Teenage skaters, especially mildly depressed ones who listen to Elliot Smith all day, aren’t the most expressive of creatures. They rock shaggy haircuts, and have permanently slouched postures and overly-chill demeanors, sometimes enhanced by THC. It’s an easy group to dismiss.
But in Paranoid Park, which screened at the Cleveland Film Fest last weekend and opens at Cedar Lee on Friday, audience members are given a chance to really get inside the head of such teens, to learn that there’s more going on than the perfection of a kick-flip. Director Gus Van Sant takes the life of this species seriously. There’s no trivialization or pepped-up happiness. It’s real. ...
The story is the re-telling of Blake Nelson’s novel about a teenage skater who accidentally kills a security guard while riding around on a freight train for kicks. It’s told from the perspective of the kid, who recounts the story piece by piece but with no regard to what came first or next.
The story structure allows Van Sant to blend just enough plot with his high-style cinematography. There are several beautiful skate sequences used to demonstrate the day dreams of the main character. Within these moments, Van Sant turns skateboarding into a fluid ballet. The shots are sunny and fuzzy and languid and tender, providing an opportunity to look differently at a culture so often depicted by cans of Mountain Dew and goin’ huge.
But while these sequences are artsy, they never get too artsy for the sake of showing off. Van Sant knows the power of the movie is the story and returns to it, faithfully. The result is a powerful feature that screams without making a sound. – Bradley Campbell