First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

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solaris72
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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#26 Post by solaris72 » Thu Jun 14, 2018 1:12 pm

Did the film Diary of a Country Priest use the 'ripped out pages' device? The novel definitely did.

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mfunk9786
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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#27 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Jun 14, 2018 1:27 pm

wattsup32 wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 12:47 pm
mfunk9786 wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 11:36 pm
SpoilerShow
And if you're keeping score at home - LQ saw the ending as entirely imagined, a death rattle - and perhaps because I needed it right at this moment, it never even crossed my mind that it was anything but real. Not sure what that says about anything, except that this is one of those films that demands that level of high level discussion and engagement, even on the drive home. It simply must be reckoned with.
I read it similarly to LQ. In fact, I wonder if we don't have to read everything after:
SpoilerShow
Toller rips out the two pages from his journal as not real or at least highly unreliable as "true" from anyone else's perspective.
To clarify what I meant by "the ending,"
SpoilerShow
Our debate was over whether Toller drank the drain cleaner or not, and whether Mary entered his home or if it was his last vision prior to death. I'm pretty firmly on board with the authenticity of everything we see until the moment we see Mary, as is LQ, but I choose to accept that Mary's arrival and their kiss is taking place in the real world as well. Schrader said himself he doesn't know which is correct and he's glad people are 50/50 on it, because he intended it that way.

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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#28 Post by wattsup32 » Thu Jun 14, 2018 4:49 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 1:27 pm

To clarify what I meant by "the ending,"
SpoilerShow
Our debate was over whether Toller drank the drain cleaner or not, and whether Mary entered his home or if it was his last vision prior to death. I'm pretty firmly on board with the authenticity of everything we see until the moment we see Mary, as is LQ, but I choose to accept that Mary's arrival and their kiss is taking place in the real world as well. Schrader said himself he doesn't know which is correct and he's glad people are 50/50 on it, because he intended it that way.
I see. I guess I, too, could go either way, but lean toward LQ. Though, much of why I lean toward LQ's reading has to do with what I spoiler tagged previously. If it is any help, I read it this way because:
SpoilerShow
It seemed to me the ripped out pages are significant since earlier in the film Toller makes a point to demonstrate to us that his diary is hyper-authentic, refusing even to scratch out a word he wished he hadn't used (I think it was "pride," but I saw this day one and am sorry to say I can't be certain of my memory). I saw the ripped pages an a signal that we are supposed to read his dairy and narration after that as lacking authenticity/integrity in the most rudimentary meanings of those words.
Neither reading affects my feeling about the film. But, it does change what I see as Toller's spiritual experience.

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All the Best People
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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#29 Post by All the Best People » Fri Jun 15, 2018 5:26 am

wattsup32 wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 9:41 am
All the Best People wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 2:46 am
I don't know. The film pretty much completely lost me when Hawke's character references the non-existent Biblical book of "Revelations"
Is it the "s" at at the end of Revelation that put you off?
Yes. It's incorrect, and just incredibly lazy, esp. for a filmmaker with the pedigree of Schrader. I get that this is likely a very idiosyncratic pet peeve, but it's not hard to get it right.

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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#30 Post by All the Best People » Fri Jun 15, 2018 5:32 am

Schrader does say in that interview with Sofia (who actually asks him if he had a religious upbringing, a stunning question to ask of Paul Schrader in 2018 [though I liked the discussion on the whole]) that he worked to get a
SpoilerShow
50/50 reaction on the diegetic reality of the ending, but when you hear him discuss the two possibilities, he's clearly much more invested in the notion that it's not a literal reality. It actually never occurred to me that it might be a reality within the film's narrative, it struck me as an obvious fantasy for Hawke's character. I actually found it a bit distasteful on that level, because the whole "lay on me" thing felt like such a contrived male-centric fantasy, and the ending simply ups that gross ante.

