Paul Schrader may not sympathize with his characters, but he certainly enjoys their discomfort. Were he to attempt a screwball comedy, it would no doubt result in an invocation of the mordant spiritual crisis of imitation Bresson laced with the nihilism (but not the energy) of a Robert Aldrich film. In “The Canyons”, he presents yet another of his coldly clinical dissections of personal power, sex and isolation, with the only distinctiveness in this opus being with the players and not what is being played. (If the sole point of interest is a case of novelty casting, the film is in serious jeopardy.) That his chosen collaborator in this effort is the peculiarly unsatisfying novelist Bret Easton Ellis suggests a lunatic aggressiveness on Schrader’s part. to challenge himself with a creative partner who is fated to magnify all of his own worst instincts.
At this late stage of the game, Schrader continues to produce films which advocate an excited film school critic mentality dulled by a peculiar arrogance suggesting that the movies are an art form ultimately beneath him. “The Cinema”, however, would be a classist point of differentiation, an intellectual line of distinction that to adequately interpret would require a voluntary slogging through the mire of another of his exhausting and interminable canonical treatises.
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