Gus Van Sant’s Discipline of Do Easy: The Destruction of Emotional Intimacy

Gus Van Sant’s Discipline of Do Easy: The Destruction of Emotional Intimacy

Over the years, Gus Van Sant has become one of the premiere modern-day story tellers about the burdens of social and emotional dysfunction, assembling for his films a parade of hustlers, junkies, psychopathic weather girls and troubled geniuses to wander and stumble across the stage as fascinating displays for his film’s audiences. I have always found it to be a curiosity that in his increasingly popular films seemingly about sex, sexuality and wishes for emotional attachment in the lives of those living on society’s outer fringes (for example, Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho and Milk), there is in fact a puzzling lack of real sexuality, sensuality or emotional intimacy between the main characters.

It appears that Van Sant presents his audiences with charades of sensuality and intimacy, directing his actors to perform as though they were emotionally engaged, when in fact they are not. Van Sant has adopted the very same vacant voyeuristic stance that was so characteristic for two of his main filmmaking heroes, William S. Burroughs and Andy Warhol.

Gus Van Sant’s 1978 short-film adaptation of William Burrough’s essay/short story Do Easy (DE) provides a clear example of the projection of Van Sant’s own psychology spilling over into the area of relational impairment. Most short reviews of Van Sant’s adaptation, The Discipline of Do Easy, blithely describe the film as an offbeat “instructional” little film about living in the easiest, most relaxed way we can. Some even say that the short film is filled with great advice that’s very zen-like in nature. A quirky and fun film to watch.

But let’s have another take on what goes on in Do Easy. Van Sant’s advice centers upon themes of collecting, measuring, counting, cleaning, repetition and “magical” undoing. He describes Doing Easy as a WAY of doing, but the doing is in fact constantly being alert to things, a never-ending vigilant observance of potentially dangerous objects, even within the small world of one’s very own apartment. Doing Easy yields neither an easy nor relaxed life, but rather an obsessive-compulsive pathology, most clearly manifested in a socially deadly form of isolation of affect.

Thinking and observing are separated from and take the place of real emotional relationships with others. And that is what is so characteristic of his major films about society’s outsiders. In this particular short film, Doing Easy doesn’t lead one to a relaxed sense of attachment to or closeness with others, but rather in the end it provokes the fearful destruction of others.

Do Easy: The Destruction of Emotional Intimacy

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Actor Gale Harold Moved Out of Intensive Care

Actor Gale Harold Moved Out of Intensive Care

Desperate Housewives actor Gale Harold has been moved out of intensive care at a Los Angeles hospital and is improving daily after suffering serious injuries in a motorcycle accident last week. A statement from the actor’s representatives says that “a full recovery is expected.”

Harold had suffered swelling on the brain and a fractured shoulder after last week’s accident. He had been under observation in the intensive care unit at Los Angeles County USC Medical Center. The statement, released Thursday night, added: “He thanks everyone for their good wishes.”

Harold currently plays “Jackson,” Teri Hatcher’s character’s love interest in the 5th season of Desperate Housewives. Gale is previously best well known for playing Brian Kinney in Showtime’s U.S. version of Queer As Folk.

The Mysterious Sexy Lothario, Gale Harold

The Mysterious Gale Harold

Forgoing publicity, Gale Harold’s background is somewhat mystifying. Born in Decatur, Georgia, perhaps best-known as the home of Agnes Scott College, Harold is reported to have credited Jack London, David Bowie and J. R. R. Tolkien’s Gandalf as important influences during his younger years. He attended the upper-class and rather staid private Lovett School in Atlanta. The Lovett School is well-known for its long and proud tradition of producing outstanding soccer players for prestigious colleges throughout the South. After Harold graduated from The Lovett School, he attended American University in Washington, D.C., on a soccer scholarship.

Harold began working toward a Liberal Arts degree in romance literature, only to abruptly depart after a year and a half following a conflict with his coach. This is reminiscent of a somewhat similar episode in Jack Kerouac’s life. Keruoac, from a French-Canadian family living in Lowell, Massachusetts, demonstrated a level of athletic prowess that led him to become a star on his local high school football team. This achievement earned him a scholarship to Columbia University. He entered Columbia after spending the scholarship’s required year at the toney Horace Mann School. However, Kerouac broke a leg playing football during his freshman year and argued constantly with his coach, who kept him benched. As a result, he ended up dropping out of Columbia.

After Harold left American University, he moved to San Francisco, California, to pursue an interest in photography at the San Francisco Art Institute (interestingly, this where Annie Leibovitz first studied photography, in the early 1970s). In addition he worked a variety of jobs, including positions as a Ducati motorcycle technician and a construction worker. In 1997, a friend suggested that he try his hand at acting, and he moved to Los Angeles to study in The Actors Conservatory Program. During this period of time, he starred in the 2003 independent film Wake. The lead part was written expressly for Harold.

However Harold’s big breakthrough came in 2000, when he garnered the controversial role of unabashed gay lothario, Brian Kinney, a central character on Showtime’s popular gay drama Queer as Folk, a breakthrough performance that included the first depictions of male gay sex on American television. Brian Kinney’s character, as well as the show itself, elicited considerable controversy, alternately praised and criticized for its explicit depictions of gay club life. The show ran for five seasons, coming to an end in 2005.

Gale Harold’s Reflections: “Life is Strange, You Can’t Explain It”

Brian and Justin: Every Breath You Take

Another Side of Gale Harold: Wake

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