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The title of this, Gus Van Sant’s latest movie, may be more relevant to his own film career than anything or anyone in the picture. Since My Own Private Idaho, his breakthrough effort 18 years ago, Van Sant has followed a swerving, eccentric career trajectory. Idaho, a singular and sympathetic treatment of the life of gay street kids and young hustlers in Portland, Oregon, infused with elements borrowed from Shakespeare’s Henry IV and centering on a boy (River Phoenix in his last completed role) with a symbolically resonant case of narcolepsy was a bit of a mess, but interestingly, even endearingly so. It also loosely established some themes running through much of Van Sant’s subsequent work and set the stage for a curious professional pattern. He continued to depict young male social outliers with a sympathetic and frequently sentimental approach. And he began a pattern of following a success with an eccentric, sometimes almost solipsistic failure of a project. Now he’s gone from his acclaimed biopic Milk to Restless, which extends that pattern and has echoes of previous material, although it has its own stubborn disregard for naturalist conventions.

The Ides of March

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