Thursday, December 13, 2007

PARANOID PARK - accessible, derivative

Gus van Sant is the master of capturing disaffected teenagers struggling to keep the real world at bay. In his movies, kids slouch around with such a lack of energy they can usually be perfectly captured in slo-mo. They are unshackled by parental authority, and drift through his films toward uncertain doom. PARANOID PARK picks up on the vibe of ELEPHANT and LAST DAYS. The cast of unknowns hang out at school and at the skate park. Our protagonist - if that isn't too strong a word - is a well-meaning but almost comically apathetic kid who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. He circles the ramifications of this event like the nervous, guilty schoolkid that he is. Gus van Sant's peculiar talent is to mirror the kid's avoidance techniques with a choppy, non-linear structure and a rather directionless camera that belies the thought and care that must have gone into the filming process. DP Christopher Doyle creates images whose aching beauty adds profundity where there really isn't any to be found. I also loved the odd flashes of high comedy: the girlfriend harrassing her apathetic boyfriend to have sex with her; the kid brother rehearsing Napoleon Dynamite. But I have to say that after about 45 minutes of this meandering nothingness I felt a bit bored by it all, not least because I'd seen this sort of thing before. It may sound harsh, but I wish van Sant would try something different. That doesn't belittle his achievement in movies like ELEPHANT. It's just that he so comprehensively covered these moods and themes there that I don't particularly need to see it again.

PARANOID PARK played Cannes, Toronto and Vienna 2007. It was released in Belgium, France, Luxembourg, South Korea, Portugal, Russia and Italy earlier this year. It goes on release in the UK on Boxing Day; in Taiwan on December 29th; in Sweden on January 18th; in the Netherlands on February 28th and in the US on March 7th 2008.

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