Paul Schrader

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Beyond the title’s reference (intentional or otherwise) to the Dylan Thomas poem, it’s hard to say that I was personally very aware of the new Nicolas Cage-led thriller Dying of the Light. In fact, it hasn’t been mentioned on the pages of this site since Cage joined the project in July 2013. But here it is now, a fully realized movie that’s hitting theaters on December 5. And look at that hat. To pass up an opportunity to show you that hat would be a disservice to Cage fans, disrespect to Dylan Thomas and an affront to humanity itself. But wait, there’s more.

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Rolling Thunder

This week, Cargill and I call down the thunder. Specifically, we discuss one of our absolute favorite exploitation revenge films from the 1970s: Rolling Thunder. Written by Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) pens this incredibly subversive Vietnam War parable about a man pushed back into a life of violence when his triumphant return form a POW camp is interrupted by a thieving group of good ol’ boys/murders. Cargill and I chat about the baser satisfactions of this revenge movie, as well as the legitimately brilliant performances from William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones, and the intriguing religious allegory of the film’s intensely layered script. That, plus…you know, Sam Peckinpah-worthy shoot-outs. You should follow Brian (@Briguysalisbury), Cargill (@Massawyrm), and the show (@Junkfoodcinema). Download Episode #8 Directly

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Bret Easton Ellis

Bret Easton Ellis‘s novels have had an interesting path to the big screen: the only novel that fully captured his writing is The Rules of Attraction, a movie that divided audiences; American Psycho is a cult favorite that Ellis isn’t entirely pleased with; Less Than Zero, although featuring a great performance from Robert Downey Jr., is a terrible adaptation; and the less said about The Informers, well, the better. However, The Canyons is a film Ellis had a very different relationship with. The LA noir is one of many original scripts he’s written, but it’s the only one that has made it to the screen with the help of Kickstarter, producer Braxton Pope, and director Paul Schrader. The movie is as much a statement about filmmaking as it is anything else, and Ellis had his own statements to make about modern cinema culture and adapting the unadaptable.

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Passion Movie

During a 35th anniversary screening of Taxi Driver at the Indiana University Cinema in 2011, Paul Schrader stated that studios stopped making movies like Taxi Driver a long time ago, and moreover, studios weren’t interested in making movies for adults anymore. Judging by his collaboration with novelist/screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis in The Canyons, it seems he believes Hollywood isn’t interested in making movies anymore. The Canyons portrays an entertainment industry that has collapsed into the things that its product has afforded for its participants: lifestyle and status. The Lindsay Lohan’s Ghost-starring flick envisions a Hollywood in which its movers of money have stopped even pretending to care about the product peddled, instead spending all their time and efforts on the social capital afforded. The stylish restaurants, isolated mansions, cold XXX-capades, and even the privilege of getting away with murder.

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cage

After trying and failing to shock us by working with tabloid train wreck Lindsay Lohan and porn star bad boy James Deen on his experimental indie project, The Canyons, director Paul Schrader seems to be taking a more traditional, more guaranteed approach to making something weird with his next film—he’s going to be working with infamous beat-of-his-own-drummer marcher Nicolas Cage. The story comes from an interview he did with The Playlist, who confirm that he does indeed have Cage lined up to star in his next film, and who theorize that said next film is going to be The Dying of the Light, which is a project that was once going to star Harrison Ford and be directed by Nicolas Winding Refn.

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Paul Schrader The Canyons

In The Canyons Schrader has the camera zero in on abandoned movie theaters while Bret Easton Ellis’s script has its characters discussing whether they actually “like movies” anymore. What all that has to do with the plot is up for interpretation, but it doesn’t take a genius to see Schrader and Ellis are talking about the emergence of VOD and new media amidst the piles of old curtains and velvet-backed chairs. Schrader won’t let his camera show hopping movie theaters and audiences eating up popcorn, because that’s not the world Ellis’s characters see. They’re cold, monotone 20-somethings who could care less about today’s movies or movies in general (even as they make one). Maybe Schrader also feels that way about today’s major theatrical releases, but, one thing is for sure: The Canyons is a movie that wasn’t made for 2,000 screens. It’s true low-budget, crowdsourced  indie filmmaking, and because of that (and some other obvious reasons), it didn’t have the smoothest production. That chaotic frenzy was all fuel for the media, and Schrader was holding the match.

