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Paranoid Park

Could You Hide A Deadly Secret? 

Year: 2007 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from Paranoid Park

Director: Gus Van Sant

Starring: Gabe Nevins, Daniel Liu, Taylor Momsen, Jake Miller

Gus Van Sant is a director we're used to seeing produce controversial films, based on real-life tragedies - such as his previous work, Elephant. His latest work, Paranoid Park, is somehow following on the same thematic path, but differs from the previous dramas he has directed insofar as it is no longer based on real events, but on a novel. As a result, there is more room for directorial liberties - and the finished product is a strongly consistent film about youth and guilt.

It tells the story of Alex, a fairly regular teenager into skating, and the place, nicknamed Paranoid Park, where all the best skaters go. Shortly after Alex goes there, the body of a dead security guard is found near the park, and the police start asking questions about a night Alex would rather have forgotten. The death and the investigation wreak havoc in Alex's life and in his relation with his friends and particularly with his girlfriend. Was Alex just at the wrong place at the wrong time? Or was he somehow involved? Even in the first case, the investigation and suspicions that weigh on him, are enough to make anyone feel ill at ease - here we fall into what Gus Van Sant does best - telling the tale of troubled youths, whilst exploring a specific culture.

The rule for almost all of his films is that the actors are just teenagers, not professionals. Paradoxically enough, this allows for an altogether better play: the actors do not as much act, as they really live the lives of their characters, which they are after all quite akin to. Thus, there is a strong authenticity feeling to most of Gus Van Sant's films, which is admittedly more natural when dealing with real events; but also work in the fictional Paranoid Park.

Because of this authenticity, Paranoid Park has a slight documentary ring to it; however, the analogy with documentaries stops there. The directing, photography and even soundtrack definitely place the film in the fiction category. In effect, Paranoid Park is about Alex and is lived through his eyes, as suppressed memories come back to him at the same time as we see them onscreen.

Thus, far from being yet another boring documentary/fiction, Paranoid Park is interesting, disturbing and on the whole thought-provoking.

Pierre Schramm

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Screenings of this film:

2007/2008 Summer Term (35mm)