Paul Schrader

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Harry Caul
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Re: Paul Schrader

#26 Post by Harry Caul » Thu Feb 02, 2017 1:46 pm

I was underwhelmed with Schrader's Dying of the Light; it seemed like it would be a somewhat interesting espionage-like film, but AFAIC it fell flat. I may need to give this another chance, however.

Auto Focus (2002) is a superb film - I was never a huge fan of Hogan's Heroes (maybe caught some episodes as re-runs years ago), but this story about the life of Bob Crane was compelling. Really enjoyed the '60's - '70's authentic setting (i.e. clothes, cars, etc.) & the acting - both Greg Kinnear & Willem Dafoe were excellent in this. I was also very impressed by the depiction of the horrific crime scene at the very end, where BC's body was found....because, based on the doc. "Murder in Scottsdale" (that was included on the DVD) the crime scene in the film was spot-on to the way this actually looked - very creepy.

I think the film & the MIS doc. definitely pointed the viewer in the direction of thinking that JHC (Dafoe's character) really killed BC in real life. However, I'm not 100% convinced:

http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/14/entertain ... ne-murder/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

http://people.com/crime/bob-crane-murde ... a-results/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Schrader's extremely underrated Forever Mine (1999) is probably one of his least-seen films. It's a disturbing story about a young cabana boy in Florida (played by Joseph Fiennes) who has an affair with a vicious gangser's (Ray Liotta) wife (Gretchen Mol)...set in the 1970's & boasting a great soundtrack, this is one of my favorite '90's movies. GM is a gorgeous & fantastic actress & I've always liked all of her films - unfortunately, she never became extremely well-known.

Another underrated & little seen Schrader film is Light of Day (1987) - I saw this last Fall for the first time. Excellent film; great story, and amazing soundtrack.

I'm not a huge MJF fan, but Joan Jett & Gena Rowlands (as well as many of the supporting actors) were fantastic. JJ seemed like she wasn't even acting but was basically playing herself, which was perfect because her persona really fit the role.

Great rock & roll songs, especially the original?! songs like "Light of Day", which opened & closed the film.

The scene towards the end - when Patty (JJ) spoke to her mother (Rowlands) at the hospital - was quite poignant.

It would be great see this with better picture quality/sound on DVD/Blu some day, but I doubt that will happen anytime soon. IMHO, one of the reasons (if not the only reason) this hasn't hit modern home video is because of the licensing rights involving the music in the film. There are a plethora of artists featured here re: many of the cover songs played by JJ's band, as well as The Fabulous Thunderbirds concert sequence, etc.

Side-note: It's interesting that three of Schrader's film have the word "Light" in the title. I.e., Light Sleeper, Light of Day, and Dying of the Light. Probably a coincidence, but still worth noting.
Last edited by Harry Caul on Tue Feb 07, 2017 10:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Paul Schrader

#27 Post by Harry Caul » Tue Feb 07, 2017 10:25 am

I'm not sure if American Gigolo is Schrader's best film (as a director), but it's definitely one of his top five.

AG really transports me back to the early '80's time-period; the music, attitudes, etc. - even though the movie was probably filmed in 1979. The opening scene of Julien (Gere) driving down the CA highway in a convertible, while Blondie's "Call me" plays over the scene epitomizes the whole era to some extent.

Re: the story, there is something intriguing about being a guy who not only lives off of women, but who takes pride in doing so. However, the movie also shows the "dark side" of such a lifestyle - which I found added a good dose of realism to the film: When Julien is being set up for the murder of a former "client", everyone that he was in good graces with prior to that ends up dropping him like a hot potato. I.e., his "relationships" are very tenuous & based on services rendered, and that's it.
SpoilerShow
This is why the politician's wife supporting him & staying by his side (despite the permanent damage this did to her & her husband's reputation) was especially touching- she was the only one that believed in Julien, due in large part because she had fallen for him - very poignant theme here. I don't consider this unrealistic, just unlikely - though definitely not impossible. Remember, she pursued him due to her being intrigued by him, etc. It's obvious she really wants to 'save' him & form a life with him - despite the obvious road-blocks she will have re: doing this by the end of the film (his being in prison, her husband divorcing her & cutting her off from $, etc.)

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Re: Paul Schrader

#28 Post by FrauBlucher » Sat Apr 01, 2017 9:55 am

Schrader talks about the death of slow cinema. BTW... I do hate the phrase, slow cinema.

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Re: Paul Schrader

#29 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed May 16, 2018 12:02 pm

DarkImbecile was kind enough to make a lead post for this thread, it is live now!

