Gus Van Sant

Gus, aside directing you also take photographs. What's something possible in photography that does not necessarily translate onto film?

I think a still photograph encourages the imagination to fill out where it is and what the action is. And in a film, it's all done for you.

We collaborated with you by paying tribute to Mala Noche, a film of yours from the late 80s. In what ways is that particular film still important to you?

It's still the only film that I have made with a small crew, and the only one that I drew a storyboard for the entire film, so it looks very different from the films that follow. Its theme of mixed race community and exploitation of different power, sexual, monetary, privilege are still very important.

When we met back in February you were just working on a new film, Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot. What can we expect?

It is finished now and it will be a film about alcohol dependency, and searching for help for alcohol dependency.

Throughout your films' settings there's usually a very specific aesthetic that alludes to a certain type of absence while being very present at the same time. In ways its intention seems to hope for the ordinary, yet simultaneously is remembered exactly because of its mundanity. Is there something you continuously wish to convey with this very composition of aesthetics?

I think I am usually making films about people searching for a place, finding the place in a group of temporary friends.

Your film Last Days is especially memorable because of its passage of time. The audience gets to physically experience last moments (of a life) merely by a general type of passivity, we gradually move towards Kurt Cobain's death. In a way, this somewhat exaggerated slowness romanticizes the path towards dying. What was your personal intention by making Last Days so genuinely conscious about time?

There was a great mystery about what happened to Kurt Cobain. And in the mystery there were three days at the very end that nobody could report about, no one seemed to have seen him. So we made something about that missing three days. As a filmmaker I assumed that it was three days of reflection and trying to avoid people, so in some ways not much is happening, which is what I am assuming was the case.

Conversation with Gus Van Sant, November 2017. Interview by Études Studio. Still Images from Mala Noche by Gus Van Sant and Photography by Andreas Laszlo Konrath