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Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park

Left: Correggio, Portrait of a Young Man, ca. 1525, oil on wood, 23 1⁄4 x 17 5⁄12". © 2008/Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris/Art Resource, New York. Right: Gus Van Sant, Paranoid Park, 2007, still from a color film in 35 mm, 90 minutes. Alex (Gabe Nevins).

GUS VAN SANT emerges from the moving-camera, long-take minimalism of his “death trilogy”—Gerry (2002), Elephant (2003), Last Days (2005)—with a lyric, associatively edited portrait of a teenage skateboarder caught in an agonizing crisis of conscience. Paranoid Park, Van Sant’s adaptation of Blake Nelson’s young-adult novel of the same name, follows Alex (Gabe Nevins), a high school student in Portland, Oregon, who accidentally causes the death of a railroad security guard. Alex, receiving his first lesson in riding the rails from an older skater (Scott Green), arguably acts in self-defense, but the circumstances are dicey and the death itself horrific. (The guard falls into the path of an oncoming train.) Alex panics and runs away and then must wrestle with his guilt, his desire to confess, and his fear of the consequences if he does. An empathetic classmate (Lauren

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