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The Canyons

If you’re expecting this to be a raging takedown of Paul Schrader‘s skeevy-seeming flick, you’re going to be disappointed. Coincidentally, that’s the emotion you’ll be left with if you see The Canyons and expect anything but a stream of beige Ambien with a side of stale popcorn. It’s a movie unworthy of snark or derision because despite trying so, so hard to be controversial, it merely manages to be dull. It is exactly the worst thing you can call a movie of its kind: average. Mostly bored with his life, trust fund baby Christian (James Deen) is making a movie to satisfy a father who disapproves of his laziness. He thinks so little of the endeavor that he’s put his assistant Gina (Amanda Brooks) in charge of it in a move that she misinterprets as respectful elevation, but what our main man is really interested in is finding people online to share his girlfriend Tara (Lindsay Lohan) with sexually. When he learns that she’s been cheating on him with a piece of wet cardboard actor named Ryan (Nolan Funk), he loses it and begins trying to systematically destroy the people around him.

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Schrader

You can’t hold a world premiere event for a film inside a television, or over the Internet, or as ordered through a remote control. Sure, you can stream it, or you can record it to watch later, and you can even have someone FaceTime you in, but you can’t hold a true event for a film without getting some butts into some seats, some snacks onto a tray, and a movie onto the big screen. Director Paul Schrader may have made his The Canyons alongside screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis and producer Braxton Pope with the full intent to bow the film on the VOD-enabled small screen, but that doesn’t change the fact that the film was entered into film festivals, or that later this month you can see it in a theater near you in limited release, or even that its world premiere was held in a theater. Last night actually, at the Walter Reade Theater at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, a real theater for real cinephiles, and I was in attendance to take it all in. There was a lot to take in.

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Lindsay Lohan The Canyons

The trailer for The Canyons looks like it will give you a neon-colored STD. There’s no escaping that brash aesthetic element, but the far more common commentary that seems to be happening is the funeral dirge being sung for movies. Some of the first promo imagery for the Paul Schrader-directed sexual thriller featured the crumbling insides of a theater; he recently spoke at length about the “systemic change” facing the filmmaking industry; and the meta nature of a producer (James Deen) and his actress girlfriend (Lindsay Lohan) anchoring the story brings it all home. So it’s not surprising that the latest trailer for the film opens with Lohan’s character rhetorically asking if we still like movies before admitting that she’s just not that into them anymore. Beyond the darkness and forced shock to be expected from anything Bret Easton Ellis is involved in, the quiet death of movies might be something we’ll be getting a lot of in this one. That, and a whole host of bad acting. Wear protection and check out the trailer for yourself:

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Rolling Thunder 6.tif

Cult movies are impossible to identify until years after their release, and even then it apparently takes Quentin Tarantino to point them out to the rest of us. (That’s not entirely true, but we’ll let him think it is for now.) One of the director’s favorite films, possibly even *the* favorite depending who you ask, is John Flynn‘s 1977 revenge picture Rolling Thunder. Having finally watched it I’d actually argue that labeling it as a “revenge picture,” which is how it’s been spoken of for over thirty years, is incorrect and ultimately reductive. Not that there isn’t some wonderfully wet and violent revenge action to be found here, but it’s hardly the film’s main focus or only strength. William Devane stars as a Vietnam veteran recently released from years as a POW. He returns home to a wife, son and a small town that welcomes him back as a hero, but when he attracts the attention of some mean-spirited and desperate ruffians it leads to an assault that leaves him and his family for dead. Amateurs. He survives, but his wife, son and right hand aren’t as lucky. So yeah, there’s some revenge coming.

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The Canyons

After a fair bit of kerfuffle over its rejection from the SXSW Film Festival, Paul Schrader‘s The Canyons has managed to snag a distribution deal from IFC Films. Deadline Hollywood passes along word that the already-controversial film, penned by Bret Easton Ellis and “starring” porn star James Deen and perennial tabloid fodder Lindsay Lohan, will be getting quite the fancy release from the distributors, including a theatrical bow, a digital release, and a “Special Presentation” at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York City sometime this summer. Snark aside, if you’re in Gotham this summer, mark your calendars now, this sounds like it’s going to be the cinematic event of the season. Schrader has described the film as “cinema for the post-theatrical era,” and the project utilized a bevy of crowd-funding techniques to raise both funds and awareness (a campaign we’ve covered here, here, and here) so it is, at the very least, an innovative project that will be interesting to track even on the most basic of financial levels (i.e. is this thing going to make money?). The Film Society of Lincoln Center event will include a chat with Schrader and Kent Jones, Director of Programming of the New York Film Festival, so we’ll keep an eye and ear out for those details to pass along to all our New York Rejects.

