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George Washington

by Jake Mulligan
Contributor
Thursday Mar 13, 2014
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Is David Gordon Green the definitive name in American independent cinema today? Hardly. Is he the most prolific? Not so much. Yet, he’s undoubtedly the most versatile -- "George Washington" confirms that. For example: Though Green’s recent pictures have fit into the frat-improv-comedy genre popularized by Judd Apatow, his first efforts -- like the lyrical "Washington," his debut feature, with its coming-of-age narrative, and its under-the-summer-sun cinematography -- were most often compared to the films of Terrence Malick. It’s a very fine line separating "The New World" from "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," but Green’s canon, somewhat miraculously, crosses that line.

Criterion’s recent Blu-ray release of "Washington" (packaged with a DVD copy, as well) offers a number of special features that further illuminate Green’s wide-ranging worldview. You get a commentary with his filmmaking team (Green is joined by his regular cinematographer Tim Orr, and actor Paul Schneider), one rightly deleted scene (though intriguing, it takes place ’far away’ from the narrative action of the film), a theatrical trailer for the film, a 15-minute "Cast Reunion" video, and a clip of the director on the "Charlie Rose" interview show, for starters.

It’s a very fine line separating "The New World" from "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," but Green’s canon, somewhat miraculously, crosses that line.

There are more in-depth extras, for dedicated fans of the filmmaker: Two of Green’s student-years short-films ("Physical Pinball" and "Pleasant Grove," about 15 minutes each) offer great insight into the then-young voice that crafted "Washington," displaying numerous thematic and aesthetic similarities. To wrap things up, there’s an experimental short-film, "A Day With The Boys," made in 1969 by Clu Gallagher -- and shot by the legendary cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs -- included, having been noted by Green as a clear influence on his "Washington."

Green spent the past few years making stoner comedies like "Pineapple Express" and "Your Highness," and then recently dove back to his indie roots with the barely-released "Prince Avalanche." You can investigate those roots with "George Washington." Even 15 years after its first release, it may remain his most striking film. The man has become a wide-ranging director-for-hire, helming pot-comedies and genre movies with aplomb, but "Washington," lays naked his artistic voice. You see it in the more poetic moments of "Pineapple Express," of "The Sitter," in his thriller "Undertow," in every film he’s made -- he’s still just a 15-year-old boy at heart, like the characters in "Washington," playing in the summer sun, trying to come to terms with the troubles life throws at him.

"George Washington"
Blu-ray/DVD Dual Format Release
Criterion.com
$39.95

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