Like “Elephant,” Gus van Sant’s masterful “Paranoid Park” phases in and out of linear time, capturing flux and flow and the blank fear of life not yet understood in a clear-eyed boy’s hardly expressive face. An accidental death is recalled. Narrative is attempted. It’s as mixed, mixed-up, miscellaneous as the boy’s (Gabe Nevens) attention. Paranoid Park’s a great DIY place to skateboard, and one Saturday… but right now… but not then… Shot by Christopher Doyle and Kathy Rain Li and sound-designed by Leslie Shatz, with Super-8 skate footage that includes a bravura long take of multiple skaters rising into the air, into the frame, out of existence, “Paranoid Park” emerges from Van Sant’s loving immersion in the formal character of movies by the Hungarian Bela Tarr, taking his respect for the sustained, lengthy duration of shots and creating a minimalist idiom that is simply stunning. There is shallow and homophobic writing about this and other movies by the Portland-based director: why is a gay man in his fifties making languorous movies that involve lost, lissome male youth? Hasn’t he done that before? Aren’t “lost boys” the most tired of topics? That is not serious criticism. It’s closer to mere bullshit. “Paranoid Park” serves as a metaphor for all that is accidental and hurtful and inexplicable that we live past, but it is also a rich, singular dream. The statement “No one’s ever ready for Paranoid Park,” said by a pal of the boy, applies to foolish, elderly even if young, critics as well. Life; death, a walk through a park, a lonely park bench, wary faces: beauty. Pure, cinematic beauty. The score ranges from Elliott Smith to Nino Rota to Ethan Rose, with a frighteningly effective use of Billy Swan’s “I Can Help,” accompanied by a hardly inflected descent into the hell of one’s mind. 78m. (Ray Pride)
“Paranoid Park” opens Friday at Landmark Century.