The Canyons Screen 24 articles

The Canyons


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  • Schrader and Ellis don't have the sense of play this kind of narrative of one-upmanship requires, as we're never allowed to enjoy the characters' misdeeds. The ultimate problem is that Schrader and Ellis's sensibilities merge seamlessly. The filmmaker and the author are both talented... but they have similarly conflicting urges to get off on privileged moral decay while simultaneously scolding the audience for similarly getting off.

  • Who roots for Lindsay Lohan now? And not through the prism of her own bad decisions (and cynical press). She isn’t the best thing about this awful, lounged-out drama—it has no best thing—but in her defense, Lohan has been atrociously directed, allowed to get away with the worst aspects of her vocal-fry laziness, and trotted out like a symbolic objet d’art.

  • In some of the lighting and music cues, you can feel the movie straining to evoke doom and the ominous atmosphere and erotic saturation of David Lynch, who's an obvious point of reference (so, for me, were Henry Jaglom and Alan Rudolph). If Lynch specializes in movie-minded fun houses and sublimated waste, The Canyons is unsalvageable rubbish.

  • Every so often, Mr. Schrader manages to deliver a jolt, an image, a line reading and even a scene — like a narratively decisive down-and-dirty sexual four-way — that fleetingly lifts “The Canyons.” But his struggle is as palpable as his budgetary limitations, both of which are painfully evident in the unproductively dissonant performances and in some of his choices, like the repeated scene-setting images of Christian’s Malibu mansion...

  • it would be impossible for anyone with both a conscience and a wholly functional critical apparatus to find this attention-grabbing film more than marginally interesting, artful, or, least of all, shocking. We can give points, if to nothing else, to the cinematography, which evokes the deadened, shallow, decaying Hollywood we've come to expect from countless other films about that same microcosm.

  • Paul Schrader directs an original screenplay by Bret Easton Ellis about shallow, sadistic Hollywood types. As one might expect of such a collaboration, the results are at once prurient and dour—it's one long wallow in the cesspool passed off as an act of moral indignation.

  • What makes The Canyons more radical yet less intelligent than Spring Breakers or The Bling Ring, which both find formally inventive escape routes out of this indefinite American nightmare, is its commitment to a system that can only convey no meaning—there is no pretending it is absent, it simply doesn’t exist. It’s a movie that’s finally as blank as the stare on Nolan Funk’s face in its closing shot: a 90-minute void built of desperation and manic energy with nowhere good to go.

  • With its self-conscious clichés and arch dialogue... Ellis’ script seems to invite cartoonish over-stylization—an invitation that Schrader’s jagged, jarring direction resists at every opportunity. Sometimes the result is awkward, sometimes it’s striking, and sometimes it’s both, as in the opening scene, an incongruous homage to Yasujirō Ozu... that is interrupted midway through by an unmotivated overhead tracking shot.

  • Playing girlfriend Tara to rich “sick little boy” Christian (chilling, or just chilly, James Deen), Lindsay Lohan effectively alternates glaze and tears—with the odd spark—but the extrafilmic decay of her celebrity does not translate to star power and Marilyn-grade vulnerability.

  • Gratuitous lighting effects aside, the guerrilla shoot seems to have reinvigorated Schrader, and the result is his most stylish picture in years, probably since “Auto Focus.” [Lohan] gives one of those performances, like Marlon Brando’s in “Last Tango in Paris,” that comes across as some uncanny conflagration of drama and autobiography.

  • A movie can be highly imperfect, stilted, or implausible in all sorts of ways—and still be everything you go to the movies for. The Canyons, Paul Schrader's contemplation of moral decay in Hollywood, is that kind of picture, in some places so crazy-silly you want to laugh and in others so piercing you can't turn away.

  • Schrader has made it clear that she was a major pain in the ass to work with, often showing up late or not showing up at all... But he also said he’d work with Lohan again in a heartbeat, and that she still has a long career ahead of her if she can shake her reputation. Anyway, he added, a director can shoot around bad behavior, but not around a lack of charisma – and whether you view what she does in this movie as great acting or a public meltdown, it’s riveting.

