Paul Schrader Interview

Paul Schrader began his career in the movies as a film critic, but it wasn’t long before his Calvinist upbringing and his love of contemplative films from the likes of Yasujirô Ozu, Robert Bresson, and Carl Theodor Dreyer brought him to begin working as a screenwriter, mostly telling stories, mostly about lonely men in spiritual or emotional crisis. He became one of the most important writers of the 1970s and 1980s, with such works as Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and The Last Temptation of Christ; Brian DePalma’s Obsession, and Peter Weir’s The Mosquito Coast, as well as a string of films he directed himself, including Blue Collar, Hardcore, American Gigolo, Cat People, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, and Light of Day.

His string of compelling work as writer and/or director continues until today, with such works as Affliction, Auto Focus, Light Sleeper, and Bringing Out the Dead (again, directed by Scorsese). His latest film, First Reformed, is something of a return to form and subject matter for the writer/director, as he centers his story on Toller, a former military chaplain turned priest (Ethan Hawke, in one of the finest performances of his career), who is wracked by grief and guilt over many events in his past, to the point where it has taken on a physical ailment. At his most desperate moment, he meets a parishioner (Amanda Seyfried) whose husband, a radical environmentalist, commits suicide, setting in motion a series of events in Toller’s life that lead him to radicalism as well. In a fair and just world (and maybe if the film were being released later in the year), First Reformed would undoubtedly be part of awards discussions.

/Film spoke with Schrader recently when he accompanied the film to the Chicago Critics Film Festival. The onstage Q&A he did after the screening (co-moderated by this writer) can be viewed here; this interview took place the following day. First Reformed is now playing in New York and Los Angeles, and expands today.

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To dig too deeply into a discussion of Tully, the third film from screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman (after Juno and Young Adult) is to risk taking the shine off the movie’s unique brand of intimate magic. Knowing this makes talking about some of the film’s most impressive and heart-breaking reveals all the more difficult, but it makes repeat viewings of Tully something quite special. The film stars Charlize Theron (following up her work with Reitman in Young Adult) as Marlo, a wife (to Ron Livingston) and mother of three, including a newborn. Being the primary parent in the household has not only drained Marlo of energy and deprived her of sleep, but also she has lost sight of the parts of herself that were special and interesting, as her days are taken over with routine.

Enter Tully (Mackenzie Davis, whose vibrancy practically jumps off the screen), a night nanny, hired by Margo’s well-off brother (Mark Duplass) to take responsibility of the infant while Margo gets a full night’s sleep. But Tully sees her job as not only taking care of the baby but taking care of Marlo’s needs as a human being, and the two form an instant bond as they discuss their lives. Marlo sees a lot of herself in Tully, and Tully views Margo’s life of stability — albeit a little boring — as something to aspire to and not avoid.

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I feel pretty interview

The latest vehicle starring Amy Schumer may appear on the surface to be a romantic comedy about an insecure woman who gets a blow to the head and suddenly sees herself as the most beautiful woman she’s ever seen. However, the heart and soul of I Feel Pretty is the bond Schumer’s Renee has with her long-time best friends Jan (Busy Phillips of Cougar Town and Vice Principals) and Vivian (SNL’s Aidy Bryant, in her follow-up to last year’s The Big Sick).

Marking the directing debut from popular writing team Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (co-writers on Never Been Kissed, He’s Just Not That Into You, and How to Be Single), I Feel Pretty speaks a sometimes brutal truth about how women’s self-esteems are chipped away systematically on a daily basis by the world at large. But using humor, it also delivers a message about empowering oneself and not giving a toss what the world thinks about you. On top of that, it’s also a sweet love story and a tale of a woman who infiltrates a high-end makeup company and gets them to more effectively market their products to all women.

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monster review

Originally published in 1999, Walter Dean Myers’s novel Monster has been a favorite among young-adult readers, using both a third-person screenplay device and first-person diary format to tell the story of honors student Steve Harmon, a black teenager with dreams of becoming a filmmaker, who is arrested and tried for felony murder in New York City after a bodega robbery goes wrong and the owner is killed. Was this kid from a supportive home a part of this crime? Or is he simply guilty of being young, black and on trial when he walks in the courtroom?

Music video veteran and first-time feature director Anthony Mandler has been desperate to bring Monster to the screen for years, and now he’s done so with a cast that includes such heavyweights as Jennifer Ehle, Jeffrey Wright, and Tim Blake Nelson, as well as musicians-turned-actors like Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson, Nas, and A$AP Rocky (real name Rakim Mayers) as Harmon’s co-defendant. Told in a non-linear fashion, Monster moves from Harmon’s life just before the crime to his time in prison and the eventual trial, all culminating in a look at the actual events surrounding the robbery. Various versions of the truth are told, and Mandler illustrates how a kid who wanted to capture the reality of his neighborhood got caught up in way he could never have imagined or wanted.

