Gus Van Sant is another of those independent fringe directors who makes the kind of films he wants and is lucky enough to find the backing.
Van Sant did ''Drugstore Cowboy,'' a saga of drugs, sex and death. His newest is ''My Own Private Idaho,'' a movie about two male prostitutes.
It's a very poetic film. That is, it includes images that may mean more to the director than the spectator, but the film is an interesting one.
River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves star. Phoenix plays Mike, a homosexual who sells himself to those who can afford him. He comes from a family that is highly dysfunctional. He travels from state to state, with no real goal in mind. His close friend, Scott (Reeves), thinks of himself as being straight. He has sex with men for money, nothing more, he says.
Together, the boys turn tricks in several states, and when they aren't on the road, keep company with a street king who talks like Falstaff (''Henry IV'').
When the street king is on the screen, ''Idaho'' plays like imitation Shakespeare, which is exactly what Van Sant intended. He is not without pretense. At other times, salmon swim up stream, and models, on the covers of homosexual magazines, come to life and take part in a dialogue.
Yes, the film is pretentious, but it doesn't bore. It opens here today.
'My Own Private Idaho''
** Two male prostitutes travel the road.
CAST: River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves , James Russo, William Richert, Chiara Caselli, Grace Zabriskie
DIRECTOR: Gus Van Sant
RATING: R (sex, nudity, language)
) RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes