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An artfully bloodless 'American'

By Blake Gopnik

My ignoramus motto, on date-nights with my cinephile wife: "I may not know movies, but I know what I like." That often involves films the more savvy find flawed. The knowledgeable, including my Post colleague Ann Hornaday, found George Clooney's "The American" full of holes:

George Clooney and Thekla Reuten and star in "The American." (Giles Keyte / Focus Features)

A bloodless narrative (despite plenty of blood), pointless plot twists, self-indulgent longueurs, an ending that shed little light and a main character no one sane could care about. To me, all that just made it feel more like the video art I know and love.
The piling on of clichés was so extreme that it made the movie more like a reference to the thriller genre than an instance of it ­- a picture of something, rather than the thing itself. My favorite moments in the movie - also the slowest and "worst" ones ­-- reminded me especially strongly of the 40-minute film that British artist Steve McQueen screened at the last Venice Biennale: Moody, dripping gardenscapes; nefarious characters flitting in and out of the light; tension building and dissipating. And absolutely nothing else. Now that's a movie an art critic can love.

By Blake Gopnik  | September 20, 2010; 11:47 AM ET
Categories:  Blake Gopnik, Movies  
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