A Brief Look Back on Paul Schrader and the Man Who Overturned His World, Charles Eames

Originally published in July 2013, run again today in honor of Schrader’s 68th birthday.

In 1970, Charles Eames gave a talk at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. In the audience that day was a passion and hungry 24-year-old man, eager to be inspired, and ready to give the world a taste of all that stirred inside him. That young man was the now-iconic writer and director Paul Schrader, who has attributed Eames—the architect, problem-solver, and all around Renaissance man—as the reason he was able to become a filmmaker. After taking in his speech, Schrader was compelled to write an article on the artist, and as he said in Kevin Jackson’s Schrader on Schrader & Other Writings, “even the notion of an article was a rouse because I sensed that here was this person standing by a door, and if I approached him, he would open that door for me.” And fatefully, he did. Schrader conducted the interview—which eventually expanded farther than he could have anticipated—after visiting Eames’ famously thriving workshop in Venice and never wanting to leave.

It’s impossible to forget one’s first life-altering inspiration, the initial exposure to a new idea that makes the heart yearn for something it never knew existed and changes everything that comes after. With fresh eyes, there’s a new tune to the world as you see the emotional, psychological, and physical power of art to stimulate and create something beyond your own convention. And having been raised in the staunch Calvinist world of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Schrader was brought up on the notion that sex was strictly for procreation, movies were the devil’s work, and “ideas were the provence of language.” He was taught that emotional and spiritual feeling was to be expressed strictly through words—Eames opened his mind to the belief that “images or an object can be an idea,” and that there was a “visual logic to life.”

After spending his early twenties writing film criticism and aspiring to make films of own, Schrader was hovering around Hollywood, unsettled by the films presented to him. What he saw were pictures that “exalted idiosyncrasy and the cult of personality,” focusing on me and not we, highlighting the importance of individuality as a means of understanding oneself on a greater level. However, through his time spent admiring Eames and learning from his work, Schrader came to find a person who exposed him that to the idea that the cult of personality was in fact ephemeral, flowing from one person to the next, uniting humanity with a deeper kind of likeness.

Schrader claims it was that sentiment, combined with the thought that “images are ideas,” which overturned his world. The article he wrote on Eames would be published in Film Quarterly in the Spring of 1970, and was titled “Poetry of Ideas.” The focus was on Eames’ short films created with his wife, Ray, and how they exemplified something entirely unique to the cinematic tradition. Amalgamating science and technology to convey their own means of communication, Schrader said the films possessed a “unified aesthetic with many branch-like manifestations,” and that they had a “cerebral sensibility” seldom seen in the medium.

Classified as his “toy films” and his “idea films,” Eames revealed both the “definitive characteristics of commonplace objects” and “introduced a new way of perceiving ideas into a medium which had been surprisingly anti-intellectual.”   Since his earliest work, Schrader has been a writer and filmmaker who has unified both an intellectual sensibility through prose with aesthetically-rich ways to convey narrative ideas.

Jackson noted that Schrader’s “most mature films—following Eames—aspire to the condition of poetry.” But whereas Eames’ response to being referred to as a filmmaker—and someone Schrader had taken a cinematic interest in initially—was,”Who me, film?”, Schrader has always been obsessed with an “evangelical impulse to preach” his ideas to an audience. It’s his cri de coeur, he’s said, “that need to just lean out the window and yell.” And with his first major directorial work in five years, The Canyons, premiering this week, it’s compelling to look back on the beginnings of his career to understand the director he has become today. Below are some of Eames’ short films that inspired Schrader and changed his world. You can read the article in its entirety HERE.

Toccata for Toy Trains

Powers of Ten

House   

Design Q&A With Charles and Ray Eames

From Godard and Hawks to Ozu and Kazan, Here’s What You Should Be Seeing This Weekend in NYC

As summer ends and we begin the descent into our winter of discontent, what better way to pass the time than in darkened theater? And this weekend, cinemas around New York are screening a generous amount of fantastic films—from French New Wave classics to the best in ’90s American indies—so there is certainly something to satisfy your need to escape into another world for the evening. And although you may be sitting at your desk lamenting the fact that you’re not in Toronto soaking in fifteen films today, take comfort in knowing this weekend is replete with screenings just around the corner.

To make your life easier, we’ve rounded up the best of what’s playing throughout the New York, so peruse our list, grab your sweater and an extra large bag of M&Ms, and curl up in the theater for the next few days.

