Gus Van Sant represents the truly independent spirit of American cinema. After, in the 1990s, having directed Nicole Kidman (“To Die For”) and Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (“Good Will Hunting“), he returned to his roots with the award-winning ”Elephant“ or with ”Last Days“. His most recent movie Paranoid Park is a portrait of American adolescence.
There is no morality in Gus Van Sant's movie. There is no good guy or bad guy, the police doesn't catch the outlaw, there is no punishment, there is not even an attempt at a justification, of life or death, of apathy or anguish. Nonetheless, there is redemption, an underground redemption that struggles to be invisible, in a world dominated by the absolute need for appearance and communication. Jennifer, Alex's girlfriend, when she loses her virginity, the first thing she does is call a friend. Meanwhile, Alex looks at the ceiling, remembering her hair and their movement.
Van Sant's movies, when they move, with confidence and patience, through the world of adolescence, they simulate a documentary, which seems to always make me want to confront with the sexual cruelty of Larry Clark. If "Kids" remains a cornerstone, "Elephant" and "Paranoid Park" choose a more poetic path with such an intent in its look and a firmness in its purpose that I can't help but admire. Much like "Elephant", the young lead in "Paranoid Park" seems to live in a world where his parents and relatives take on a secondary role, missing from the core of his life. If, for a moment, there is this "temptation of the familiar" as a way for redemption, a walk by the sea and a notebook written in pencil prove his total disconnection with reality.
While some people might say this is Van Sant's skaters movie, to me it seems to be, again, about isolation and violence, outcast and lonelyness. This is true in the sequences at school, in the "normal" suburbs and in the "underground" suburbs, in the social desintegration and in the silences in conversations. Is there redemption? Alex lies on the floor in front of his house waiting for life to improve, staring at the clouds, waiting for his pimply and "alternative" friend to pull him and his bike, as if they were both kids again, with not a care in the world.
Finally, the soundtrack, among other things, re-uses and pays homage to Nino Rota's compositions for the classics "Amarcord" and "Giulietta Degli Spiriti", includes a beautiful song by Elliott Smith and a "return" from Beethoven, who had already been featured in "Elephant".