Paul Schrader celebrates his 67th birthday this week, so we thought we would put together a compilation of some of the films that he either wrote, directed, or in several cases did both. Though he began his career as a film critic (he credits the great Pauline Kael as his mentor), he soon started writing screenplays and eventually sold a film called THE YAKUZA which he co-wrote with his brother Leonard (though Schrader initially disliked the Sydney Pollack film, he has since come to appreciate it).
Following that film was a period of incredible creativity; Schrader had more ideas than time to write. One of the scripts he got around to (while dealing with severe depression) was first shown to his friend Brian De Palma and was going to star Jeff Bridges. The script was passed on several times before it eventually landed a young Martin Scorsese as director and TAXI DRIVER, one of the greatest films of all-time, started to come together.
The films of Paul Schrader are dark journeys through the human psyche. When they aren’t gritty and tough, they are disturbing and almost fragile. Unlike many directors who don’t understand that violence without purpose is as pointless as a never ending car chase, Schrader understands the responsibility to connect the chaos on screen to a greater point, abandonment and atonement are ideas Schrader frequently uses. Whether it’s Travis Bickle feeling abandoned by society, Major Charles Rane abandoned by his family, or even Harvey Keitel and Richard Pryor feeling abandoned on a manufacturing line. There is a suffering, a moment of pause, and a slow build to an often violent conclusion.
Not all of his films are flawless, he’s guilty of more than a few missteps (aren’t we all), but few directors and screenwriters have created such a remarkable scope of work that has been as influential. Happy Birthday, Mr. Schrader. (Maybe you will get around to PIPELINER on day.)
Paul Schrader’s latest film, THE CANYONS, debuts August 2nd, 2013.
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