Combustible Celluloid
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With: Gabe Nevins, Daniel Liu, Jake Miller, Taylor Momsen, Lauren McKinney, Olivier Garnier
Written by: Gus Van Sant, based on a novel by Blake Nelson
Directed by: Gus Van Sant
MPAA Rating: R for some disturbing images, language and sexual content
Running Time: 85
Date: 05/21/2007

Paranoid Park (2008)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Skate Story

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Gus Van Sant is the current auteur of choice over at Cahiers du Cinema; the magazine selected this as 2007's best film. It's a departure from his "Bela Tarr" cycle, and the long, sustained, traveling takes of Gerry (2003), Elephant (2003) and Last Days (2005), into a more jagged, free-flowing narrative. The action centers on skateboarder Alex (newcomer Gabe Nevins), who one night ventures to an underground skate park built illegally by renegade skaters. That same night a security guard is killed, and the cops try to find out which teens were there. The story runs entirely out of order, so the dead body and the investigation don't even come up until we get to know a bit about Alex, including his pretty, blond, bossy girlfriend (Taylor Momsen) and the more laid-back, alternative Macy (Lauren McKinney). Alex occasionally narrates from his journal. Van Sant employs underground and experimental film techniques and lots of unique music (including Nino Rota's scores for Fellini films). The great Christopher Doyle photographs everything in a variety of styles, and frequently with a grungy Super-8 look. As with his notorious remake of Psycho (1998), Van Sant uses the grisly killing to get people into the movie, but once there, he's more interested in its process, the preliminary decisions and the psychological aftermath. For example, in a brilliant scene in which a detective (Daniel Liu) questions Alex about his night, Van Sant's point is not how to solve the crime, but rather Alex's state of mind, his behavior and the cadence of his speech. No other director has been so consistently fascinated with the faces, bodies, lifestyles and rhythms of boys -- forever moving outward to younger generations even as Van Sant himself reaches his mid-50s -- and Paranoid Park is a vivid, powerful attempt to get close to one boy's tortured soul.

DVD Details: IFC's DVD is shown in "standard" aspect ratio (i.e. not letterboxed), which is fairly close to its intended ratio, 1:1.37. At least that's what I'm told. Otherwise, the disc comes with absolutely no extras, other than optional English and Spanish subtitles. Perhaps a "special edition" is in the works, but I doubt it. Though the film earned its share of rave reviews, it didn't exactly cause a box office stampede.

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