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Peter T Chattaway

First Reformed

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Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried to Star in Drama 'First Reformed'
Ethan Hawke and Amanda Seyfried will star in Paul Schrader's next film, First Reformed.
The Arclight Films and Killer Films project follows an ex-military chaplain (Hawke) who is tortured by the loss of a son he encouraged to enlist in the armed forces. He is further challenged after befriending a young parishioner (Seyfried), and her radical environmentalist husband. He soon discovers hidden secrets of his church's complicity with unscrupulous corporations. . . .
"First Reformed is a script I've been moving toward for almost fifty years. Ethan Hawke’s image appeared to me while I was writing and he responded days after reading the script,” said Schrader. “Now we are delighted to be able to add Amanda Seyfried. These are unique performers with a special charisma.” . . .
The Hollywood Reporter, September 9

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I went in expecting to be disappointed because Schrader always disappoints, but I thought this was pretty great. 
Yeah, it does wear its references on its sleeve like a badge of honor, but if you are going to copy, you might as well copy from the best. 

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Rob Z   
On 9/15/2017 at 9:35 PM, kenmorefield said:

I went in expecting to be disappointed because Schrader always disappoints, but I thought this was pretty great. 
Yeah, it does wear its references on its sleeve like a badge of honor, but if you are going to copy, you might as well copy from the best. 

I'm intrigued! Might I ask what you consider, in this case, to be "the best"?

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10 hours ago, Rob Z said:

I'm intrigued! Might I ask what you consider, in this case, to be "the best"?

Per Schrader's own book and video lecture: Bresson, Ozu, and Dreyer. Film very clearly references Tarkovsky (and through him Bergman), though to say which film would verge on spoiler territory. I've argued elsewhere that Schrader's definitions of Transcendental Cinema are much more about Bresson than Ozu or Dreyer in Schrader's mind, and the end here should be anticipated somewhat by anyone who knows how much he loves Pickpocket (and why), though the most obvious comparisons are Diary of a Country Priest (might even be shots that are referential) and The Devil, Probably (particularly in the environmental montage). 

Edited by kenmorefield
grammar

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Darren H   

MAJOR SPOILERS (because I want to talk about this with Ken) . . .

.

.

.

I have a completely different reading of the end. If you think it's anticipated by Pickpocket, then I assume you think the last image is really happening? I'm 100% sure he has committed suicide and the final moments are him "standing on holy ground." In which case the main point of reference isn't Pickpocket but Through a Glass Darkly, when the father tells his son:

Quote

I can only give you an indication of my own hope. It’s knowing that love exists for real in the human world. . . . The highest and lowest, the most ridiculous and the most sublime. All kinds. . . . I don’t know whether love is proof of God’s existence, or if love is God. . . . Suddenly the emptiness turns into abundance, and hopelessness into life. It’s like a reprieve, Minus, from a sentence of death.

 

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3 hours ago, Darren H said:



MAJOR SPOILERS (because I want to talk about this with Ken) . . .

.

.

.

I have a completely different reading of the end. If you think it's anticipated by Pickpocket, then I assume you think the last image is really happening? I'm 100% sure he has committed suicide and the final moments are him "standing on holy ground." In which case the main point of reference isn't Pickpocket but Through a Glass Darkly, when the father tells his son:

 

 

It would be impossible to watch Last Temptation and not consider the possibility that some part(s) of the ending here are imagined, but I can't say it really matters to me all that much.

 

P.S. I know D understands this, but my response to Rob was not meant to be exhaustive.

 

 

 

Edited by kenmorefield

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Rob Z   
On 9/18/2017 at 8:37 AM, kenmorefield said:

Per Schrader's own book and video lecture: Bresson, Ozu, and Dreyer. Film very clearly references Tarkovsky (and through him Bergman), though to say which film would verge on spoiler territory.

After reading a few descriptions of the premise, Winter Light came to mind, and if you're mentioning Tarkovsky with Bergman, my mind goes to The Sacrifice. They end pretty differently though, from each other and Pickpocket...  All wonderful films though, so I can't wait to see this one!

Thanks for avoiding spoilers and/or clearly marking them. I hate reviews, including one I just read of this film, that seem to assume it's fair game to reveal what seem to me to be major spoilers even if they don't happen toward the end. I don't mind hints and suggestive allusions, but not why start revealing plot points and character developments?