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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#31 Post by swo17 » Fri Jun 15, 2018 9:51 am

All the Best People wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 5:26 am
wattsup32 wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 9:41 am
All the Best People wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 2:46 am
I don't know. The film pretty much completely lost me when Hawke's character references the non-existent Biblical book of "Revelations"
Is it the "s" at at the end of Revelation that put you off?
Yes. It's incorrect, and just incredibly lazy, esp. for a filmmaker with the pedigree of Schrader. I get that this is likely a very idiosyncratic pet peeve, but it's not hard to get it right.
How lazy is it of all the people that say it that way in real life?

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Persona
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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#32 Post by Persona » Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:03 pm

There are so many people in the Christian community, even people who went to seminary and the like, that say "Revelations" that the fact Toller says it is pretty much a complete non-issue to me. In fact, it could even be taken as a comment on Toller's fallibility/unreliability as a narrator, or as a perhaps unwitting remark on the commonality of distortions in translation and interpretation of holy texts, even among the devout.
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As for distasteful "male-centric fantasies," boy, it did not lean that way for me at all. Schrader has remarked that the ending was originally more of Diary of a Country Priest ending, and then he got feedback from a colleague that made him go towards an Ordet vibe. And I think he succeeded with that, powerfully. It's that intersection of humanity and divinity. It's getting at the core of that transcendence that Schrader was obsessed with in his academic youth channeled in expression through the viscera and sensuality that he's dedicated most of his film career to.

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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#33 Post by mfunk9786 » Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:10 pm

All the Best People wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 5:32 am
Schrader does say in that interview with Sofia (who actually asks him if he had a religious upbringing, a stunning question to ask of Paul Schrader in 2018 [though I liked the discussion on the whole]) that he worked to get a
SpoilerShow
50/50 reaction on the diegetic reality of the ending, but when you hear him discuss the two possibilities, he's clearly much more invested in the notion that it's not a literal reality. It actually never occurred to me that it might be a reality within the film's narrative, it struck me as an obvious fantasy for Hawke's character. I actually found it a bit distasteful on that level, because the whole "lay on me" thing felt like such a contrived male-centric fantasy, and the ending simply ups that gross ante.
SpoilerShow
Wouldn't the characters fucking be the far grosser male fantasy? I'm male, and I'm not sure I've ever fantasized about having a woman lay on top of me and meditate.

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DarkImbecile
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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#34 Post by DarkImbecile » Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:27 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:10 pm
SpoilerShow
Wouldn't the characters fucking be the far grosser male fantasy? I'm male, and I'm not sure I've ever fantasized about having a woman lay on top of me and meditate.
SpoilerShow
Sure, when you put it that way, but what if she was seven or eight months pregnant and recently widowed, and you thought about the inevitable ecological collapse of the Earth and the end of human civilization the whole time? Now it's hot.

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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#35 Post by mfunk9786 » Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:32 pm

DarkImbecile wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:27 pm
mfunk9786 wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:10 pm
SpoilerShow
Wouldn't the characters fucking be the far grosser male fantasy? I'm male, and I'm not sure I've ever fantasized about having a woman lay on top of me and meditate.
SpoilerShow
Sure, when you put it that way, but what if she was seven or eight months pregnant and recently widowed, and you thought about the inevitable ecological collapse of the Earth and the end of human civilization the whole time? Now it's hot.
Toxic waste dump masculinity

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senseabove
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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#36 Post by senseabove » Fri Jun 15, 2018 1:28 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:10 pm
All the Best People wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 5:32 am
Schrader does say in that interview with Sofia (who actually asks him if he had a religious upbringing, a stunning question to ask of Paul Schrader in 2018 [though I liked the discussion on the whole]) that he worked to get a
SpoilerShow
50/50 reaction on the diegetic reality of the ending, but when you hear him discuss the two possibilities, he's clearly much more invested in the notion that it's not a literal reality. It actually never occurred to me that it might be a reality within the film's narrative, it struck me as an obvious fantasy for Hawke's character. I actually found it a bit distasteful on that level, because the whole "lay on me" thing felt like such a contrived male-centric fantasy, and the ending simply ups that gross ante.
SpoilerShow
Wouldn't the characters fucking be the far grosser male fantasy? I'm male, and I'm not sure I've ever fantasized about having a woman lay on top of me and meditate.
SpoilerShow
It's still an older man getting his rocks off with a young woman, however spiritual and chaste the getting and the rocks are, and for that matter, however spiritual it is, it's setting up for the distinctly physical, if fantastical, finale. He's clearly getting or wanting or being put on the path to wanting something physical out of their spiritual tête à tête after his noble/pathetic hairshirt emotional and physical celibacy.

