Paranoid Park Gus Van Sant

Paranoid Park Gus Van Sant
Gus Van Sant returns with another low-key observational oddity that continues to develop the lyrical storytelling style that he founded in noble failure Gerry and developed in the far more successful Elephant and Last Days. Though he’s proven himself to be a masterful conventional storyteller, Van Sant now seems more interested in films comprised of small, disconnected moments of life held together by gorgeous, expressionistic visuals. Using a novel by Blake Nelson as his starting point, Paranoid Park has more of a narrative thread than his last few projects but the actual screenplay could probably fit on a single napkin. Van Sant’s free-floating but objective camera follows an introverted 16-year-old skateboarder named Alex. At first, his stoic expression and behaviour seem to be little more than typical adolescent brooding but as the film goes on, it becomes clear that the teen is actually in shock, struggling to deal with the aftermath of a traumatic event. None of the characters are capable of expressing their emotions through words so Van Sant uses carefully selected music and artfully designed cinematography to communicate their emotional states. This combined with a disjointed narrative told as a confession, completely immerses the audience in Alex’s mind as he walks down a dark and lonely path. The visuals that Van Sant and genius cinematographer Chris Doyle have created are so expressive and gorgeous that the movie could most likely play perfectly well without a soundtrack. Beyond the eye-candy, Van Sant also manages to carefully unfold his puzzle box narrative in a manner that doesn’t reveal all of the secrets until the final moments. The unconventional storytelling will definitely frustrate unprepared audience members expecting a linear narrative. But there are rich rewards for those willing to accept Van Sant’s cinematic experiments and follow the director to his conclusion, no matter how abstract the film may become. In other words, it’s arty farty fun for the pretentious film geek inside each and every one of us. Appropriately, the DVD is just as minimal as the film — there are no extras. (Maximum)