Directed by Michael Almereyda
To say that Paradise leaves the viewer to draw his own conclusions would be to state the case rather lightly. After all, Michael Almereyda's cinematic assemblage arranges its several dozen docu-snippets according to a logic apparent only to the filmmaker. Culled from ten years of footage taken in nine different countries, the short individual segments—lasting no more than a couple minutes apiece—unfold without benefit of narration or any explicit parallels drawn between them. Almereyda's personality too remains almost entirely effaced, emerging only in his choice of subject-and in the cameo appearances of his novelist, filmmaker and film critic friends (was that Godfrey Cheshire drinking tea in a Persian rug store?). Instead, his stolen moments cover a wide range of 21st-century life, from public tragedy (remembrances of Katrina and Virginia Tech) to domestic comedy (a young couple playing "airplane" with their toddler) and every combination in between. We see men at work and women at play, moments of desperation and moments of unexpected beauty, a man passed out at a bar and a few drops of rain collecting on a private plane's windshield as it flies low over a mountain range. But whatever personal meaning Almereyda sees in these individual moments remains firmly guarded. What's left is a series of opaque images whose relationship to one another remains maddeningly tenuous. When they're there on screen, they're worthy of our contemplation, but then they're gone, and they haven't really added up to much, just a few fleeting moments in a handful of fleeting lives.
September 24-30 at MoMA