The Discipline of D.E. (Gus van Sant, 1982, USA)

The Discipline of DE is a 1978 short film directed by Gus van Sant. The film is one of Van Sant's earliest short films and is an adaptation of a short story by legendary Beat writer and countercultural icon William S. Burroughs. Van Sant was a frequent collaborator with Burroughs, having filmed the music video for one of Burroughs' most famous pieces - "Thanksgiving Prayer" - in 1990 (the director's first music video). He also collaborated on two albums with Burroughs - The Elvis of Letters in 1985, and Millions of Images in 1990. Notably, Burroughs has a role in Van Sant's breakout 1989 film Drugstore Cowboy

The original piece on which the film is based appeared in Burroughs' 1973 story collection Exterminator!, which also served as an inspiration for Kurt Cobain and David Cronenberg's adaptation of Naked Lunch. Supposedly, Van Sant looked up Burroughs' number in the phone book to get permission to make the short film. The film has a narration by Ken Shapiro. There is a Zen quality to the film, with the "Colonel" - the main character of this film - making a calendar. "The colonel is jilted back to the now." Our main character looks at objects on his table. He puts them away.


"DE is a way of doing," we learn. The video has an instructional quality - "You can start right now by tidying up your flat." We then switch to a student, who is moving a tape recorder from his desk and putting it in front of the washstand. A "simple miracle." There is an absurdist quality to the film that is somewhat charming, and the film fits well in Van Sant's overall filmography. The film concludes with a visual reference to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey as well as old Westerns. 


5/10

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