Harmon is played by Kelvin Harrison Jr., best known as the son in last year’s It Comes At Night. However, he was also in the Oscar-nominated Mudbound and was in two other Sundance films this year: Assassination Nation and Monsters and Men. Harrison delivers some truly rage-filled inner monologues in Monster that add a depth and level of frustration to both the character and the experience of watching the film.

This interview with Mandler and Harrison took place at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, where Monster debuted. /Film spoke with the two about the process of bringing the novel to the screen and the movie’s fluid definition of “the truth.” Monster has yet to announce a distributor or release date.

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The Kindergarten Teacher Review

For her second feature at Sundance (after her highly praised 2014 debut Little Accidents), writer/director Sara Colangelo has chosen to remake a four-year-old Israeli drama to examine the dying practice of encouraging and protecting artistic genius. Like the Staten Island educator at the center of this film, The Kindergarten Teacher pushes boundaries and crosses lines as it navigates its way through a tricky story of a five-year-old boy (newcomer Parker Sevak), who shows an unreal gift for poetry, and his teacher, Lisa (a career-best performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is also one of the film’s producers), who struggles in her adult-education class to be a poet as well, if only to add a bit of culture to a home life that offers her little by way of intellectual stimulation.

This interview with Colangelo took place at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, where The Kindergarten Teacher premiered and earned Colangelo the festival’s Directing Award in the U.S. Dramatic category. /Film spoke with her about the appeal of this difficult story, the decision not to paint her protagonist as mentally unbalanced, and the risk of losing the next Mozart without proper encouragement. The Kindergarten Teacher has yet to announce a distributor or release date.

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Hal Review

Anyone who knows the films of the late Hal Ashby often finds it difficult to put into words exactly what it was that separated his work from that of other directors that rose to success in the 1970s. In many ways, his significance and influence as a filmmaker is best understood in the works of more contemporary directors who were deeply inspired and empowered by Ashby’s maverick nature and refusal to allow his work to be altered or influenced by anyone but those around him that he trusted and with whom he worked closely—and uncompromising nature that eventually came back to haunt him as the 1980s brought about an era where profits and accountants ruled the studios, while art took a back seat. Read More »

Piercing Review

It’s clear from the very beginning of director Nicolas Pesce’s Piercing that he wants us on edge. He opens with a shot of a new father Reed (Christopher Abbott) standing over his infant son with an ice pick just inches from the child’s face. Reed snaps himself out of what seems like a trance and finishes packing for what he tells his wife (Laia Costa) is a business trip but is, in fact, a carefully planned and well-rehearsed killing of a total stranger, complete with a murder kit that we get to know well over the course of the film. Read More »

a futile and stupid gesture interview

Director and sometime performer David Wain has a long and successful history of directing beloved comedies with large ensemble casts, going back to his earliest days with sketch-comedy team The State and such feature films as Wet Hot American Summer, Role Models, Wanderlust, and They Came Together. But with A Futile and Stupid Gesture, Wain tackles the seemingly impossible task of covering the professional life of comedy writer and National Lampoon magazine co-creator Doug Kenney (played by Will Forte) in about 100 minutes. Kenny also was the man behind National Lampoon’s Animal House and Caddyshack (the making of both is detailed in Wain’s movie as well).

The film also stars Domhnall Gleeson (as Kenny’s partner in crime Henry Beard), Emmy Rossum, Natasha Lyonne, Seth Green, Martin Mull, Joel McHale, Matt Walsh, Thomas Lennon, Matt Lucas, Joe Lo Truglio, Paul Scheer, and Finn Wittrock.

This interview took place at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, where A Futile and Stupid Gesture premiered. Director Wain was joined by two of the film’s producers, Peter Principato (also an executive producer on the series “Black-ish”) and Jonathan Stern (also an executive producer on “Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return.” /Film spoke with the three about the process of making comedy from the ’70s and ’80s feel relevant today and the process of making the creative process cinematic. A Futile and Stupid Gesture is available on Netflix right now (read our review right here).

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Hereditary Review

Much like The Witch, another film distributed by indie powerhouse A24, the feature debut from writer/director Ari Aster (probably best known for his darkly comedic 2011 short The Strange Thing About the Johnsons) leaves open the possibility that you are not watching a horror movie but that you’re, instead, watching a horrific drama. While the modern-set Hereditary shares little else in common with that period piece, it does show a family in crisis, leaving emotional cracks wide open so something dark — perhaps actually evil — can crawl in an fester and eventually destroy all that was good and sacred about the sanctity of blood relations. In other words, Hereditary takes its deep-seated sense of danger and foreboding quite seriously and with a level of maturity that few of today’s horror releases do.

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