A film by Michael Almereyda
2009, 82 minutes
No. 367

“I am enthralled by PARADISE,” Jonathan Lethem writes, “a film whose documentary eye wanders while seeming to have great fixity of purpose just below the level of conscious apprehension.” The artistic gifts that Lethem describes—a combination of quiet observation, narrative complexity, and an appreciation of the sensuous, material world—have distinguished Michael Almereyda’s films, whether in fiction (Tesla, Experimenter, Marjorie Prime, Hamlet) or in documentary (Escapes, William Eggleston in the Real World).

Almereyda’s Paradise - presented here in a new director-approved version completed in 2021 - is an astonishingly beautiful and poignant sketchbook, a collection of fragmentary episodes captured during 10 years of travels. It is a gathering up of intimately shared moments with friends and strangers, rendered with a sense of mystery, wonderment, and sly humor. Almereyda has noted that, over time, Paradise became “less a self-portrait and more of a panoramic group portrait of children and their adult counterparts. A description of the world we inherit, fumble around in, and grow into.” Episodes were shot in roughly two dozen cities in nine different countries, and they are linked, the director writes, by “the idea that life is made up of brief paradisiacal moments—moments routinely taken for granted, and always slipping away."

Official Selection, International Film Festival Rotterdam

“Eerily poetic and beautiful.” – The New York Times

“Exquisite. Both high art and rousing entertainment.” – Village Voice

“Almereyda has a great eye for the beauties and idiosyncrasies of life, and while each episode is meaningful or resonant in its own way, the film’s different parts chime and resonate with each other to create an almost hypnotic emotional experience.” – Filmmaker Magazine

“Each brief chapter in Paradise begins with sound over a black screen, its corresponding image cutting in after several seconds. As a device, this not only primes the viewer for the upcoming scenario, but foregrounds listening as a central component of the film…From the ever-black first frames, in no particular order, emerge: fireworks, fireflies, streetlights, headlights, search-lights, bombs, the whites of eyes filmed in night vision, a cigarette being lit from far away, a cigarette up close, several suns setting, neon lights passed by…[The] paradisaical moments Almeyreda is drawn toward might be described as momentary points of light in an otherwise darkening world.” – Lucy Raven, Bomb Magazine