Rating: * (out of 5)
Director: Gus Van Sant
Running time: 81 minutes
Language: English
Open March 27 at saison Shibuya
[See Japan Times movie listings]

Gus Van Sant's latest film is called "Elephant," and no, it's not about Babar, or Hannibal's epic crossing of the Alps. It is about the Columbine High School massacre of 1994, and if you couldn't get that from the title, well boo-hoo for you.

Sure, there's a reason why the film's called "Elephant" -- just as there is for why the film's as dull as watching paint dry -- you just won't find it anywhere in the film itself. Go buy the DVD if you want frivolous extras like understanding the film's title.

"Elephant" marks one of those moments when we should pause and note that the world has gone completely through the looking-glass. This film, a study in minimalism bordering on nothingness, achieved the unprecedented feat at Cannes last year of taking both the Palme d'Or and Best Director, its two most honored prizes. Anti-Hollywood critics and intelligentsia, who have long decried the vapidity of formulaic entertainment cinema, are now falling over themselves to praise "Elephant" -- as did S.F. Said of The Daily Telegraph -- for offering "no insight" and being "all surface." (One wonders if Said will judge the next Jerry Bruckheimer film by the same criteria.)