IFC Center

Reality Bites
Passion 
Our Nixon 
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints 
Best Kept Secret 
The Canyons 
Frances Ha 
Fire in the Blood 
Il Futuro 
The Holy Mountain
I Am Breathing 
Museum Hours  
The Trials of Muhammad Ali
Una Noche
Written on the Wind

Museum of the Moving Image

Rear Window
To Have and Have Not
Rio Bravo
Fig Leaves
The Cradle Snatchers
Fazil 
Senna

BAM

Gleaming the Cube
Blue Jasmine
Skateboard
The World’s End
The Grandmaster
Freewheelin’
Thrashin’
Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure

MoMA

Tokyo Story
Salvatore Giuliano
The Earrings of Madame de…
The Actress
On the Waterfront
East of Eden
To Catch a Thief
Mr. Arkadin/Confidential
Report

 

Nitehawk

The Grandmaster
Drinking Buddies
In a Word…
Passion Planet of the Apes
City Slickers

Landmark Sunshine

Short Term 12
Drinking Buddies
In a World
The Spectacular Now
The Room

Film Forum

Contempt
La Maison de la Radio
Russian Ark
The 3 Worlds of Gulliver

Film Linc

Interior. Leather Bar.
Blackfish
Concussion 
In a World…
In the Name of…
Passion
Short Term 12
Twenty Feet From Stardom
Geography Club
It Came From Outer Space
Love Me Not
Pit Stop
Newfest Shorts Program 1 & 2
The Last March
Free Fall
The Most Fun I’ve Had With My Pants On
You and the Night

Angelika Film Center

Salinger
The Grandmaster
Blue Jasmine
Closed Circuit

From Scorsese to De Palma, Here’s What You Should Be Seeing in NYC This Weekend

We’ve finally reached the last stretch of our summer days, and although the beaches my be closing, there is plenty to look forward to on the film front. And whether you’re BBQ’ing your way through the weekend and relaxing on beach outside these humid streets or hiding away in your apartment savoring that extra day of doing absolutely nothing, you can always find the time to head down to the cinema and enjoy something wonderful.

This weekend there’s a generous plenty to choose from, whether you’re in the mood for classics or the summer’s best premieres. Take a look at the evil inside with Rosemary’s Baby or torture yourself with Taxi Driver and then discover the power of connection with Short Term 12 and fall into feeling with Ain’t Them Bodies Saints—just to name some options. But whatever your film fancy, there are a number of wonderful worlds to escape into this weekend. We’ve compiled the best of what’s playing in the city, so peruse our list, grab yourself a large box of candy and enjoy.

 

IFC Center

The Wild Bunch
Passion
The Canyons
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
El Topo
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Frances Ha
Jaws
Museum Hours
Our Nixon
Prince Avalanche
Rio Bravo
Una Noche

BAM

Blue Jasmine
Enter the Dragon
Fruitvale Station
The Spectacular Now
The World’s End
The Grandmaster

Film Forum

Rosemary’s Baby
Tokyo Waka: A City Poem
Demon Seed
Alien
Aliens
Total Recall
The Howling
Starship Troopers
Village of the Damned

Film Linc

Passion
Short Term 12
Twenty Feet from Stardom
Singin’ in the Rain
Re-Animator
In a World…
Far From Vietnam
Blackfish

MoMA

The River
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
Never Fear (The Young Lovers)
Limelight
Steel Helmet

Museum of the Moving Image

Dog Day Afternoon
The Taking of Pelham One Two
Three Born to Win
Taking Off
The Panic in Needle Park

Landmark Sunshine

Taxi Driver
Short Term 12
Drinking Buddies
In a World…
The Spectacular Now
Afternoon Delight

Nitehawk

Moulin Rouge! Sing Along
In a World…
The Grandmaster
Drinking Buddies
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
Frankenhooker
Car Wash
Rushmore

Excitement for ‘The Canyons’ Amps Up With a Tantalizing New Poster

For quite some time now, we’ve all been anxiously awaiting the release of Paul Schrader and Bret Easton Ellis’ biting erotic psychodrama, The Canyons. And next week, the film Schrader has dubbed “cinema for the post-theatrical era” will finally hit theaters and VOD for your viewing satisfaction on August 2nd. 

Last week, I got the chance to chat with Schrader about bringing the provocative, simmering film to life—but more on that later. And now that we’ve seen a proper trailer for the feature, IFC has released a new poster that highlights the sordid and fantastically dramatic nature of the film with its star Lindsay Lohan and the two male figures of the film James Deen and Nolan Funk haunting alongside. 
 
