April 20, 2003|There at the beginnings of Billy Bob Thornton and Naomi Watts, after the success of 2002's The Man from Elysian Fields, it may finally be director George Hickenlooper's turn in the spotlight. In the mountain resort for the twelfth annual Aspen Shortsfest, I scouted out a place in the deserted lobby/bar area; Hickenlooper, suffering from the onset of a head cold, was down in a flash.
A skilled documentarian and interviewer, Hickenlooper is a friendly presence, cutting an unassuming swath through the impossibly nice lobby of Aspen's Hotel St. Regis. Starting his career after Yale with an internship under Roger Corman, the filmmaker has worked in several genres, earning his first major break with the exceptional documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse. What impresses most about Mr. Hickenlooper, however, is his knowledge of film history and respect for the auteur theory--in his presentation as a part of the fest's "Masterworks" programming, he not only clarified what Bogdanovich defined to him as the two philosophies of editing (mise-en-scène vs. montage), but also made mention of Cahiers du cinema, Dziga Vertov, and the politics of shot selection that can actually save a director's vision from meddling studio interests.