Paul Schrader will be back in movie theaters May 18 with First Reformed, a new one starring Ethan Hawke as a conflicted upstate priest who’s “cut from the same holy cloth as Yukio Mishima or Travis Bickle,” in the words of one review. But let’s face it, it’s Bickle, the mohawked madman from Taxi Driver, that will likely remain Schrader’s most enduring character. Starting May 4, Lower East Side arthouse Metrograph will screen four Schrader films that explore what the director calls the “man in a room” premise, in which a man faces his inner demons and asks the tough questions. Like: “You talkin’ to me?” Schrader himself will be on hand for a Q&A following the screening of Taxi Driver on May 5, and tickets are now on sale. If you go, ask him about filming in the East Village, on a block that, back in 1975, had “developed somewhat of a notorious reputation for seediness and crime.”
Here’s the rest of the “Paul Schrader x 4″ program, direct from Metrograph.
Light Sleeper (1992/103 mins/35mm)
Willem Dafoe, understated and unbelievably gentle, plays John LeTour, a recovering drug addict who still deals to a high-end New York clientele maintained by boss Susan Sarandon, who’s looking to move on from the business. LeTour’s professional crisis and midlife muddle become something much more acute—and dangerous—when he re-encounters an old flame from his user days. Marvelously melancholic, with a mighty, rolling suite of songs by The Call’s Michael Been.
Friday, May 4 – 7:00pm – Followed by Q&A with Paul Schrader
Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese/1976/113 mins/DCP)
“Suck on this!” A pure distillation of needling isolation, inadequacy, and anguish, all roiling in the tortured gut of Robert De Niro’s insomniac cabbie Travis Bickle, who cruises all night through a stygian, steam-choked Manhattan, nursing his fears and hatreds. A defining picture of New York City in 1976, and a movie that is wrenched straight from the unquiet psyche of its screenwriter, exorcising his personal demons.
Saturday, May 5 – 6:30pm – Followed by Q&A with Paul Schrader
The Walker (2007/108 mins/35mm)
A droll, wry, and altogether perfect Woody Harrelson plays Carter Page III, a pure, corrupt creature of the Beltway whose impeccable manners make him an ideal paid companion to Washington D.C. socialites, the fact that he’s gay notwithstanding. Everybody loves Carter—until, that is, he runs afoul of a murder, and finds himself suddenly on the outside of the high-society clique that he has so long cultivated.
Saturday, May 5 – 9:30pm – Introduced by Paul Schrader
American Gigolo (1980/117 mins/35mm)
Richard Gere, Lauren Hutton, Blondie, Giorgios Armani and Moroder, “visual consultant” Ferdinando Scarfiotti: this is the movie where Schrader found a new alchemy of style and soul, fusing Italian design and west coast cool, queer aesthetics and religious art from the 12th century to Robert Bresson. Quite simply one of the most visually influential films of the 80s… though imitators often forget the humanity at its core, and its keen sense for the agony of aloof detachment.
Sunday, May 6 – 6:30pm