“Free Art.” Look at it as a sentence; view it as a compound noun; view it as a bold statement of yet another generation of artists valuing the abstract concept of art over any emolument. There may even be three or four more linguistic or exegetic ways of looking at these two words.
And not one of them matters in the slightest.
Nick (Ruben Banise-Snellman) is a graffiti artist, or a vandal—pick one both are true in broad senses—in Portland, Oregon. He tags things with his nom d’painture as Rupture. He gets caught by police, booked, released. He sees another tagger, graffiti artist, vandal. To escape his court date, presumably, he goes to Seattle. There, Nick sees the same guy, Jesse (Pepper Fajans). They hookup. They paint things together. They have one silly sex scene. Then it gets weird. They break up though they were never really together. Then they have a very brief discussion of which one of them is a poser trying to be noticed as opposed to a true artiste.
It takes more than twenty minutes before dialog actually happens. The word ‘police’ enters at around minute 14, but it is more than ten minutes before Nick and Jesse say what can be considered dialog. Twenty boring minutes of a kid’s life could become sublime in the hands of the right director; however, the word sublime is not in the lexicon for the film, nor is it even close to the same general area code as The Graffiti Artist.
I have to say I love cats and am a cat person. I say that because the comparison that follows is not exactly cat friendly (though no felines are harmed in the making of this review). Taggers, graffit-ianatos, vandals, whatever are loners. They are nocturnal, doing their work at night. They avoid conflict, but when conflict occurs, then there can be flying fur or the equivalent for someone whose defensive weapon is spray paint. They are, in short, cowardly, feline, tomcat, loners.
No one comes of age. We really see no consequences for the actions. It is hard to see what the kids do as anything but victimless since the places they tag or paint are not posh or protected and if a warehouse district is clean or has garbage and some tagged walls, who really cares? This is a case where in 80 minutes no one gains anything and no one really loses anything—you can’t call the one night exploration love, you can’t call the painting collaboration anything other than team tagging.
If it had just ended with a sad loner unhappy that his one shot at human contact failed, I think I might be able to get something from it. But the little breakup argument that turns into a two or three line artistic manifesto made me lift my hand to scratch my head—I put it back down, it wasn’t worth puzzling over.
Since the movie is really about two taggers, then I guess that a tagged on ending is linguistically on point, even if it doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense.
What did you think of this review?