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October 13th, 2008 By Jason Gargano | Movies |

Paranoid in the Queen City

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We’re a long way from September 2007.

Remember when nearly every political pundit was frothing at the mouth to cover the inevitable Hillary Clinton vs. Rudi Giuliani presidential battle royale?

Well, some 13 months later, Hillary is campaigning for Barack Obama and Rudi is left to drop divisive, stereotype-laden cultural bombs (all the while being one of the East Coast elites he rails against) and to brood about the demise of his beloved New York Yankees.

Oh, and more than a year after I caught it at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival, Cincinnati movie buffs finally have a chance to see Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park ... on DVD.

Picked up by IFC Films in late 2007 and distributed in many markets in early 2008, Paranoid Park never made to a Cincinnati movie house largely due to The Esquire/Mariemont theatres’ policy of not screening films available on pay-per-view TV, a format IFC simultaneously makes available in conjunction with its theatrical releases.

Business-based, behind-the-scenes details aside, Paranoid Park is the latest entry in Van Sant’s recent string of strangely poetic, curiously impressionistic films that includes Gerry, Elephant and Last Days. It’s also one of the best films of Van Sant's varied career — a thriller that subverts nearly every genre convention while still generating an odd, almost subliminal tension.

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The setup, per the truncated press notes at Toronto, is simple: “Alex, a teenage skateboarder, accidentally kills a security guard in the vicinity of Paranoid Park, Portland's tough skate park. He decides to say nothing.”

Van Sant infuses this bare-bones framework with a hypnotic array of technical flourishes: the use of ambient noises, vintage Nino Rota score snippets and Elliott Smith songs; a non-linear, overlapping narrative technique; cinematographer du jour Christopher Doyle’s striking visuals; and non-professional actors that give Paranoid Park an extra layer of authenticity.

Curiously, it looks as though Van Sant will return to more conventional techniques for his next film, Milk, a look at the life of trailblazing San Francisco politician Harvey Milk (played by Sean Penn), the first openly gay man to be elected to public office.

(Paranoid Park was released on DVD on Oct. 7.)

 
 
 
 
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