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Cool School, The (DVD Review)

20 Jul, 2008 By: David Greenberg

Cool School

Street 7/29/08
Arts Alliance America
$29.95 DVD
Not rated

Throughout the 20th century, Los Angeles was well-known for many things: earthquakes, nice weather, race riots, gang warfare, smog, traffic and the often notorious elements of the celebrity culture surrounding the entertainment business.

However, for a megalopolis of its importance in the world at large, up until the late 1950s the one major thing that the region was not associated with was a fine-art scene. It was almost as if L.A. was so concerned with being at the forefront of all things modern, hip and contemporary, that something as elemental a form as painting was forgotten, ignored or even dismissed.

It is this cultural climate that sets the stage for Morgan Neville's documentary examination of the scene that eventually developed there, a scene that seems almost so informed by its surroundings and its lack of an existing art scene that it could have happened only at this particular time in history and in this particular dot on the map. Neville's film gives ample face time to the vast bulk of major players: the scholars, critics, patrons of the arts and, of course, the artists themselves who emerged and came to become synonymous with Walter Hopps' Ferus Gallery.

Narrated by Jeff Bridges, the film has a slick, appropriately artsy style, punctuated and even propelled by a period jazz score. But, even at a mere 86 minutes, it sort of feels like everything that needed to be said could have been said in half as much time.

Fascinating special features provide additional information for people who are interested in the story beyond the film, including a short doc called “The World of Ed Keinholz” and a reunion of some of the figures from the film, reminiscing and reflecting on the scene.

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