• It’s indeed Schrader’s best film since Affliction in 1997 and his first archiveable films since Auto Focus in 2002. It may be better than Affliction but I’m not ready to commit to that after one viewing
  • Schrader’s body of work certainly puts forth a strong argument that he is the backbone of the artistic vision (or rather narrative idea/story) behind Taxi Driver. First Reformed shares much with Light Sleeper, American Gigolo and Scorsese’s 1976 (written by Schrader of course) masterpiece—the narrative centers on a loner struggling to find meaning/purpose who slowly spirals out of control. There are repeated scenes and scenarios including the gorgeous pepto bismal dissolving in whiskey (First Reformed) vs. De Niro’s Travis Bickle watching the effervescent tablet in a glass of water. Gorgeous shot here- one of my favorites in the film
  • Along with Taxi Driver the film owes much to prior masterpieces from some of our greatest auteurs. Much of the narrative is taken from Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest from 1951 (writing in journal with voice over, priest of course, cancer)—Bresson would also use many of these same stylistic touches in Pickpocket (1959- the superior film)—journal entries, slowing losing control… the shots of Hawke in the empty church with only a handful of people listening to his sermon, on the pulpit is from Winter Light Bergman’s 1963 masterpiece. The entire husband who thinks the world is ending section is from Winter Light (in that film it’s Von Sydow who is so worried about nuclear disaster that he commits suicide). The homely looking girlfriend (or ex) with glasses (looks exactly like the girl in Bergman’s film) who the priest (in this case Hawke) verbally destroys is from Winter Light
  • the levitation is from Tarkovsky (Mirror, Solaris among others)
  • Schrader is 71 years old
  • 1:37 box aspect ratio—I think this both a nod to Bresson and Schrader’s way of saying this is a monocular story- one person is the focus- he also uses voice over narration to align ourselves with Hawke (you can’t help but not be aligned a little with voice over) which of course becomes discomforting as we move along (and he spirals out of control and loses sanity)
  • Austere- stark mise-en-scene (Dreyer—Ordet) and colors—greys, navy, white, black—vibrant primary colors would look out of place in the film
  • No score until the end—much like Pickpocket– Schrader believes you must break the monotone-like transcendental style set in place and established
  • I don’t agree but more than once a critic on RT called it Hawke’s best work and a masterpiece—Hawke is very good here
  • It’s Schrader’s first film that so closely follows his transcendental style (1972 book he wrote on Ozu, Bresson and Dreyer)—the style talks about the viewer almost being lulled to sleep and having to “lean in” as Schrader says—it demands from its audience—as Schrader says you have to eventually break the rules (the swelling music in Pickpocket, the miracle in Ordet, the levitation in Tarkovsky).
  • The story’s formal structure is strong- repetition of the journal writing, drinking, the loneliness- the kept and organized nature of the manicured lawns, rows of pews and clothing
  • Love the intelligent theological sparring—two scenes that are diametrically opposed stick out—we have the first argument with Amanda Seyfried’s (Mary—on purpose I’m sure) husband and Hawke— Hawke has a similar argument later with Cedric the Entertainer but he’s flipped- he’s taken on the other side of the argument now
  • The opening shot is a slow tracking shot in on the church and the final shot is a wild 360 shot of Hawke and Seyfried making out—it’s a stretch but I believe the slow pensive opening tracking shot is the show the form, the austerity and quiet of loneliness, God— and the final wild shot is to contrast and show the uncontrollability and allure of sin—and to poke that transcendental style rhythm
  • Recommend- in the archives but I can’t slide it into my top 10 of 2017—perhaps with