Monday, 11 February 2008

Paranoid Park (2007)

Gus Van Sant's adaptation of Blake Nelson's novel is the third film in his trilogy about the mindset of contemporary American youth. It follows Alex (Gabe Nevins) as he reflects on his involvement in the tragic accidental killing of a railway security guard. The film uses amateur actors attracted via social networking sites and is shot in the detached, elliptical style of Van Sant's Elephant (2003) and Last Days (2005).

Paranoid Park is not about Paranoia, but alienation - the generation gap is just one of the gaps in this slow, self-reflexive film where the depth of field is so shallow that characters slip between planes of existence with each painfully slow step that they take. The crunched-up soundtrack, with its fragments of Fellini scores, avant-garde electronica and accessible pop, underscores contradictions in the relationship between sound and image. It is as if the director is listening to his iPod shuffle and trying to connect his sophisticated tastes with his fascination for a dislocated youth that he doesn't fully understand.

The attractive, young non-professional actors who inhabit the film appear to be openly acting out someone else's words, their faltering delivery and sideways glances parallel Godard's work with the sixties youth. No longer the children of Marx and Coca-cola, they are lost in a world with no centre, ideology or iconography: Alex's brother attempts to recount a scene from Napoleon Dynamite in raw authenticity while the TV news reports on the Iraq war in the background. No-one really cares about anyone else, family, society and culture seem out-of-date concepts. The kids laugh at the policeman's concept of a 'skater community' - the skaters just watch and mock, there is no communication and no community.

As this film closes Van Sant's trilogy of youth alienation, it will be interesting to see whether, in subsequent films, he moves on to consider the alienated adults that these youths become.

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