• Gabe Nevins in Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park

Last night the folks at Northwest Chicago Film Society proudly asserted that they were projecting Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park in its correct aspect ratio of 1.37:1 for the first time in Chicago. I hadn’t seen the film since it played at the Landmark Century in 2008, where it was projected in the less boxy—and far more common—ratio of 1.85:1. My memories of the film weren’t all that vivid, and I didn’t recall responding strongly to it one way or the other. Revisiting Paranoid as an experiment in Academy ratio framing turned it into a new experience, and a pretty satisfying one at that. Van Sant’s bisected compositions (like the early, Rothko-esque shots of the young hero walking across a field toward the Pacific Ocean, the bottom half of the screen all green-brown grass and the upper half all blue-gray water and sky) felt especially impactful in the more squarish frame, as did the close-up shots, which presented entire faces with barely any negative space around them.