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Re: Paul Schrader

#30 Post by DarkImbecile » Wed May 16, 2018 12:24 pm

Having just discovered Schrader's archive of more than a half-century of film writing, I just wanted to draw attention to a couple of great general pieces on criticism and the state of the industry at various points in history: "Canon Fodder", his introduction to an abandoned book project establishing a Bloom-esque overview of the key works of cinema, published in Film Comment in 2006; and "Don't Cry For Me When I'm Gone: Motion Pictures in the 1990s", a prescient look at the future of movies at the dawn of digital technology from a 1993 issue of DGA News. Both worth reading if you've never had the chance before, as are many of the other works available there; from the latter article, I love his framing of the lament about the dumbing down of film as one that is as old as the medium, and that the state of film as a whole generally only gets better (a position I've been taking of late after taking some time to review the ratio of quality to garbage on annual release schedules from decades ago).

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Re: Paul Schrader

#31 Post by DarkImbecile » Thu May 24, 2018 11:53 am

Schrader's The Transcendental Style in Film is being re-issued with a new 35-page introduction, including this diagram showing how filmmakers move away from traditional narrative ('N'):
In the new introduction, Schrader diagrams the larger movement by showing how well-known filmmakers move in three different directions as they push away from narrative. There are the “Surveillance Cam” filmmakers (Abbas Kiarostami), who emphasize capturing day-to-day reality. There is “Art Gallery,” cinema which is a move toward pure imagery: light and color, which can manifest itself in films that are abstract, or dream-like (Lynch). And the third direction is what Schrader refers to as Mandala, or “meditation” cinema, films that work on the viewer almost like a trance (Ozu)...“I laid out this cosmogony of where all these directors were after breaking free from the nucleus of narrative and they’re electrons shooting off in these three directions,” said Schrader. “I also drew what I called the [Andrei] ‘Tarkovsky Ring.’ What happens when an artist goes through the ‘Tarkovsky Ring,’ that’s the point where he is no longer making cinema for a paying audience. He’s making it for institutions, for museums, and so forth.”
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whaleallright
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Re: Paul Schrader

#32 Post by whaleallright » Thu May 24, 2018 5:44 pm

This reminds me a bit of Deleuze's zeal for typologies, but Schrader's categories make a bit more intuitive sense. It's nice to see an older filmmaker who is still engaged with a wide range of contemporary cinema—cf. the many Baby Boom directors who admit to not going to the movies anymore. But Schrader still has that ad-man-style tendency to reduce directors' work to pithy summaries (and still completely misreads Ozu IMO). Who guards the Tarkovsky perimeter, btw? And who let Straub/Huillet inside?

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Re: Paul Schrader

#33 Post by colinr0380 » Thu May 24, 2018 6:37 pm

I would agree but then creating that summary provides a groundwork to argue about certain definitions. For instance looking at that diagram I like the idea of the three general directions of arthouse (i.e. non-commerical) filmmaking but would probably balk at classing Tsai Ming-liang as purely a "Surveillance Cam" director. Granted a lot of his shots are singular long takes of the world, especially in the Walker films, but then the shots are held too long to just be capturing day-to-day reality, whilst at the same time being too composed and considered to be entirely CCTV footage! There is an intent there, even if it is obscure. In Journey To The West we are watching a (breathtaking) scene of light changing on some steps as a monk walks down them for longer than we ever would if we were in that location in reality. We are also seeing characters behaving in entirely un-quotidian ways, contrasting against their locations, for instance that final shot of Stray Dogs is held so long that it moves out of 'capturing a real event' and into witnessing the minutiae of the slightest gesture, or the forming of tears in a character's eyes, and that is where all of the drama of the scene is held. And a lot of the director's films seem more an elaboration on Antonioni and metaphorical symbolism as purely about capturing existing images.

Which is to say that I would probably think of Tsai Ming-liang as more in the Mandala area, or even art gallery one, just using 'Surveillance Camera' stylistics! Though I like the idea that probably all the directors named in that diagram have different weightings of all three elements!
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Re: Paul Schrader

#34 Post by whaleallright » Thu May 24, 2018 11:17 pm

there really should be a z-axis, then!

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Re: Paul Schrader

#35 Post by Lost Highway » Fri Jun 01, 2018 11:48 am

I watched American Gigolo again recently for the first time in many years. It was inspired by rewatching Los Angeles Playes Itself and I was going, hold on, didn’t he leave out one of the great Los Angeles movies of all time ?

I loved the movie back then and I think it’s even better now. Then I checked on reviews or whether much has been written about it recently and it rates 65% on Rottentomatoes. Not that I think that is a perfect indicator but I’m shocked. The movie is a neo noir masterpiece but am I in a minority of thinking so ? It doesn’t get talked about much now. I remember one of my my film theory lecturers sharing my love for it in the late 80s, which may have made me think it was some sort of undisputed classic.

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Re: Paul Schrader

#36 Post by DarkImbecile » Fri Jun 01, 2018 12:14 pm

Funnily enough, I had a film professor in the early 2000s who slagged Gigolo - and Schrader generally - hard enough that it put off my watching it for about a decade.

