Despite the bad reviews, I had looked forward to seeing Paul Schrader’s The Canyons. I feel that Lindsay Lohan is under-rated, and that she is an easy target for the Hollywood press because of her off-screen drug problems. For example, Lohan’s much-derided performance as Liz Taylor in Liz & Dick was pretty good, and the movie itself wasn’t half bad.
The Canyons does feature good acting by Lohan, and her co-star James Deen is convincing as a creepy sociopath. But the main flaw of the film is its script about amoral Hollywood wannabes. Bret Easton Ellis’ story is a nihilistic melodrama, less violent than American Psycho, but just as soulless. The movie could have been more aptly titled Whatever.
The Canyons has acquired notoriety mostly because its director has heralded the movie’s financing and marketing as a new paradigm for independent, low-budget filmmaking.
The Canyons is a movie that prides itself on being cheaply made and going straight to video on demand. In Larry Gross’ excellent filmcomment article, director Paul Schrader says the film cost $ 260 000, including $ 170 000 from Kickstarter.
Schrader is the screenwriter for Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, and also the director of a handful of films. His filmmaking partners include screenwriter Bret Easton Ellis, author of American Psycho, scandal-ridden actress Lindsay Lohan, and porn star James Deen, with cinematography by John DeFazio. Schrader sees this infamous crew of B-listers as fitting the zeitgeist of an America past her prime:
Bret has this post-Empire idea. He believes that American artists are now in their post-Empire period. Like the Brits were in the previous century. So we’re making art out of the remains of our empire. The junk that’s left over. And this idea of a film that was crowd-funded, cast online, with one actor from celebrity culture, one actor from adult-film culture, a writer and director who have gotten beaten up in the past—felt like a post-Empire thing. And then everything I was afraid of with Lindsay and James started to become a positive. I was afraid we wouldn’t be taken seriously and people would think it’s a joke…
Schrader states that the current cinematic challenge is not to make the film, but to get people to see it. And it’s clear that he has succeeded in getting the publicity he needs with this potent mix of 2 cultural icons, a bad girl celebrity and a porn star.
The number-one fact of the new low-budget cinema is that it is no longer impossible to get your film financed, but it is impossible to get anybody to see it. Because there are 10,000 people doing the same thing you’re doing, right now. And which one of those 10,000 films is anybody going to see? Fifteen thousand films get submitted to Sundance, 100 or so get shown, eight get picked up, and two make money. Those are the economics. But Bret and I have some cachet. We were in with four different sub-groups of interested people: people who are interested in me, people who are interested in Bret, people who are interested in Lindsay, and people who are interested in James. Lindsay has four million [Twitter] followers, and James has half a million. Bret has 250,000.
Could this really be the model for post-blockbuster Hollywood?
Paul Schrader interview on Huffpost
NY Times article entitled
This is what happens when you hire Lindsay Lohan
Watch the trailer on YouTube
Paul Shrader went to facebook to complain of “passively” not supporting for publicizing the film, by not showing up for the Venice film festival, interviews and photo shoots.