The peripatetic life of filmmaker Michael Almereyda (“Happy Here and Now,” “Hamlet”) is captured in glorious fragments forming a breathtaking whole in his new video feature, “Paradise.” While impatient viewers might perceive the chain of 33 scenes (lensed in nearly as many locales) as randomly shot bits, a closer examination reveals a superb panorama of contemporary life and death, from the simple pleasures of mornings at home with children to the grief of a funeral. Though Almereyda says this is a work in progress, current version qualifies for status at high-end, art-oriented fests and will make a lovely DVD special.
Training his low-end camera on whatever interesting sights and sounds he has encountered in his many wide-ranging travels, Almereyda displays a keen interest in details, whether it’s the way Los Angeles’ giant metropolitan gleam dwarfs Fourth of July fireworks (seen in night vision), or the way a little boy accidentally falls into a pool in Esfahan, Iran.
Many scenes are dominated by children, or adults engrossed in childlike wonderment (as when a woman captures a firefly), along with scenes involving fire and creative invention (from experiments at Caltech to Sonic Youth in concert).
As the film’s bookended shots of airport corridors suggest, “Paradise” is meticulously constructed underneath its seemingly random facade. The sight of a police car on a Los Angeles street, linked (by editors Laurie Butler, Bara K. Jihova and Rachel Webster) with a Gotham flag procession, elegantly flows into a wistful observation of the post-massacre memorial at Virginia Tech and a private funeral.
Even more private is the sight of the rarely seen Terrence Malick directing Colin Farrell on the set of “The New World.”