Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Paranoid Park - DVD - 31/3/10

Another Gus Van Sant film, this time he turns his eye on the world of skateboarders who, like many of the main characters in his other films, operate on the fringes of society. Here the attention is on 17 year old Alex who visits the local skate park, the Paranoid Park of the title, and kills a night time security guard by pushing him into the path of an oncoming train. His actions are not deliberate but are, in truth, motivated by self defence but nonetheless the guard dies as a result of what he does.

The most striking feature of this film is in Van Sants use of sound to disorientate, confuse and confound us. From unearthly clangs, bangs and electronic beeps to classical music and hits from the past the sounds play as important a part here as anything that we see. Not for Van Sant the safe road of a hits filled, ready to package, soundtrack but, instead, sound becomes as important a character and element of the film as the cinematography or the actors.

Again the use of browns, golds and greens is evident hinting at autumn perhaps which can be seen as a time of decay and death in nature. Again characters drift in and out of focus. Again the story appears not to be told in a traditional, linear fashion. It is "typical" Van Sant and that, in itself, makes it untypical of anything else.

This is a dark and disturbing story. Alex (Gabe Nevins) is a chilling and emotionally blank character. Despite the fact that his actions were not deliberately intended to bring about the death of the security guard and despite his initial horror at what he has done he is ultimately able to turn away from what he has done and carry on with his life as normal. He attends school, he skates, he sleeps with his girlfriend, he dumps her, he wastes time with his friends. Yes, he does write down what has happened in order to clear his conscience but he does so for his own benefit and not as an attempt to confess. He is emotionally blank in other areas of his life too, his parents impending divorce is dismissed by him; "...everyones parents get divorced" and he is able to dump his girlfriend shortly after taking her virginity without any effort or discomfort. It is a great performance from Nevins and another example of Van Sants ability to coax strong performances from inexperienced young actors.

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