At the 79th Venice Film Festival, Paul Schrader will be awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement as a recognition for his extraordinary filmmaking ability.
At the basis of his narrational construct, which is the element that brings about original, convincing pieces of cinema, is research and experimentation work. In Paul Schrader’s oeuvre, this work is a form of art in itself. The hero’s journey and the story arc of his character’s evolution – to quote two important essays on playwriting – are deconstructed by Schrader and, at times, turned around in innovative, unpredictable ways thanks to avantgarde wordsmithing. Both in screenplays authored for other directors and in those he directed himself, Schrader keeps true to rigorous form, deeply rooted on tragedian, ancestral components that are to be found deep into our human soul. Sin, guilt, atonement at the end of a journey out of the underworld, physical and psychological self-destruction lead to rebirth – all these elements are inherent to Schrader’s art.
The stories we are told are those of marginalized people that are pushed into a corner by society to later find redemption through an ordeal that wrecks the mind and is a sort of Biblical purification, memories, on the author’s part, of a childhood lived in a strict, oppressing Calvinist environment. With the screenplay for Taxi Driver, inspired by a real story, Schrader enters the New Hollywood trend, earning positive critical response and the audience’s attention. He also earned great success, this time as a director, with American Gigolo (1980), a film only apparently light and commercial, though in fact a mirror of a deeply corrupted society. With Hardcore (1979), an earlier movie, Schrader had already shown his talent as a complete, unique filmmaker. His stylistic touches show up again in Brian De Palma’s Hitchcockesque Obsession of 1976, and in all screenplays written for Martin Scorsese.