Paranoid Park (2007)

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Released 5-Nov-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Animation-Main title music
Featurette-Making Of
Interviews-Cast & Crew-(07:15) At the Movies / director/crew/author
Theatrical Trailer
Theatrical Trailer-(02:45) Gerry : 2.35:1, 16:9, Dolby Digital 5.1 @ 448 Kbps.
Theatrical Trailer-(02:48) 2046 : 2.35:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0.
Theatrical Trailer-(02:29) Night on Earth : 1.78:1, 4x3, Dolby Digital 2.0.
Theatrical Trailer-(02:26) Science of Sleep : 1.85:1, 4x3, Dolby Digital 2.0.
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 81:00 (Case: 85)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (49:36) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Gus Van Sant
MK2 Productions
Madman Entertainment
Starring Gabe Nevins
Daniel Liu
Taylor Momsen
Jake Miller
Lauren McKinney
Winfield Jackson
Joe Schweitzer
Grace Carter
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI ? Music ?Nino Rota

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Skateboarding

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

After his acclaimed My Own Private Idaho and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, director/writer Gus Van Sant endured commercial success with Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester. The new millennium has seen Van Sant pursue his non-commercial exploration of the isolation and alienation of today's youth in Gerry (2002, Elephant (2003) and Last Days (2005). His most recent cinema offering continues with this examination of teenage angst and confusion in Paranoid Park, a film which left this audience member, definitely not a teenager, just as equally alienated and confused.

Based on a novel by Blake Nelson, which I confess I have not read, Van Sant's non-linear screenplay is set in Portland, Oregon, where the film's director also grew up. Alex (Gabe Nevins) is a fifteen or sixteen year old high school student, having a hard time of it, feeling isolated and disconnected. His parents are divorcing, and there appears to be no meaningful contact with either of them. The one bright light in Alex's life is his love of skateboarding, and his best friend, Jared (Jake Miller) talks Alex into going to Paranoid Park, the local community built skateboard "track " where the local enthusiasts hone and demonstrate their expertise. At the park Alex meets an older regular, Scratch (Scott Green), who lures the younger male to go beer drinking with him and then on to freight train riding. While riding a freight, the pair are confronted by a railway security guard (John "Mike" Burrowes). Alex fends the guard off using his skateboard, the guard falls backwards across the railway tracks and is instantly sliced in two by a passing train. The train gone, a blank faced Alex witnesses the guards detached torso, crawling towards him. Alex returns to his empty life, unable to tell anyone about what has happened, neither Jared, friend Macy (Lauren McKinney) nor "girlfriend" Jennifer (Taylor Momsen). Police Detective Lu (Daniel Liu) arrives at the school to question the local skateboard riders, Alex amongst them. We learn that Alex had ditched his board into the river, the police had retrieved it and found DNA evidence which connected the board to the guard's death. Will Alex's involvement in the ugly death be revealed?

Sad to say this would have to be one of the most uninvolving films I have ever seen. The basic plot is very simple, but at least there is a plot unlike Van Sant's last few offerings. The structure is quite interesting, see-sawing through time and revealing incidents out of chronological order. It is, however, impossible to care what is happening on the screen. Van Sant has cast the film with what are, or were, basically amateurs, evidently making some use of the internet to contact "talent". Central to the film is, of course, Gabe Nevins, who is never asked by the director to register any emotion, and who looks like a refugee from Fellini's Satyricon. (Perhaps that explains the use of Nino Rota's music in the film.) There are seemingly interminable close-ups of Nevins' blandly androgynous face, wide eyes staring vacuously either at the camera or into space, with one shower sequence that seems longer than Marion Crane's ablutions in Psycho. One can only assume that Van Sant "sees" great untapped depths of human experience in the situation of his, I imagine, anguished protagonist. All I can see is an indulgent director allowing his camera to linger interminably over the unlined and uninteresting face of a miserably self-absorbed youth. Other "performances" are of a similar calibre, with the acting award going to the top-half of John "Mike" Burrowes in a startlingly memorable death scene.

There is some attractive and inventive photography by Christopher Doyle, the autumnal setting at the close of the film beautifully captured. Combined with this basic footage are some extremely poor quality 8 mm sequences, mainly of skateboarding, for which Rain Kathy Li is responsible. One assumes that the riders in these sequences, including Alex, are, if not happy, at least less miserable when they are physically involved with their sport, but the film conveys none of this. The music is inexplicably eclectic, including bits of Beethoven, pop, rap, four Nino Rota pieces from Juliet of the Spirits and Amacord, and even a closing country song! Are we to make a connection of any one of these selections with the life of Alex or indeed anyone in the film? Are they ironic counterpoints? Do they mean something to Van Sant? Is the film intended as a symbolic examination of the older man's love for the androgynous youth - Van Sant for his star? Is Van Sant symbolised by the security guard, jealously trying to tear the youth away from his union with Scratch on the Freudian train of life? Is the director/guard destroyed by the desire for the self-absorbed youth, while still remorselessly clawing towards the object of his obsession, for all the world looking like one of Todd Browning's vengeful Freaks in the climax of that old classic.? Having destroyed the one who loved him, does the young man then return to his sublimely vacuous existence, beautifully untouched by the events? Sorry! That's Death in Venice. Paranoid Park is a confusing, muddled, pretentious film that does not bear examination.