The official synopsis reads:
While calculating young movie producer Christian (Deen) makes films to keep his trust fund intact, his actress girlfriend, Tara (Lohan), hides an affair with an actor from her past. But Christian becomes aware of her infidelity, which leads the young Angelenos into a violent, sexually-charged tour through the dark side of human nature. 
So take a look back at the latest trailer for The Canyons, see the new poster below, and check back here next week for our interview with Schrader. 
 
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The Best Film Events Happening in New York City This Summer

The July days may be sweating on by, but there’s plenty of summer yet to come. And of course, there’s no better way to enjoy the season than disappearing inside of a frozen, dark movie theater. With a generous slew of new releases still rolling out, there’s certainly plenty of premieres be get excited for—however, this summer happens to be rife cinemas screening rare and wonderful prints of some of the most acclaimed and beloved films ever made. So whether you’ve been counting down the moments until Paul Schrader’s The Canyons slinks its way into Lincoln Center, or have been looking forward to one of Lincoln Center’s brilliant series, I’ve rounded up the best in film events for the remainder of the summer. Peruse the list and start planning out your cinematic schedule now. Enjoy.

The Godfather Double-Feature at BAM 
July 20-21, 2013  

 

Jack Nicholson: Drive, He Said + Goin South at Film Linc

July 24, 2013 6:30pm  

 

The Canyons World Premiere + post-screening discussion at Film Linc

Monday, July 29th at 7:00pm  

 

Movie Night with Paul Schrader at IFC + Pickpocket

Tuesday, July 30 at 7:30pm  

 

Love Streams at BAM

Wednesday, July 31st  

   

The Blues Accordin to Les Blank at BAM 

The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins, The Sun’s Gonna Shine, A Well Spent Life
Thursday, August 1, 2013

   

Watch That Man: David Bowie, Movie Star at Film Linc

Absolute Beginners, The Hunger, Labyrinth, The Man Who Fell to Earth + more
August 4 – 8, 2013  

 

Fasten Your Seatbelts (Part 2): 20th Century Fox at Film Linc

3 Women, Valley of the Dolls, The Panic in Needle Park, Laura, The Grapes of Wrath + more
August 9 – 15, 2013  

 

Hiroshima mon amour at MoMA 

Friday, August 9th at 1:30pm  

 

The Grandmaster Screening + Live Event

Museum of the Moving Image
Saturday, August 10th  

 

Summer Talks: David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints)

Wednesday, August 14th 7:00pm  

 

Werner Herzog: Parables of Folly and Madness

Signs of Life, Fitzcarraldo, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, + more
August 16 -22, 2013  

 

Summer Talks: Brian De Palma (Passion)

Monday, August 19th 7:00pm

   

Hal Ashby: Bound for Glory + Shampoo at Film Linc

Monday, August 19th 6:30pm

   

2046 at Museum of the Moving Image

Saturday, August 24th at 5:00pm

 

Midnight Cowboy at Museum of the Moving Image

Sunday, August 25th at 5:00pm

The First Taste of ‘The Canyons’ Has Arrived, So Let’s Look at the Best of Paul Schrader in Trailers

This summer, amidst the Pacific Rims, Lone Rangers, and indie festival favorites, there’s there release of one of Hollywood’s most buzzed out and tantalizing treats—Paul Schrader’s The Canyons. Penned by king of smutty satire Bret Easton Ellis, the erotic drama starring Lindsay Lohan and James Deen has already been making news for months now—it’s production apparently a psychodrama of its own. But now, with the film premiering at Lincoln Center later this month and its VOD and theatrical release on August 2nd, we finally have the first official trailer for the feature.

In the last year we had saw some pretty unappealing vintage-cut teasers and trailers for the film that made me fret that this could possibly be even worse than Ellis’ biggest disaster The Informers. However, as more has been unveiled about the feature and going on word by everyone from Steven Soderbergh to some of film’s most respected critics, this over-the-top romp into a salacious world of sex and thrill could prove just the modern-day Schrader film we’ve been anticipating. Or not. Who really knows, but at least it won’t be too long until we all find out. With an affinity for embracing cinema as a way to expose his darkest desires and impulses, his characters are always morally torn and struggling between what is forbidden and what one must do. Schrader has alwyas put his sins on the screen as a way to relieve himself, maybe that will somehow come across in this hyper-dramatic affair.    In the meantime, let’s watch the trailer for The Canyons, and take a look back on the past trailers for some of the best work to come from the mind of Paul Schrader.    

