the contemporary companion – paranoid park

October 17, 2008

gus van sant is one of my favorite filmmakers and if you asked me why, i probably wouldn’t be able to give you a definitive answer.  i’ve always been really intrigued by his use of the long shot/long take, usually lulling the viewer into a hypnotic zone.  he always is able to create a strong sense of space and time, and always has a command of what is on the screen.

i think that this film (though with a larger portion of dialogue) is a strong continuation of his last three, last days, elephant, and gerry, in that it’s a mediation on an event that ends (or in this case really, starts with) a death.  the films never try to give a reason or explanation for the tragedies.  he never places blame on a person or a group of people, but is really more interested in how the characters got to that cataclysmic point, or how they deal with it after it’s happened.  this film is interested in how alex (gabe nevins) copes and deals with the tragedy.  how it affects his relationships, and how it forces him to grow up in a world where his parents aren’t there to help him.

we never see the faces of the adults in the film, unless van sant feels it’s necessary.  one of my favorite scenes is when alex is sitting in his basement and his father is talking to him, and the depth of field is so short that only alex’s face is in focus.  his father stands completely blurred in the background, and when van sant finally reveals him we see a man covered in tattoos and piercings, something that seems befitting of alex’s current state of mind.

i also think van sant does something really interesting with the character’s hair.  hair?  yeah.  you heard me. alex is always hiding behind his hair in any moment he feels pain or discomfort or awkard.  in the scene when he and his girlfriend have sex, both of them hide their faces from each other behind their hair.  it really comes into view whenever alex has to deal with the accident.  he burries his face away from the camera behind his hair.  masking his emotions, or trying to escape and find respite from what he’s feeling.


in an effort to make this blog a little more relevant, up the post count, up the number of readers, and make the whole thing a little more enjoyable, i’ll be instituting this feature the contemporary companion.  (hopefully) this will be a (bi)-weekly posting of current or close to current films.  along with my write ups on the classics of course (because that’s what this was all started for right?)


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