Paranoid Park

August 21st, 2008 DVD Reviews, Film, Xpress

Gus van Sant’s most interesting films are the ones he makes out of the withering glare of the Hollywood system. If you didn’t know experimental arthouse films like Gerry and Elephant came from the same director as the shot-for-shot Psycho remake and the crowd-pleasing Finding Forrester, you’d never guess it.

Paranoid Park isn’t van Sant at his most oblique (head for Last Days for that end of the spectrum), but its dreamy quality and lack of conventions make it one of his more existential rather than commercial efforts.

He has a unique insight into the mind of real teens (not the kind who inhabit slasher movies or teen comedies) and wields such power here telling the story of Alex, the sort of shuffling, monosyllabic kid we all know (or are).

Little happens for the first half hour until we get to the kicker — Alex was there when a late night security guard was gruesomely killed at a rail yard near the skate park all the kids call Paranoid Park, and he was involved.

It’s a drama thriller on the surface, but van Sant uses a non linear approach, the soundtrack, soft focus, dreamy sequences of skateboarding kids and minimalist dialogue and action to make it less about Alex’s plight that you’d expect, as if it’s relating his inner state to use instead of showing us how he deals with the fallout from the incident. Steer well clear if you want a packaged thriller with loose ends tied up.

There’s no commentary but a Making of and interview with van Sant.


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