Thanks to a retrospective showcasing by The Hyde Park Picture House focussing on the film’s philosophy regarding love, I was offered the opportunity to see My Own Private Idaho for the first time in a theatre. Where one would normally follow typical procedure in reviewing a film by giving a concise summation of the themes and conceit of the film, with regards to My Own Private Idaho this would be a pointless exercise. Loosely, it could be described as the wanderings of a narcoleptic prostitute Mike (River Phoenix), and his best friend and fellow prostitute Scott (Keanu Reeves). This is to do the film a great disservice as so much more isn’t encapsulated by this meagre summary; why is everyone suddenly speaking as though in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, why has Flea from The Red Hot Chilli Peppers been cast in this, why did the film just directly tell me to have a nice day? The list goes on.
‘My Own Private Idaho has been an undisputed cult film for two decades’
My Own Private Idaho has been an undisputed cult film for two decades, as such the film comes with a great deal of extra-filmic baggage that can be drawn on to derive even more pleasure from the viewing. River Phoenix was the Kurt Cobain of the acting world in the 90s, as this is his most romantic and artistically rich effort before his tragically young death, the film is dominated by his presence.
‘River Phoenix was the Kurt Cobain of the acting world in the 90s, as this is his most romantic and artistically rich effort before his tragically young death, the film is dominated by his presence.’
He and director Gus Van Sant blended three totally disparate scripts into a kaleidoscopic Brechtian cinematic trip unlike just about anything else that has ever been conjured by the art of cinema. Whether it be in a retrospective showcase or a blu-ray, to seek out My Own Private Idaho will give you an insight into a mode of filmmaking very few dare to explore. In all equal measures surreal, confounding, charismatic, melancholic, and idiosyncratic, it is a film that when teamed with its cultic qualities culminates in a phenomenal experience utterly unlike anything else put to celluloid.
(Image courtesy of dreamlandcinema)