So what do we mean when we talk about paradise: our own personal tropical island? Xanadu? Branson, Missouri? For Michael Almereyda, the notion of a ground zero for nirvana doesn’t necessarily denote geography; paradise can just as easily be found in moments of everyday life. It might be a young Indian boy falling into a pool, two elderly Irish men going for their morning swim or a crowd watching fireworks in some unnamed Middle American town. Maybe bliss happens during a backyard concert played by a podunk punk band. Or perhaps inner peace boils down to something as simple as a bug landing on someone’s hand, filmed in grainy lo-fi video.
All of these things appear in Almereyda’s mesmerizing collection of odds and ends that he recorded over a decade of traveling. Shots of anonymous folks are interspersed with the filmmaker’s famous friends, including an incredible sequence of Colin Farrell being directed by an offscreen Terrence Malick on the set of The New World—a movie about the discovery of “paradise.” (Bonus points for intertextuality.) What these candid scenes do have in common is a quiet, unassuming richness, and if you can roll with Almereyda’s free-form vibe, you’ll find the docu-essay’s cumulative effect goes a long way toward proving his thesis.—David Fear
Opens Thu; MoMA. Find showtimes