Ever go over to someone’s house and they force you to sit down and watch amateurish home videos they shot or, worse, look through their photo albums? If you’re like me and hate that sort of thing, make no attempt to see Michael Almereyda’s boring, crappy and pointless art film “Paradise.” Clocking in at 75 minutes, the whole thing is about 72 minutes too long.
In the “film,” viewers are treated to small little video diary sketches shot by Almereyda on his worldly journeys. He’s fond of shooting people as they’re passed out drunk and also seems to enjoy filming little kids doing little kid stuff. We see parties from Louisiana and Austin and a fireworks show in L.A. Apparently Almereyda got backstage once at a Sonic Youth concert so we see that for a while. Neat.
The thing that irritated me most about the film (to steal a line from “Family Guy’s” Peter Griffin) is, it insists upon itself. In several poorly shot scenes I could almost hear Almereyda being artsy and deep saying in his mind, “Look. Look at the way the rain hits the windshield. Isn’t it amazing, this world. This world we share…”
Well, it’s not. Crappy consumer video shots of an artistic persons friends and travels are downright boring. I have no need to see a night vision shot of people driving around looking for a parking spot. Watching shitty Parisian artists talk about shitty ideas for shitty art installations don’t impress me either. Don’t even get me started on the shot Almereyda took from the passenger seat of a car where he tracks a bird in flight with the camera on auto-focus. Actually though, I liked that shot the best because at one point, some yappy little kid in the car with him apparently touches him and he snaps “Don’t! Don’t ever touch my hand!”
If you couldn’t tell already, “Paradise” is the kind of film that irks me. I see way too many of these films where a filmmaker tries to be artistic and philosophical with the cinematic medium but they forget to make it, you know, interesting. Films are a two-way street: Filmmakers make em, we watch em. It’s not all about you and your little insights. I don’t buy into the idea that anything rough hewn or meditative is automatically “good” or “artistic” just because it’s confusing and disjointed. Sometimes what you have shot, edited and displayed is really just crappy.