Archive for the ‘Paul Schrader’ Category

Conspicuous Display

Master Gardener

Director: Paul Schrader

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Joel Edgerton, Quintessa Swindell, Esai Morales

Running time: 1 hour 51 minutes

Film Rating: 8 out of 10

Patty Hearst, Autofocus and Card Counter auteur director Paul Schrader returns with a fascinating multigenerational character study in his new film Master Gardener starring the alluring three time Oscar nominee Sigourney Weaver (Aliens, Gorillas in the Mist and Working Girl) as a prickly and difficult yet wealthy heiress Norma Haverhill who owns a beautiful estate called Gracewood Gardens.

In this lavish estate with an extensive formal garden in the French style is a meticulous horticulturalist Narvel Roth with a murky and dangerous past, whose previous life as a white supremacist is tattooed all over his chiselled body. Brilliantly played by Australian actor Joel Edgerton (Animal Kingdom, The Great Gatsby), Narvel is escaping his terrible past and trying to redeem himself as a horticulturalist while remaining discreet as a criminal informant who spied on his own gang and got police protection under a new identity.

Narvel Roth is tasked by the demanding and vicious Norma Haverhill to look after and employ her grand-niece, Mia a young directionless girl played by Quintessa Swindell (Black Adam, Granada Nights) who enters the privileged world of her great aunt, Norma who holds court in a beautiful mansion complete with a maid and butler.

As Mia interrupts the arrangement between Narvel and Miss Haverhill, relationships unravel and the beautifully kept gardens are subjected to disruptive elements which threaten the tranquillity of Gracewood Gardens.

Scripted by Paul Schrader and using the garden as a motif for growth and rejuvenation, Master Gardener is a seductive film about the complex issues of race relations in the United States. Schrader skilfully directs the narrative weaving in contemporary themes like racism, addiction, class and succession, but what really holds Master Gardener together are three superb performances by three actors from very different generations: Sigourney Weaver, Joel Edgerton and Quintessa Swindell, all of whom are mesmerizing.

Premiering at the 2022 Venice International Film Festival, Master Gardener is a stylish thriller with complex character actions in which each one of them are tempted by sex and violence, two of Schrader’s favourite topics.

Schrader has always been fascinated by the murkier sides of human relationships, the illicit deceptions and the brimming rage within each character that he creates. After all, this is a screenwriter that wrote the iconic film Taxi Driver starring Robert de Niro and Jodie Foster.

If audiences are a fan of Paul Schrader’s films and love a good film noir thriller, then watch Master Gardener, which gets a film rating of 8 out of 10.

An intriguing story directed by an auteur at the peak of his creative powers investing all the characters with crisp and challenging dialogue.

Trust Fund Psycho

The Canyons


Director: Paul Schrader

Cast: Lindsay Lohan, James Deen, Nolan Funk, Gus van Sant, Amanda Brooks, Tenille Houston

American Gigolo and Autofocus director Paul Schrader teams up with American Psycho writer Brett Easton Ellis in this Fringe psycho sexual thriller The Canyons starring Mean Girls star Lindsay Lohan, who surprisingly holds her own in a film about movies, manipulation and malevolence.

The Canyons is not Paul Schrader’s best work but nor is it meant to be. It’s a rather low budget fringe film about a group of aspiring actors and producers in the less glamourized side of Los Angeles.

Porn star turned film actor James Deen turns in a suitably impressive performance as Trust Fund film producer and sexually ambivalent Christian who is dating Tara. Both of whom live in an isolated house in the Canyons on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Tara is secretly having an affair with an aspiring actor Ryan played by Nolan Funk who is willing to go to any lengths to get a role especially with the mostly gay producers he is hired by.

It’s a sexy and dangerous menage-a-trois revolving Christian who has some serious daddy issues (he is forced to go and see a psychologist played by Drugstore Cowboy director, Gus Van Sant); Tara, the sunbathing ubiquitous Lindsay Lohan and Ryan who is hot property on the casting couch. Ryan is desperate to break into the low budget film world and due to financial constraints is easily manipulated by the wealthy and sociopathic Christian.


The fact that Tara and Christian are swingers also adds to some exceptionally explicit sex scenes with themselves and several anonymous strangers giving Schrader a chance to objectify the male body onscreen as opposed to the usual Hollywood norm of objectifying the female form. Schrader has done this before in American Gigolo in what was to become Richard Gere’s breakout role especially his infamous full frontal nude scene with the glamourous socialite played by Lauren Hutton.

