Saturday 12 October: Director's Talk Paul Schrader
Schrader, who is described as “American cinema’s existentialist-in-chief” by film critic and documentary maker Mark Cousins, is one of the most fascinating personalities from the US ‘movie brat’ generation from the 70s, the first generation of film makers to be trained at film schools. He first emerged onto the scene with his screenplays for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Brian De Palma’s Obsession and Sydney Pollack’s The Yakuza, but soon moved on to directing his own films. Schrader never shied away from a challenge and often tackled issues considered ‘difficult’ by Hollywood standards. This resulted in a unique, demanding and ambitious portfolio, including his hits Blue Collar, American Gigolo, Cat People, Mishima, Patty Hearst, Affliction and Auto Focus.
His latest film, The Canyons, has proved to be another great success, once more stirring up controversy.
The Canyons did not go unnoticed on the festival scene, garnering a great deal of attention and controversy, not in the least because this soft-erotic low-budget film was overshadowed by the negative press attracted by Lindsay Lohan, the main protagonist known for her stints in rehab and tabloid coverage. However, it would be unfair to judge The Canyons on that basis alone. After all, it was directed by New Hollywood veteran Paul Schrader, who wrote the screenplays for Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, and directed American Gigolo and Auto Focus. Schrader transformed the nihilistic screenplay by Bret Easton Ellis – author of American Psycho – into a film noir and satire of the American dream. Schrader cast real-life porn star James Deen (no, this is not a typo) as the arrogant Christian, a young film producer who has both money and power, and gets a kick out of filming his threesomes with a smartphone. His girlfriend Tara (Lohan) is a former model who willingly lets Christian manipulate her, until he finds out she is having an affair with her ex-boyfriend, who also plays a part in his latest B slasher film. The result is a kinky cocktail of sex, power and violence that cost a mere 250,000 dollars to film. With his typical style, the ‘intellectual’ Schrader once again emerges as an observer of the current malaise and moral decay in Hollywood. As Richard Brody, reviewer at The New Yorker, puts it: “The Canyons isn’t a study in character but a view of the world; it’s a masterful setting of mood”.