Neglected Virtues: Light Sleeper (1992)
Publication date: 01/12/2017
Although he is frequently cited as one of the most distinctive of American auteurs few of Paul Schrader’s films have reached beyond the so-called art-house circuits. Perhaps only American Gigolo and Cat People have had any real box-office impact upon the movie-going public. However, Schrader’s presence is certainly felt in his screenwriting tasks for others. Before becoming a director, Schrader was an established film critic and screenwriter. His screenplays for Martin Scorsese in particular made him one of the more prominent of cinema dramatists in the late 1970s. The pinnacle of Schrader’s screenplays arguably remains also one of Scorsese’s most distinctive films – Taxi Driver. A masterpiece of insomnia, longing, addiction and contemporary urban alienation, Taxi Driver would prove to be not only one of the enduring classics of the 1970s but the first of a trilogy for Schrader, all concentrating on sad men focused on dangerous or even self-destructive women. Schrader would direct the second two films of this trilogy himself, firstly in 1980 with the sleek and stylish American Gigolo and then a decade later with Light Sleeper. There was a progression in Schrader’s alienated protagonists, from the psychotic despair of Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver to the vain, narcissistic egotist Richard Gere in American Gigolo to the mellower and even hopeful Willem Dafoe in the nocturnal melancholia of Light Sleeper.
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