I grew up as a skater in a small redneck county. My skateboarding obsession lasted for over 8 years. Skaters were the most despised group subculture (and probably the only real subculture). Like the skaters in Gus van Sant's Paranoid Park, we were always in trouble. The teachers had blacklisted us essentially as future criminals (which many of my former friends ended up). We never ended up killing a security guard. I couldn’t imagine if I saw a crawling torso heading towards. I probably would have found it very cool.
Paranoid Park is sort of a trip down nostalgia lane for me. I couldn’t help but enjoy the film. It brought me back to the days when my skater friends and I would make gritty skate videos. Everything was about skating. Paranoid Park’s slow motion skate sequences were very mellowing and dare I say poetic. The film featured a lot of slow motion scenes which actually worked to the advantage of Paranoid Park’s very soothing flow. I can already hear people calling Paranoid Park pretentious a mile away. If they can’t enjoy a beautiful film than they can enjoy the commercial like “qualities” of a film directed by Craig Brewer.
Last Days was a disappointment for me and a good number of Van Sant fans. The director has now redeemed himself with Paranoid Park. The film opens up with beautiful music composed by Nina Rota which was originally in Federico Fellini’s masterpiece Juliet of the Spirits. Nina Rota was one of the greatest (if not the greatest) music composer for films. Paranoid Park also features music from Elliot Smith (which can be heard in Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting among other films). The music perfectly compliments Paranoid Park’s scattered and flowing feel.
Paranoid Park features various kids quoting popular TV shows and movies (South Park, Napoleon Dynamite, etc.). Gus van Sant brings up the staleness of American life. American’s grow up (including myself) living their lives through television and film. The skaters of Paranoid Park learned more values from watching television than they did from their own parents. Skateboarding is a loner sport (if you want to call it that) and its participants confirm that.
Gus Van Sant is not as perverted as Larry Clark. Clark’s Ken Park, I suspect fulfilled many of the directors dark fantasies. Although Gus van Sant obviously has a thing for skater boys, he at least respects them. Keep in mind I am a fan of Ken Park. Gus Van Sant acted as an executive producer on Larry Clarks’s first film Kids. I hope that Clark won’t call Van Sant a theft like he basically called Kids and Ken Park screenwriter Harmony Korine. Paranoid Park owes nothing to Larry Clark.