Gus Van Sant continues the formal experimentation of his prior “Death Trilogy” (Gerry, Elephant, Last Days) with Paranoid Park, creating an entrancing, subjective portrait of a high school teen (Gabe Nevins’ Alex) who recounts, via writing in his journal, the events that led him to commit a grave crime. With its rewinding and fast-forwarding, its flip-flopping between Super 8 and 35mm footage, its soundtrack’s squeals and blips and scratching, its heavy use of classic Nino Rotto scores, and its hallucinatory slow-motion shots of skateboarders, the film is visually and sonically intoxicating. Shot by cinematographic god Christopher Doyle, Van Sant’s latest is intensely attuned to a particular mood of adolescent confusion and self-centeredness, and also to the way memories operate and feel. Images of skaters floating through the air convey Alex’s desperate desire for escape, while the decision to obscure the face of Alex’s mother suggests the parental absence that’s contributed to the boy’s loneliness and aimlessness. Generational friction is present but so too is a sense of teens striving to simultaneously fit in with their peers and feign adulthood, the latter via both Alex’s attempt to discuss Iraq as well as his and girlfriend Jennifer’s (Taylor Momsen) game of dress-up with grown-up clothes. Paranoid Park’s triumph, however, is its aesthetic design, a combination of authentic realism and self-conscious, lyrical artifice in which sound – epitomized by a gorgeous, hilarious break-up sequence between Alex and Jennifer during which her fury is blotted out by Rotto’s music from Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits – proves to be the director’s primary mode of expressing emotional and thematic content.
(2007 New York Film Festival)