What has made Paul Schrader one of the rare writer/directors to keep finding success?
It's hard to write one amazing screenplay. It's harder to get it made. It's even harder to ever write another, and get that made... and start to direct... and continue to get projects made.
Schrader has done all of that, sticking close always to the types of characters and human drama that interests him. Nothing bombastic. No preexisting IP. No sell-outs. No Taxi Driver first-person-shooter video games.
How has he done it and thrived?
He burst onto the scene with Taxi Driver, delivering an iconic character in Travis Bickle that would also launch the careers of cinema legends Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. The three would connect again for another iconic film and character with Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull.
These are the kinds of movies that have inspired filmmakers for generations now. The idea of getting deep under the skin of conflicted and deeply human characters, ones who both seem evil and heroic at the same time... ones we can relate to but in some of the darkest corners of our own being. This was more or less revolutionary on-screen.
While De Niro and Scorsese have gone on together and apart to investigate other genres, stories, and characters, Schrader has stayed close to this particular niche he started carving out with Bickle so long ago.
He calls it a more literary tradition. It's unique both in movie history, but in a writer/director's career to return to the same type of protagonist but in a different setting, time, and profession. Long before the word "incel" was uttered, Schrader was on to it. He saw something happening to masculinity post-Vietnam. He saw something twisted impacting individuals racked with self-hate and guilt, looking at a society they didn't understand and they felt didn't want them.
While so many others try to imitate him, only he has been able to push these ideas forward with the times. It's fascinating to hear him explain how.
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