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The Canyons

Paul Schrader’s next film, The Canyons, was written by famed author Bret Easton Ellis and stars Lindsay Lohan and some male porn star, which earned the project some hype right from the very moment it was announced that held straight through its production. But, despite all of its marquee talent, the movie put out a weird teaser trailer that didn’t seem to have any actual footage from the film and was mostly just a bunch of abstract images shot around L.A. Well, now the film has released a full trailer, and instead of being street photography stuff that doesn’t feature Lindsay Lohan, it’s…something else that’s completely weird as well. It would seem that either The Canyons was shot in black and white, its images have been altered to make this vintage-style trailer, or what we’re looking at still isn’t actual footage from the film. Which of these possibilities sounds most believable?

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The Canyons

With all the time Bret Easton Ellis spends on twitter voicing his unpopular opinions, it was a bit of a shock to discover he found even more time to develop a project with Paul Schrader. That movie, The Canyons, we now have a first look at, and in a nicely unconventional way as well. Schrader’s film earned its financing via Kickstarter, so it’s an appropriate marketing choice to sell the movie as a down and dirty indie. Take a gander at the iMovie effects-ridden teaser for The Canyons (via The Playlist):

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Over the course of its pre-production, The Canyons has established itself as being something of a poster child for modern filmmaking. Besides its casting of a couple of recognizable names, like tabloid star Lindsay Lohan and porn star James Deen, the film searched for much of its talent through Facebook auditions. And instead of relying on studio backing to raise funds, the traditional way, its writer, Bret Easton Ellis, and its director, Paul Schrader, raised money through a Kickstarter project, that offered up a bevy of ridiculous prizes backers could win. So what have been the fruits of all of their ultra-modern labors? It’s still kind of hard to tell. A two-and-a-half minute trailer has been released, but it doesn’t seem to contain any actual footage from the film it’s supposed to be promoting. Instead, it just gives us a montage of images shot around L.A., set to a Dum Dum Girls song; no Lindsay, no James Deen, no nothing. Despite the film’s apparent tagline of “It’s not The Hills,” this promo looks like it could very much be the credit sequence of some sort of reality show shot in the city.

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The staff here at FSR have been tracking the development of The Canyons pretty closely. The reportedly microbudgeted film directed by Paul Schrader from a script by American Psycho/Less Than Zero novelist Bret Easton Ellis and guided by indie producer Braxton Pope, The Canyons has gained notice for utilizing social media outlets like Kickstarter to help finance it and Facebook to cast as-yet-undiscovered talent. Now, it appears that legendary acting veterans James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor porn star James Deen and postmodern performance art project Lindsay Lohan will star in the film, which ComingSoon describes as a “contemporary thriller that documents five twenty-somethings’ quest for power, love, sex and success in 2012 Hollywood.” Lohan is best-known for her starring roles in The Parent Trap, Mean Girls, and the Los Angeles district court. James Deen is best known for his roles at Jimmy Olsen in Superman XXX: A Porn Parody, Moe in Simpsons: The XXX Parody, and Egon Spengler in This Ain’t Ghostbusters XXX.

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A money clip autographed by Robert De Niro and given to Paul Schrader on the set of Taxi Driver. A pitch meeting with the producer currently making a Schrader feature penned by Bret Easton Ellis. An autographed hardcover copy of every Ellis book. I’m sorry, are you some Hollyhood hot shot? No? Just a Kickstarter backer? Sure. We’ve written plenty about the Schrader-directed and Ellis-penned The Canyons, thanks to its inventive use of participatory cinema (including casting for roles on Facebook) and our exclusive debut of the film’s poster, but now the team behind the film (including producer Braxton Pope) have gone one step further when it comes to making a crowd-influenced film: they’re going for crowd-funding. Per the film’s new Kickstarter page, “Pope, Ellis and Schrader are partly financing the film themselves through Pope’s new company Sodium Fox in order to maintain complete creative control of the distinct source material…The Canyons team has realized the Kickstarter is indeed a part of this new independent change, and is seeking to connect with our fan base even further with this campaign.” The Canyons team is currently looking to raise $100,000, and to meet that end, they’re offering some of the most jaw-dropping backer rewards that I’ve ever seen for this type of campaign (you know, like those I listed up top). After the break, check out twelve unbelievable items currently available as backer rewards on The Canyons‘ Kickstarter page. If financing indie films means that Bret Easton Ellis will review your novel or Paul Schrader […]