I was into the first hour of this, and I would be happy with Hawke getting nommed for best actor (and I don't particularly like Hawke as an actor, usually), but I also found the last half or so increasingly distasteful, not only for the reasons above but also for the complete caricature of big business and big religion. It's a back-patting fantasy of blatant evil, and while I've been trying to pick apart why I disliked the movie, I keep thinking about how that entire sub-theme is handled far better in There Will Be Blood, which at least grounds its absurd caricatures in detail and particularity and doesn't try to pretend they're singularly representative, while still allowing them to be metonymic for a particularly American cavalierness of consumption and "progress" and disregard for their collateral effects. The evil in this is genericized, pull-quoted, and underlined with all the subtlety of a Huffington Post headline. Maybe that's appropriate these days, given how blatant and cartoonish the evil in the real headlines is, but it didn't work for me.

As for the ending, I found it irritating that the film itself was intentionally misleading. The entire film up to that point is in earnest (though I had not considered the interpretation of tearing out the pages that was floated above) and suddenly the last shot is maybe/maybe not real, with no precedent and no indication except for the fact that he hugs someone who doesn't recoil at the barbed wire under his robe and the camera gets a little hyper? It felt disingenuous and manipulative. When I saw it, Schrader was there for a Q&A afterwards and an audience member directly asked whether it was real or not; his both-waysing about it is what pushed me over the edge into disliking it. I don't see any way of reading it as reality, and yet it seems to be saying "Who ya gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?"

I'm not usually one for backseat driving directors, but I would be really curious to know why Schrader opted to not show Toller raising the glass from the table in that penultimate shot. I feel like some of my resistance to that last sequence could be mitigated a bit if we'd at least seen Toller pick up the glass. We're close on the glass as he pours in the whiskey, then the pepto, and the camera could have stayed there, while we see his hand pick up the glass and take it out of frame, and then the is it/isn't it sequence begins with some actual narrative ambiguity. As it is, it feels like rug-pulling for the sake of it. I typically enjoy directors who play with blatantly manipulating audiences, but the audience has to be a willing, if confused participant for that to work. It's bad faith otherwise (no pun intended).

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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#37 Post by mfunk9786 » Fri Jun 15, 2018 1:58 pm

SpoilerShow
He does pick up the glass of drain cleaner, doesn't he? When he sees Mary enter the room he drops it to the floor.

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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#38 Post by senseabove » Fri Jun 15, 2018 2:11 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 1:58 pm
SpoilerShow
He does pick up the glass of drain cleaner, doesn't he? When he sees Mary enter the room he drops it to the floor.
SpoilerShow
It's been a few months—I saw it at a film festival in April, so I'm a little fuzzy on the specifics, admittedly—so maybe he picks it up then drops it, but we don't see the glass leave the frame, so there's no moment in the film for him to drink the contents before the fantasy sequence.

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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#39 Post by Persona » Fri Jun 15, 2018 2:13 pm

I'm not seeing the caricatures that some others are seeing. Even Balq isn't painted as an outright villain. And aside from him I thought every character here was pretty nuanced and believable.

There is a certain sort of dark comedy and kind of heightened perspective that is happening with how the film is framed and edited, and I think it almost leads one to expect caricature, so bitter is the film's thematic undercurrent. But I think the end result is something very rare in modern cinema--it lays the themes on heavy, but it does so with barely ever compromising character or organic storytelling. And it makes a huge impact with how it presents itself.

I understand not liking the film and I think there are definitely things that Schrader is trying to sort through and navigate in the film without taking a hard-line position on some of them (and I am in favor of that approach, personally) but I find it odd that some would try to single this film out as distasteful when it is so earnestly trying to tackle things that deserve tackling and on a daily basis films are being released that are far more lacking in sensitivity or more egregious in their perspective.

