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But whereas Tara is capable of revealing those emotions when she must, Deen’s character, Christian, lacks any sort of humanity and depth of feeling. If Sean Bateman in Ellis’ The Rules of Attraction was Patrick Bateman of American Psycho’s younger brother, then Christian is their neglected and spoiled stepbrother, filled with daddy issues, seething with jealousy, and the obsessed with control. “I would have never believed it if you told me I would be casting an adult star,” said Schrader. “I told Bret it wasn’t going to happen. This guy’s done 2,000 films and has played a lot of pizza boys and a lot of pool boys—you can’t get that out of an actor.” But strangely enough, Ellis’ desire to cast Deen was right on the mark, his chilly yet pouty face, appearing on screen like a character in the writer’s wet dreams. “At some point I just embraced the oddness of it all,” Schrader went on to say. “The unlikely pairing of someone from the celebrity culture and someone from the adult film world seemed very, very cool and like a good idea. And like I said to people at the time, if you can’t take a chance with your own money, when can you take a chance?”
As a student in the spring of 2011, I attended a film critic’s panel at The New School. There was a reception afterwards filled with professors and stern-looking faces I didn’t recognize and was far too shy to approach. But after finishing my third glass of wine and grabbing my sweater, I saw a someone walk out the door whom I immediately recognized but never thought I’d see wandering the halls of Eugene Lang College. It was Paul Schrader. Having admired his films for most of my adult life, my stomach dropped and I chased him to the elevator. I tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Hi!” in what I can only assume was the voice of a small child escaping my body. He turned around, looked up from his phone and said, “Are you on Facebook?” “Um, yes,” I replied. “Like my Facebook page!” he said. “I’m making a movie a movie with Bret Easton Ellis. Look, here. It’s called The Canyons. We’re making it ourselves and casting only unknowns. We’re having auditions in Los Angeles this summer.” Fast forward two years. It’s the summer of 2013 and I’m in the audience sitting behind Dina Lohan at Lincoln Center while Paul Schrader sits onstage with Kent Jones praising the performance of his leading actress—Lindsay Lohan. To quote one of Ellis’ novels, “I always knew it was gonna be like this.”
Heading Deep Into ‘The Canyons’ With Director Paul Schrader
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.
A Brief Look Back on Paul Schrader and the Man Who Overturned His World, Charles Eames
The First Taste of ‘The Canyons’ Has Arrived, So Let’s Look at the Best of Paul Schrader in Trailers
Paul Schrader Talks Xavier Dolan’s Influence on ‘The Canyons’
The Canyons has “an ugliness and deadness to it.”
SXSW Rejects ‘The Canyons’ Over “Quality Issues”
"To paraphrase Schrader, if you put Penn and Antonioni in bed together, put a gun to their heads and told them to fuck while Bresson watched through the keyhole, you got Taxi Driver.” Fair enough.
Cinematic Panic: Looking Back on the Tortured Minds Behind ‘Taxi Driver’
The clip feels more like the set up to a weird porno that would make you sick to your stomach and in need of a hot shower and/or tetanus shot just from watching, rather than just a melodramatic soap opera of sorts—which was what I had expected.
Watch the Rough First Clip from Paul Schrader’s ‘The Canyons’