Greetings Cinema friends,
In the late-1960s, following the demise of the Hollywood studio system, a new generation of scrappy, young, and mostly bearded filmmakers emerged from the fledgling film programs at UCLA and NYU. Francis Coppola, George Lucas, Brian DePalma, John Milius, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese: cultural critics Lynda Myles and Michael Pye deemed them The Movie Brats. Hot on the heels of humble shorts and features, they were practically handed the keys to the castle, cheered on by an equally influential new generation of critics like Roger Ebert and Pauline Kael. In the shadow of all of this, a writer named Paul Schrader started on a life-long project: the Man in a Room stories.
Beginning with the screenplay for Taxi Driver, Schrader has spent the last forty-five years wrestling with masculinity, the roots and results of societal failures, and the existential guilt that surrounds all of it. Schrader makes clear in his body of work that to be human is to be guilty as hell, and many of the men that occupy his Man in a Room stories are compelled to seek some kind of extreme redemption by a higher calling — whether it be philosophic, religious, or transcendental — and all of these quests and compulsions become deliberately or subconsciously self-destructive. These themes are bleak, for sure, but it’s hard to argue that we haven’t been living in bleak times.
Hailed upon its Venice premiere this past week, this Friday we open Schrader’s newest treatise, The Card Counter. As 2017’s First Reformed is steeped in the essential guilt of climate crisis, this film, timely as ever, is haunted by the ghosts of America’s ill-conceived War on Terror.
Now, excuse the jarring about-face here, but I can’t ignore a cheeky segue: this weekend sees another timely reminder of twenty years of American imperialism: 2001’s Josie and the Pussycats screens outdoors at Logboat this Sunday evening. This box office bomb has steadily built its cult credentials over these two decades, and to see it with fresh eyes is to see just how much our world has changed. Crafted before September 11th, Homeland Security, the NSA, social media, smart phones, streaming, and the Great Recession, the demons exorcised in this flick feel blissfully innocent, declaring above all else: DON’T SELL OUT! Following the pop punk heroines at the center of this tale of earnest teenage rebellion against corporate brainwashing might just be exactly what we all need right now.
The Card Counter screens alongside shows of Cryptozoo and the inventive and philosophic Sundance stand-out, Edson Oda’s Nine Days.Josie and the Pussycats screens one-night-only, Sunday, September 12 at 7:45pm at Logboat.