Blue Collar

 

Hardcore

 

Taxi Driver

 

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

 

Raging Bull

 

Light Sleeper

 

American Gigolo

 

The Canyons

See an Intriguing New Set of Stills From Paul Schrader’s ‘The Canyons’

For what seems like forever now, we’ve been obsessing over Paul Schrader’s next violent erotic drama The Canyons. It’s not so much the Lindsay Lohan and James Deen led cast or Bret Easton Ellis’ penning of the script I’m so much interested in, as whatever is going on inside Schrader’s head. As a writer and filmmaker who has always fascinated me endlessly—namely the latent effects of his childhood—I’m thrilled, nervous, and already a bit dreadful of his step into the modern era and just how envelope-pushing and dramatically nauseating this masterpiece will be. But needless to say, I am excited and am sure my love will only grow.

And now, with the film receiving a July 29th premiere at the Film Society of Lincoln Center before its August 2nd VOD release, a new batch of bloody, raunchy, and salacious stills have cropped up for your viewing pleasure. You should also check out Film Comment‘s interview with Schrader for an even closer look. 

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Paul Schrader Talks Xavier Dolan’s Influence on ‘The Canyons’

Paul Schrader is a hell of a character. As one the most iconic and notorious film folk to emerge out of the glory days of 1970s American cinema, whether it’s his screenwriting or directing, his work has always been something to devour. Of course, some work has been better than others—and in my mind nothing could quite beat Taxi Driver, but that’s a slightly unfair statement. However, after I ran into Paul two years ago and he urged me to look at his phone while a Facebook page for his new project, The Canyons loaded, I’ve been keeping a close and anxious eye on the smutty melodrama, penned by satirical writer of yuppie drama Bret Easton Ellis. 

And with the film now premiering later this summer Schrader has been vocal about his experience working on the film and in a new interview with The Seventh Art, he spends some time expressing his inspirations, namely his love for the young and brilliant Xavier Dolan. As huge fans of Dolan, we’ve been covering his latest epic drama Laurence Anyways (extensive interview to come next week) for some time now, but it seems Schrader’s affinity lies in Dolan’s second film the highly-stylized Heartbeats.
 
Speaking to the film, Dolan told us in an interview back in 2011 that: "The film is about the way we magnify people when we’re in love—walking down the street feeling like we’re floating, hence the slow motion, the music, the costumes, the colors. A lot of people said it was a case of style over substance, but being in love is often a case of style over substance." And as for Schrader, his inspiration came from his belief that:
There is no style anymore. This guy from Montreal, this young kid, Xavier Dolan had made this film, Heartbeats. I liked the film and I looked at it again, and I realized, “He’s going from scene to scene, changing his style based on the scene. A Godard-ian thing, now he’s doing a Hollywood thing, now he’s doing kind of a Bertolucci thing … He keeps changing, and he doesn’t really care if one scene doesn’t match the scene before it. And I said, there’s nothing wrong with that, that’s where we are, that’s the new kind of style.”
See the interview in its entirety below.

Brace Yourself: Bret Easton Ellis Is On Reddit This Afternoon

It’s a rite of passage for president and poseur alike: an extended AMA (Ask Me Anything) session over on the landfill of pop culture called Reddit, perhaps more commonly known as the place BuzzFeed steals all its crappiest ideas from. Twitter genius Bret Easton Ellis touches down this afternoon at 3 p.m. EST, according to the author himself. Below, some ideas about what to ask him.

First off, don’t make the mistake of trying to engage him on the GLAAD rant in Out magazine yesterday and all that LGBT stuff—this is exactly what he’s expecting! Why else would he schedule the two things this way? Forget Lindsay Lohan and The Canyons, too, that’s just free publicity for him. Ditch everything Gawker would be curious about. Instead you should really try to get under his skin about the one thing Bret never seems to really discuss: his wildly uneven books.
 
Oh, and not even American Psycho. Instead you should ask him to “explain” all the Hamlet allusions in Lunar Park. “I was confused about why the family lives on Elsinore Lane? And shops at Ophelia Mall? Am I missing something?” Ask him why the vampires from The Informers are immune to sunlight! Or ask why Imperial Bedrooms is even called that instead of Less Than Zero 2, which would have been so much cooler. Finally, ask whether it’s a printing error that makes your copy of The Rules of Attraction start and end in mid-sentence. That should really get him going.