nearby ghetto that Jerome finds a twisted mentor in Jimmy (Jim Broadbent), a disillusioned graduate of the art school. Jimmy asks about Jerome’s ability to perform oral sex on men because that is the only talent that matters in the art world. It’s not merely who you know, but who you, well, you get the idea. While Jerome doesn’t mind suffering for his art, he doesn’t want to break out the kneepads. Can he get the artistic glory and the girl without ending up like a cast member of Oz?

Zwigoff and Clowes teamed up five years ago to create Ghost World. The second time around, the partnership further explores the the mis-education of a young artist. The parallels between the rise of a serial killer and art students fighting for attention is a gruesome way to get laughs, but unfortunately it works. People bought John Wayne Gacy’s clown paintings. Fame is fame no matter how it’s earned. The film is brilliant at illustrating this concept.

The cast does a great job exploiting the true stereotypes of art school teachers and students. Malkovich is pitch perfect as the art teacher who wants to exude the image that he’s a working artist. Ethan Suplee is hilarious as the film student whose thesis project is about the killer. As leading actors go, Max Minghella proves he’s better than most of those O.C. clone kids. He reminds me of Brian Backer’s Rat in Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Sophia Myles is amazing as the girl who wants inspire great work from the students. What’s also amazing is that unlike today’s boney actresses, she’s got a healthy body and doesn’t mind showing it off for the nude modeling scene.

It’s a shame that Art School Confidential wasn’t a hit on par with Zwigoff’s Bad Santa. But the lackluster returns could be blamed on the film’s intended audience. Art school students are notorious for sneaking into theaters. They’re too broke to buy a ticket. If you’ve ever thought about going to an art school, don’t read a brochure. Watch this movie and experience the truth.

The DVD:

The Video:
The picture is 1.85:1 anamorphic.

The Audio:
The soundtracks include English (5.1 Dolby Digital), French (Dolby Surround), Spanish (5.1 Dolby Digital) and Portuguese (5.1 Dolby Digital). The subtitles are in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese.

Special Features:
Making of Art School Confidential 8:27 – This short documentary gives insight to the working relationship between Terry Zwigoff and Dan Clowes. It’s a pretty risky concept – a director that depends on his screenwriter.

Sundance Featurette 7:05 – A glimpse of how the film opened at the Sundance Film Festival. Zwigoff admits that he doesn’t like to see his films with other people around. The cast and crew answer questions from the premiere audience. It doesn’t probe too hard about their experiences in Park City, Utah.

Deleted Scenes 11:14 – A dozen moments rescued from the cutting room floor). There’s a great snippet where the PE coach wishes he was back at his former job. There’s also a tribute to what becomes of an art student. Plus another glimpse of a teacher unloading on a student’s work.

Additional Scene: Testimonials 1:09 – More clips of Jerome’s classmates talking about him after he becomes famous.

Bloopers and Alternate Takes 4:44 We get multiple takes of Malkovich’s defense of Jerome to the press. It’s a nice workshop on different approaches to the same words. It’s like a master class if you were at art school.

The Inside Pulse:

This is one of those films that just nails that art school experience on all levels. Having graduated from a major art school, I can affirm that these people do exist.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Art School Confidential
(OUT OF 10)