  • At times the film achieves a quasi-Antonionism—and Schrader’s direction is tight and focused—but the end game is as unfulfilling as the beginning. But that’s the point. It would be tragic if it weren’t all so pathetic.

  • The Canyons is often a blunt and flaccid neo-thriller that wants to look and sound like a David Lynch film. But its juxtaposition of lifeless Hollywood scumbags with the rotting spaces puts an interesting spin on the way forms of exhibition (be it public or private) are changing in the age of YouTube, Netflix and iPhones. The intimacy once found in the classic theatrical viewing experience is now gone, replaced with something altogether emotionless, open and artificial.

  • Haven’t seen this mentioned anywhere, but the device of one naïve couple being influenced and eventually undone by the spreading rot of another / all the denial of history stuff makes this seem like an American version of Garrel’s Une été brûlant.

  • The restricted style and no-frills image, however, provide what may be the first truly great visualization of Bret Easton Ellis’ writing, a reflection of wealth and comfort not as his strung-out and/or sadistic rich kids see it but as a nebulous realm of subjectivity between a passive observer and the biased inhabitants of Ellis’ worlds. L.A. takes on the trappings of Twin Peaks, a broken mirror that reflects the warped, inviting image of the town and its grotesque, true self.

  • Ellis is interested in a "post Empire" world, as he says about 35 times a month on Twitter; the dialogue here is as tiresomely repetitive as his feed, and similarly fails to gain resonance or nuance from redundant overstatement. Schrader's been heavily pushing the idea of a "post-theatrical" film non-culture. Combined, their powers make for a movie that seems to actively insult the viewers/readers they don't have.

  • A stupid movie about stupid people, but one whose various contributing artists... clash in a spectacularly fascinating way. The pacing is slow, but it slowly lures you in, as if beckoning with a coke-dusted finger. Post-theatrical, post-modern, post-movie phantasmagoria of hacks aspiring to live more deliciously. Husks all, entitled and idiotic, so narcissistic even their sex feels cold, an erotic film that turns you off.

  • The Canyons is a... twisted film about sex, career, money, and power in contemporary Hollywood. But the story, while edgy and intricate with deceit and betrayal, is a means to another end. Paul Schrader’s new movie paints a convincing picture of this cultural moment, a post-economic-crash digital age in which anyone driving a fancy car and flashing a credit card may or may not be an “indie” film producer, and sexual and professional commitments are as fragile and ephemeral as sea breezes.

  • The script is by Bret Easton Ellis, whose sensibility meshes well with Schrader’s. In Ellis’s worldview, Hollywood amplifies the hedonistic desires that drive the kinds of people who head there. Schrader adds the idée fixe—the sense that the absolute inner imperative of Hollywood isn’t desire itself but the imposition of one’s will, and that this obsession is, rather, the obsession of obsessions.

  • “Transparency” is just another word for reflection, a narcissist’s hall of mirrors. A culture of “reconnecting” and “keeping in touch” becomes a surveillance culture where, when being happy ceases to seem like an attainable goal, we settle for reassuring ourselves that no one else is any happier. It’s true the movie is cold; true it’s populated with self-serving dolts. So why, here [in the finale scene], is it suddenly so heartbreaking?

  • Reminds me that many of the movies I love (and I suppose you could call most of these imperfect) result from a palpable tension—a clash of perspectives that you can sense throughout because of the frayed and frazzled balance they're trying to maintain... James Deen redoing Richard Gere's strut in American Gigolo is sheer perfection (a copy of a copy of a copy, Ellis by way of Schrader by way of Bresson).

  • But I think that there’s something significant here beyond new ways to make and watch movies, and that is The Canyons’ highlighting of the anti-spectacular as a model for what capitalism in America feels like right now. In fact, I’d argue that The Canyons is an important movie because it identifies how desperately many of us still want to believe that the larger-than-life, commodified good life is still available to us...

  • Possessing the same sly satirical bite as Paul Verhoeven’sShowgirls, Schrader’s film is all the more effective for it being so closely tethered to real life... The film is an unabashed love poem to Lohan. Her performance is mesmerising, like a glitterball hanging in an abattoir.

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