Daily Archives: March 12, 2008

Paranoid Park

A taciturn 16-year-old (Gabe Nevins) in Portland, Oregon, accidentally causes the gruesome death of a security guard and tries to deal with the psychological consequences in Gus Van Sant’s adaptation of a novel by Blake Nelson. This has something to do with guilt, alienation, and the loss of virginity but a lot more to do with skateboarding, and the emotional disassociation is underlined with Nino Rota’s theme music from Amarcord and Juliet of the Spirits. (Van Sant is a compulsive hijacker of other people’s material, from his Psycho remake to his appropriation of Chimes at Midnight in My Own Private Idaho, but he never enhances or illuminates what he filches.) There’s some striking camerawork by Christopher Doyle (in 35-millimeter) and Rain Kathy Li (in Super-8), though this doesn’t alter the overall feeling of random, nihilistic drift. Elephant said much more about teenagers and said it better. R, 84 min.… Read more »

The Inner Life of Martin Frost

Relaxing at a friend’s empty country house, a reclusive New York novelist (David Thewlis) is inspired to write a new story and the next morning wakes up alongside a mysterious and seductive graduate student (Irene Jacob) who quickly becomes his muse and lover. Paul Auster, who made his directing debut with Lulu on the Bridge, provides the voice-over narration for this 2007 second feature, which was drawn and expanded from an interpolated story in his own novel, the engrossing Book of Illusions. The sad irony is that his storytelling gifts, Thewlis’s resourcefulness, and Jacob’s beauty only postpone one’s awareness that the material is too literary to work as cinema. The plot becomes increasingly arch (with the arrival of characters played by Michael Imperioli and by Auster’s teenage daughter, Sophie) and self-consciously metaphysical, and mannerism gradually overtakes visual and narrative invention. 94 min.… Read more »

In the City of Sylvia/Some Photos in the City of Sylvia

Two hypnotic and haunting 2007 features by Spanish experimental filmmaker Jose Luis Guerin, about the same romantic obsession. (The reference points are W.G. Sebald’s novel Vertigo and Alfred Hitchcock’s film of the same title.) The silent Some Photos in the City of Sylvia (65 min.) uses black-and-white stills with English intertitles to recount an unseen artist’s return to Strasbourg to search for a young woman he met briefly 22 years earlier while making a Goethe-related literary pilgrimage. The far more elliptical In the City of Sylvia (84 min.) tells the same story with color, carefully articulated sound, and minimal, subtitled French dialogue; in this film the artist returns only six years after his pilgrimage. Both works are mysterious, beautiful, and primal. It’s a pity the first, an intimate study and scenario for the second, is being shown after only one screening of its more languid successor.… Read more »