Unfortunately the script by Easton Ellis is not as witty or incisive as his hit novel American Psycho about corporate greed in the late 1980’s in Manhattan.


The Canyons suffers from a lazy narrative populated by some lacklustre characters who all seem to be chasing after the elusive dream of Hollywood fame. Paul Schrader’s direction starts off promising with some opening shots of abandoned movie theatres in the more seedier parts of Los Angeles, signifying the death of cinema but soon loses momentum much like the narrative which is punctuated with gratuitous nudity and one especially violent murder.

The acting leaves much to be desired with possibly Lohan and Deen doing their best while Canadian actor  and Versace model Nolan Funk needs loads of thespian encouragement. Amanda Brooks and Tenille Houston also star as the other sex sirens.

The Canyons is a C grade sexual thriller which could have been so much more impressive had Schrader taken the film up to the level of his brilliant Washington social comedy The Walker. Recommended for those that like Lindsay Lohan, full frontal nudity and a deglamourized view of the City of Angels.



Naturally it’s Your Name that Counts

The Walker

Everyone loves a Scandal

Everyone loves a Scandal

Paul Schrader’s tale of scandal and sexual intrigue…

The Walker is stylish and superbly written film by Paul Schrader, director of such disturbingly transgressive movies as The Comfort of Strangers and AutoFocus. Like his other films, Schrader’s classic murder mystery focuses on eccentric characters embroiled with dubious sexuality and moral deviancy set in modern day Washington DC. Woody Harrelson takes the role of Southerner Carter Page III, an effeminate companion to the wives of senators and power-hungry politicians escorting them to elegant social occasions in the American Capital’s array of Embassy receptions and Gala Operas.

Vain, witty and immaculately dressed in cufflinks and double breasted suits, Carter Page is a throwback from a more genteel age, playing canasta at a discreet hotel every Wednesday with his close circle of lady friends, played with great luminosity by such talented actresses as the wry Lily Tomlin, the husky-voiced Lauren Bacall and the delicately elusive Kristin Scott Thomas.

When one of these friends is seemingly involved in a murder, scandal is imminent and Carter decides to play devil’s advocate trying to protect his friend, Lynn Lockner, a senator’s wife (Scott Thomas), while attempting to maintain his own social standing in this precariously powerful society, where politicians are out for blood and scandals follow indiscretions and whispering campaigns could ruin reputations.

What Schrader as director and writer of this insightful film does so brilliantly is to create a contrast between the world of Washington’s high society and the more secretive one of the capital’s homosexual community, where relationships are fragile and even under threat. Harrelson is excellent at playing the complex Carter Page, a socialite born and bred of Virginian stock and what is known as a Walker (or companion) of these wealthy ladies, whose husbands are busy with the cut-throat world of American politics, while also trying to maintain a secret relationship with his foreign lover, a news journalist and photographer who’s only dream is to live in a more openly accepted environment like New York’s Soho. With plush interiors of elegant hotels and salons juxtaposed against the harsh bureaucracy of police stations and dim back alley bars, Schrader creates a sense in The Walker that behind the façade of polite society there lurks alternative underworlds of devious deceptions and sinister encounters, especially true in the slippery and dangerous intersecting worlds of politics and sexual encounters.

Besides creating these contrasting settings, the characters in the film ooze wit and sophistication, not to mention an exaggerated opinion of themselves, while also displaying the hypocrisy, greed and ambition which many of the rich and famous for prey to. Schrader also leaves countless clues to the points of reference by which he would like the viewer to see his film, from exquisite art works, to works by Dominick Dunne, the New York social commentator and Truman Capote as well as sharp references to America’s current involvement in Iraq, as the camera picks up on random Television images underlined by the photography that Carter Page’s lover does, photographs of naked men masked and chained up, reminiscent of those tortured Iraqi prisoners held in American foreign custody, which came to the media’s attention recently.

The Walker is an intelligent and witty film, a measured social commentary on the centers of political power, and the people that control a nations destiny, while sacrificing their own. I would recommend it as essential viewing to anyone who appreciates stylish filmmaking and has a sophisticated sense of how intricately woven aspects of politics, sexuality and wealth are to making up a society as powerful and dominant as the USA.

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