 

On 9/18/2017 at 8:37 AM, kenmorefield said:

I've argued elsewhere that Schrader's definitions of Transcendental Cinema are much more about Bresson than Ozu or Dreyer in Schrader's mind,

This makes sense, now that you say it. I once argued some sort of similar (the only time I've presented on film at an academic conference; literature is my domain), that Schrader's Transcendental Style misreads Dreyer's transcendental style, which is more of an integration of transcendental and immanent. My larger argument was that Schrader's book can be considered an early example of "post-secular" scholarship, which is still pretty "secular."

 

On 9/15/2017 at 9:35 PM, kenmorefield said:

I went in expecting to be disappointed because Schrader always disappoints, but I thought this was pretty great.

Hardcore is the only Schrader film I've seen, and I thought it was an interesting and even important take on the Midwestern Dutch Reformed world that is very much my background, even if it was rather unfortunately on the nose. (Schrader was at Calvin College at the same time my parents were attending, for instance...I also went there.) It seems like this film foregrounds spiritual elements in a way that one didn't while still including a critique of religious institutions/norms. If the film's examination of environmentalism and corporate irresponsibility is anything like Hardcore's look at pornography and prostitution, I'll be pleased. But I'm just speculating now... I'm looking forward to coming back and seeing how others have already interpreted it.

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On 9/20/2017 at 2:22 AM, Rob Z said:

Hardcore is the only Schrader film I've seen, and I thought it was an interesting and even important take on the Midwestern Dutch Reformed world that is very much my background, even if it was rather unfortunately on the nose. (Schrader was at Calvin College at the same time my parents were attending, for instance...I also went there.) It seems like this film foregrounds spiritual elements in a way that one didn't while still including a critique of religious institutions/norms. If the film's examination of environmentalism and corporate irresponsibility is anything like Hardcore's look at pornography and prostitution, I'll be pleased. But I'm just speculating now... I'm looking forward to coming back and seeing how others have already interpreted it.

 

It's been years since I've watched Hardcore and one feels arrogant making pronouncements about people (rather than films), but I recall thinking (and suppose I still think) that it reflected the stunted emotional development of someone coming out of a strict fundamentalist community. Granted Schrader was 33 when the film came out, but if he really didn't watch films until he was 18...it just feels like he's working through some of his issues regarding sex and sexuality. When I taught at a fundamentalist Bible college, I really felt like a saw a pattern of more sheltered young adults being overwhelmed by certain topics (especially sexuality) because they were less experienced in thinking about them, more reflexively afraid of them. I think Hardcore (and even Taxi Driver) have some overwrought qualities, perhaps even intentional, of characters isolated from sex being overwhelmed by their own feelings. (Wasn't Taxi Driver the one where Travis obliviously takes his date to a porno movie?) George C. Scott's character is a dad, but like Travis, his conflict is really a projection of a more adolescent one (fascination/fear/push/pull) with the I-have-to-save-my-daughter being more or less a maguffin (imo) to explain why he is forced to expose himself to that which he fears.

Again, this is arrogant, I know, but the big surprise for me in First Reformed was not the development of skill as a filmmaker or writer, that's been there, but the deeper reflections on (what are for me) bigger questions of faith. 

Edited by kenmorefield

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Darren H   
Quote

the big surprise for me in First Reformed was not the development of skill as a filmmaker or writer, that's been there, but the deeper reflections on (what are for me) bigger questions of faith. 

Agreed. The long conversation near the beginning of the film was the best thing I saw at TIFF. Part of the fun was imagining Schrader alone at a computer, arguing both sides of the debate.

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Anders   
15 hours ago, Darren H said:

Agreed. The long conversation near the beginning of the film was the best thing I saw at TIFF. Part of the fun was imagining Schrader alone at a computer, arguing both sides of the debate.

Yeah, those scenes between Michael and Toller are great and hit hard.

I wrote up some of my thoughts on the film here. http://3brothersfilm.com/2017/09/tiff17-first-reformed/

 

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On 9/22/2017 at 8:32 AM, Anders said:

Yeah, those scenes between Michael and Toller are great and hit hard.

I wrote up some of my thoughts on the film here. http://3brothersfilm.com/2017/09/tiff17-first-reformed/

 

Good stuff.

My review is finally live at CT Movies & TV

Quote

So when I say First Reformed is the Schrader film I had stopped waiting for, stopped even hoping for, it’s not just pull-quote baiting. For anyone who longs for stylistically informed, spiritually serious films for and about religious people, First Reformed is a forgotten wish finally come true.

 

 

 

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