Paul Schrader once said that the script for Taxi Driver sprang from him “like an animal,” but the phrase might be an apt encapsulation of the 66-year-old writer-director-critic’s entire career.
Schrader, who’ll be at Toronto’s Royal Cinema on Sunday night to introduce a screening of Martin Scorsese’s electrifying 1975 urban psycho noir, has let the beast loose in just about everything he’s done.
Raised in the strict Calvinist Christian Reform Church, Schrader didn’t see a movie until he was 17, but the subsequent fixation led him to the UCLA film school with the recommendation of mentor Pauline Kael, and eventually to the authorship of a key volume of movie criticism: Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer.
Schrader has always cited his own sense of being a Hollywood outsider – which, given his ongoing struggles to get movies made and released, he remains – as one of the key influences on his enduring cinema of alienation: Taxi Driver, Rolling Thunder, Hardcore, Raging Bull, American Gigolo, Cat People, Mishima, The Last Temptation of Christ, Patty Hearst, Affliction.
That’s quite a list. Clearly the animal in Schrader never stopped springing.