I firmly believe that every work of art must initially entertain. Once entertained, then we may more closely examine that work to see what else lies beneath the entertaining surface. This truly is a most unentertaining, alienating and confused film with characters who elicit no compassion or empathy. There are those who will say that that is precisely the point of it all, to mirror the alienation of the central character. This movie is, then, for them. It's certainly not for me. Gus Van Sant's next release will be Milk, the story of San Francisco's gay mayor, Harvey Milk. I have hopes for that.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
The image quality varies enormously, depending on the mode of photography. The "professional" sequences look everything from just passable, to strikingly good, while the 8mm sequences look very poor indeed. This is very bad home movie standard, and the sort of thing we used to see on Saturday morning TV in the early 60s.
Shadow detail is poor at times, but with minimal low level noise.
The colour is some of the "professional" sequences is very attractive, with excellent skin tones. The autumnal shots near the end of the film are quite lovely.

There were no MPEG artefacts seen, with a complete absence of aliasing.

There are no subtitles.
The disc is dual-layered, with the non-disruptive change occurring at 49:36 between Chapters 7 and 8.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


There are two audio streams. The film was viewed in its entirety listening to the Dolby Digital 5.1 stream encoded at 448 Kbps. The Dolby Digital 2.0 stream, also encoded at 448 Kbps was sampled and found to be almost non-distinguishable from the six channel stream.

The dialogue seems to be clearly recorded, but it is frequently extremely difficult to understand the indistinct mumblings of some of the cast. There are no sync problems.
The dialogue was centred, with a pleasing use of direction across the fronts.
The front channels were used extensively for ambient sounds, such as the aggressive birds at 3:40, but there was little use of the rear channels, even for the music.
The sub-woofer's contribution was negligible.

There were no drop-outs.

The, I assume original, electronic score is uncredited - I hazard a guess that Mr Van Sant was responsible - and generally sounds as though it is being played backwards. The music is mixed with French mumblings, male and female, which made no connection to my minimal high school French.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


There are a couple of genuine extras on this disc, but nothing of much value.

Main Menu:
Presented 1.85:1 and 16x9 enhanced, animation with audio of the opening "music" plus the French mumblings.
Options presented are :
Play Feature
Selected Scenes : Twelve thumbnails on three screens, presented 1.85:1 and 16x9 enhanced. No audio.
Extras : New screen of a still without audio. Details below.
Setup : A separate screen, a still and no audio, presenting the two audio options : Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0.

Extras :

The Making of Paranoid Park : (26:21)

This featurette is presented 16x9 enhanced, with a combination of 1.85:1 and 1.33:1 footage. This is all pretty tedious, consisting of the teenage cast "chilling" on the set waiting for setups to be completed. There are a few "behind the camera" sequences of actual filming, and these are of more interest. Good quality image and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded audio.

At the Movies Interviews : (07:15)
These are interviews with Gus Van Sant, his crew and author Blake Nelson, all made for the ABC film review program. Of most interest are the few minutes with Blake Nelson who has high praise for the director.

Original Theatrical Trailer : (01:32)
This is quite a good quality trailer, and gives a misleading impression that this is a genuine teen-murder thriller, actually making the film look much more interesting than it is. Presented 1.85:1, in a 4x3 transfer without enhancement.

Directors Suite Trailers : All four trailers have very good image quality, with or without enhancement.
Gerry : (02:45) : Presented 1.85:1, 4x3 transfer with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio
2046 : (02:48) : Presented 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded audio.
Night on Earth : (02:29) : Presented 1.85:1, 4x3 transfer with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded audio.
The Science of Sleep : (02:26) : Presented 1.85:1, 4x3 transfer with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded audio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

This title is to be released in Region 1 on October 7th. The extras appear to be similar, with the absence of the local ABC interviews.


I guess this film would appeal to skateboard riders, but I question whether they would tolerate the dreariness of the presentation. This is one only for admirers of Gus Van Sant, a group which still includes yours truly, but approach with caution. Source material aside, the disc quality is acceptable, though limited, in both image and sound, and extras are also limited, in both quality and quantity.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo-SP500, using Component output
DisplayPhilips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
PAranoid Park AR - flixyflox