Monday, November 12, 2007

Cardboard cutouts: Even Cowgirls Get The Blues

by Ryland Walker Knight

Reverse Shot's newest issue, focusing on Gus Van Sant, was published this afternoon. I contributed an essay on his fourth feature, that ugly duckling of a film, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues. You can read it here. It took a while to write because I had a hard time figuring out how to make something interesting out of an object I had no taste for. I'd have liked to write something on Last Days, which gets two essays (1, 2) in this issue, because I think it may be the best thing he's done (although the scene with Kim Gordon explains a little too much). But I caught the end of the assignments and picked up this odd specimen. It's better said, I hope, in the essay itself. But, please, do enjoy the other essays. I hope to read them all sooner than later.

[One of the best sequences of Last Days in my humble opinion.]


  1. What I didn't get at in my essay on _Cowgirls_ is how I know some people do, indeed, find it a funny film. Some people actually like it. I cannot speak for them. I fear that in my frustration with the object I found myself obscuring my argument behind an anger towards the object. This "assignment" (as it were) came at a crucial juncture this fall -- a time during which I've been constantly re-evaluating what it is to practice criticism. And I don't know if writing negative reviews (at least reviews such as this) is part of what I want to do with criticism. It's much more about praise of an object for me. There's enough of this ugly posturing already out there in what we know as the film criticism of today. I want to do my best to move away from strictly good-bad evaluations; whether or not -- that is, how -- something works. And if it does not work, why might it matter why it does not work. I feel I failed Van Sant's film in this respect. There are plenty of essays out there talking shit about his fourth film. Why not truly up the ante and for the sake of exercise (?) assume it a masterpiece? If we assume that, maybe the film really is about getting stuck in the mud, unable to extract oneself from the dominant society. Maybe it is. I don't know. All I know is that I had no taste for _Cowgirls_ and nothing to keep me interested. (One viewing saw me fall asleep on purpose! I rewatched it the next day, don't worry.) The point is something like this: I spent a lot of time thinking about how to write about an object that so displeases me and this is what I came up with. It's really hard to do it well. Not that I don't agree with and stand behind all I said/wrote in the piece. Rather, I feel I could have been a little more evenhanded. Plus, you know, I could have been writing about how great a shot this is in _Last Days_.

    Bah! Does any of that hit the mark? I hope so.

  2. I still haven't seen Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (or Gerry or, of course, Punishment Park). I skipped straight to reading about Psycho, which I've always been a defender of (if sometimes more half-heartedly than others).

    I feel you on the negative criticism thing though. I enjoy reading it, but not usually writing it.

    Did you make it to the Akerman?

  3. I did. It was something. Instead of writing about it I've been rereading Manny Farber & Patricia Patterson's piece on it like five times. "Shallow-boxed structure."

  4. I like this novel actually the film was perfect, besides Even Cowgirls Get the Blues is a American comedy-drama-romance film based on the Tom Robbins novel of the same name, I'd like to read it and watching it again because it's a perfect literary work.m10m