Speaking of Schrader, he recently discussed his work with Sofia Coppola on The A24 Podcast, including contrasting his thoughts on the ending of First Reformed with those on Taxi Driver and which film of his he hopes will be reconsidered and find some appreciation.

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Re: Paul Schrader

#37 Post by dda1996a » Fri Jun 01, 2018 12:50 pm

I really like it! I actually want to watch Bresson and then watch and rewatch Schrader's early films. Also just bought the newly released Transcendental Style in Film so I'll finally go through Ozu and Bresson.

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Re: Paul Schrader

#38 Post by Lost Highway » Fri Jun 01, 2018 1:10 pm

Richard Gere, an actor who can come across as blank, is so perfectly cast as a man who has reduced himself to being all surface. I can’t imagine Travolta in the role, one of two preferred choices. The other one was Christopher Reeve, who could have been interesting. Lauren Hutton is wonderful too. She’s always been an underrated actor, possibly because she was such a famous model. She had some of Lauren Bacall‘s cool and would have made a great Hawks heroine.

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Re: Paul Schrader

#39 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Jun 02, 2018 6:28 am

The other great 'surface' Richard Gere film of the period is of course in the Breathless remake. I could easily see Travolta being mooted for that role too, and it works really well if double billed with Nicolas Cage's character in Wild At Heart!

Great podcast by the way - here's the link to the Schrader Rotterdam festival talk on the re-editing of Dying of the Light that he and his editor made whilst working on First Reformed. Hopefully one day whoever owns that might want to put out the re-edited version, if just for comparison purposes and to give the film a bit of commercial life again. And I would love to read those Leonard Schrader letters being published in Film Comment that gets mentioned.

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Re: Paul Schrader

#40 Post by Lost Highway » Sat Jun 02, 2018 8:32 am

I’d add Days of Heaven where the three adult leads are inscrutable. When it comes to their motivations we have to rely on the unreliable narration of a child and the way nature externalises the character's inner lives.

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Re: Paul Schrader

#41 Post by miless » Sat Jun 02, 2018 11:27 pm

whaleallright wrote:
Thu May 24, 2018 5:44 pm
This reminds me a bit of Deleuze's zeal for typologies, but Schrader's categories make a bit more intuitive sense. It's nice to see an older filmmaker who is still engaged with a wide range of contemporary cinema—cf. the many Baby Boom directors who admit to not going to the movies anymore. But Schrader still has that ad-man-style tendency to reduce directors' work to pithy summaries (and still completely misreads Ozu IMO). Who guards the Tarkovsky perimeter, btw? And who let Straub/Huillet inside?
and his placement of Tarr seems completely off to me (unless he's only seen the early works), I mean he's easily a mandala-type given the hypnotizing/rhythmic camera-work that in no way resembles a security camera (at least to me)

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Re: Paul Schrader

#42 Post by whaleallright » Sun Jun 03, 2018 1:41 pm

that category in general is very odd, since folks like Tarr, Tsai, Rivers, and Serra are stylists, assertively pictorial (and of course Tarr in particular moves his camera a lot). while "surveillance cam" seems to me to imply a kind of antistyle of distant, objective observation. conversely, Jia Zhangke, a filmmaker I'd argue is (or was) much more invested in a kind of observational realism, is oddly placed among the "mandala" filmmakers.

the fact that a number of his categories and placements make some immediate sense means that Schrader is not completely full of shit, but, as has to my mind been the case at least since his Transcendental Style in Film, he's maybe 33.33% full of shit. (I'm particularly disinclined to give him the benefit of the doubt since his spectacularly uninformed and misguided series of essays on "film history"—I use the scare quotes advisedly—published in Film Comment a number of years ago, which mostly restate long-superseded conventional wisdom but give it a pretentious self-regarding gloss.)

I'm still really looking forward to seeing First Reformed.

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Re: Paul Schrader

#43 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Jun 03, 2018 8:22 pm

I only completely read the Ozu parts of his Transcendental Style, which I found almost entirely wrongheaded...

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Re: Paul Schrader

#44 Post by beamish14 » Mon Jun 04, 2018 12:22 pm

colinr0380 wrote:
Sat Jun 02, 2018 6:28 am
The other great 'surface' Richard Gere film of the period is of course in the Breathless remake. I could easily see Travolta being mooted for that role too, and it works really well if double billed with Nicolas Cage's character in Wild At Heart!

Great podcast by the way - here's the link to the Schrader Rotterdam festival talk on the re-editing of Dying of the Light that he and his editor made whilst working on First Reformed. Hopefully one day whoever owns that might want to put out the re-edited version, if just for comparison purposes and to give the film a bit of commercial life again. And I would love to read those Leonard Schrader letters being published in Film Comment that gets mentioned.

This article on Dark, the re-edit/reconceputalization of Dying of the Light, is terrific. I love the comment at the bottom from the original
film's editor, too. It's fantastic how Schrader ensured that academics can have access to it in perpetuity.

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