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Yesterday, our own Landon Palmer dedicated this week’s always-astute Culture Warrior to emerging participatory cinema, films that hinge on the involvement of outside audiences to not only finance them, but actually cast them and get them to the screen. Landon paid particular attention to director Paul Schrader and screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis‘s The Canyons, one of the most tantalizing and high-profile projects out there that is relying on participation from others to get made. The pair, along with producer Braxton Pope, are relying on submitted auditions from all interested parties to form their cast, using their Facebook page and their LetItCast page to choose possible rising stars to fill out the  five major roles in the film. While we don’t know much about the film, we do know that it’s “about youth, glamour, sex and Los Angeles, circa 2012″ and that the five main roles include “Christian, a trust fund kid, power player and major manipulator, who is a film producer that enjoys filming his own three-way sex sessions; Tara, his girlfriend and former model; Ryan, a bartender and young actor who is angling for a role in Christian’s horror movie; Gina, who works for Ryan and is in love with him and is also looking for a role in the horror pic and finally, Lindsay, a former actress turned yoga instructor who is sleeping with Christian, and falling in love with him.” (Thanks to The Playlist for those descriptions.) Both Schrader and Ellis have distinctly dark worldviews, so it’s […]

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Modern American design and its history have become major preoccupations within contemporary cosmopolitan circles. Gary Hustwit recently finished his third documentary on the subject, Mad Men makes us nostalgically long for clean copy and clear utility, and the death of Steve Jobs brought forth considerations of the important connections between user-friendliness, sleek aesthetics, and the construction of products around human intuition. Making the case that we have still yet to exhaust what continually proves to be a fascinating and increasingly relevant subject, Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey’s historical documentary Eames: The Architect and The Painter traverses the fascinating life of a couple whose contributions broadly determined what modern postwar American life looked and felt like. As narrator James Franco romantically points towards the beginning of the film, Charles Eames was an architect who never got his license, and Ray Eames was a painter who rarely painted. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of their influential lives was that they rarely operated within the confinements of either of these titles. They couldn’t be pigeonholed as architects, marketers, filmmakers, etc,. And as such, their work reflected an impending new world of convergence where art, commerce, and visual culture all became deeply related during the second half of the twentieth century. The many lives they influenced can be evidenced by the occupational variety of well-regarded professional people who lend their sound bites to the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Eames including filmmaker Paul Schrader, TED founder Richard Saul Wurman, and architect Kevin Roche.

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Clive Owen

Clive Owen is an actor who has impressed me in the past with both his inherent charisma (in movies like Closer) and the level of his dramatic chops (in things like Children of Men). I like seeing him in roles where he really gets to show off and make some bold choices with his performance. So it’s been disappointing to me that recently he’s been playing stone faced soldiers, secret agents, and hit men in things like Killer Elite and The International. All of these tough guy action roles just kind of blend together in my mind and unfortunately Variety is reporting that Owen has just signed onto another one that you can throw onto the pile.

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Can we all take a moment and be thankful that Paul Schrader – the man who wrote Taxi Driver and Rolling Thunder and Raging Bull and Mosquito Coast and wrote/directed American Gigolo – is still pumping out films? His recent work doesn’t belong on the sky-high pedestal that these names do, but Adam Resurrected was a pretty solid movie, and his lack of retired status means he can team with Bret Easton Ellis to deliver Bait. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Schrader is going to work with Ellis on the script (and direct the film) which sees a young man taking revenge on the wealthy by weaseling his way into a yacht club, snagging a boat, and taking a few fat cats out to the deep end where hungry fish await. It’s unclear what propels the revenge, but this pairing is a dream come true. Don’t expect this one to be PC. Or pretty.

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published: 11.26.2014
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