I wish I’d discovered Gus Van Sant’s films through a legitimate route, but I was led here by an uncontrollable crush on an unobtainable man: River Phoenix.
My Own Private Idaho (1991) was one of the few incredible films Phoenix made before his untimely death at the age of 23, in 1993. I’d been re-watching him in Stand By Me (1986) to the point of insanity, so I decided to graduate on to Van Sant’s Idaho. It was remarkable; Van Sant’s style was unlike anything I’d seen before.
My sisters invested in Van Sant’s other titles: Elephant (2003), Last Days (2005), and Paranoid Park (2007). Each film is mesmerising in it’s own way, but I want to focus on Paranoid Park. I re-watched it last weekend and it’s been replaying before my eyes all week.
Based on Blake Nelson’s novel, Paranoid Park is a film about teenage secrecy, and all-consuming guilt. The plot revolves around amateur skate-boarder Alex (Gabe Nevins), whose desire to skate at the infamous Paranoid park leads to an awful, life-changing event.
Van Sant’s realism is given a creative edge by the melancholy score, and distortion of ordinary sound. The intense close-ups give the camera lens a microscopic quality, and the stand out scenes include slow-motion footage of skateboarders as they perform tricks in a storm drain, and Alex’s meltdown in the shower.
I’d highly recommend watching this film on a Sunday night, in silence, and in awe of a) Gus Van Sant’s genius, and b) Gabe Nevins face.
(Image Courtesy of: http://imgkid.com/paranoid-park-gif.shtml)