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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#40 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Jun 15, 2018 2:14 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:10 pm
SpoilerShow
I'm male, and I'm not sure I've ever fantasized about having a [pregnant] woman lay on top of me and meditate.
It wouldn't surprise me if there was an internet forum dedicated to that sort of thing.

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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#41 Post by mfunk9786 » Fri Jun 15, 2018 4:42 pm

senseabove wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 2:11 pm
mfunk9786 wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 1:58 pm
SpoilerShow
He does pick up the glass of drain cleaner, doesn't he? When he sees Mary enter the room he drops it to the floor.
SpoilerShow
It's been a few months—I saw it at a film festival in April, so I'm a little fuzzy on the specifics, admittedly—so maybe he picks it up then drops it, but we don't see the glass leave the frame, so there's no moment in the film for him to drink the contents before the fantasy sequence.
Which is the reason I come down on the side I do.

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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#42 Post by senseabove » Fri Jun 15, 2018 10:20 pm

Persona wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 2:13 pm
I'm not seeing the caricatures that some others are seeing. Even Balq isn't painted as an outright villain. And aside from him I thought every character here was pretty nuanced and believable.

There is a certain sort of dark comedy and kind of heightened perspective that is happening with how the film is framed and edited, and I think it almost leads one to expect caricature, so bitter is the film's thematic undercurrent. But I think the end result is something very rare in modern cinema--it lays the themes on heavy, but it does so with barely ever compromising character or organic storytelling. And it makes a huge impact with how it presents itself.

I understand not liking the film and I think there are definitely things that Schrader is trying to sort through and navigate in the film without taking a hard-line position on some of them (and I am in favor of that approach, personally) but I find it odd that some would try to single this film out as distasteful when it is so earnestly trying to tackle things that deserve tackling and on a daily basis films are being released that are far more lacking in sensitivity or more egregious in their perspective.
Even the wife, Amanda Seyfried's character? I found myself having to give Schrader the benefit of the doubt that he asked for that performance and it was intentional, some sort of Bressonian homage, that didn't come off at all for me. The other performances were fine, acting-wise. And I wasn't necessarily talking about the characters themselves being caricatures, so much as the way religion and business are represented as outright villains compared to Toller's struggle with his own belief. (And I'm not trying to say that religion or business got short shrift and deserve better—I'm an atheist living in northern California, after all.)

I do appreciate that Schrader's trying to tackle a complicated topic, and what's more, an emotional take on a complicated practical topic. But it just didn't work for me. I'm happy it did for you and other people, though! I've just been trying to talk out loud so I can finally figure out what rubbed me the wrong about it.
mfunk9786 wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 4:42 pm
senseabove wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 2:11 pm
mfunk9786 wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 1:58 pm
SpoilerShow
He does pick up the glass of drain cleaner, doesn't he? When he sees Mary enter the room he drops it to the floor.
SpoilerShow
It's been a few months—I saw it at a film festival in April, so I'm a little fuzzy on the specifics, admittedly—so maybe he picks it up then drops it, but we don't see the glass leave the frame, so there's no moment in the film for him to drink the contents before the fantasy sequence.
Which is the reason I come down on the side I do.
SpoilerShow
I just didn't get the sense Seyfried's character felt anything strongly enough to be so overwhelmed she wouldn't notice the man she is embracing is wrapped in barbed wire. And given that the only other drastic stylistic departure we're shown is another fantasy of Toller's (Schrader says in an interview at Vulture: "I knew at the end I wanted to jump out of the world,” Schrader told me, “and I thought I should prefigure that in some way..." ), the sudden use of a defiantly circling camera is another thing that indicates fantasy to me.

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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#43 Post by mfunk9786 » Fri Jun 15, 2018 10:55 pm

SpoilerShow
He said the original ending as conceived was having him go through with the bombing and having 2 or 3 minutes of incredibly graphic slow motion carnage, but he balked while writing it and wrote in the suicide, ending on Hawke collapsing and a shot of a cross on the wall behind him. Then Kent Jones read the script and told him he should reconsider that one, and here we are.

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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#44 Post by All the Best People » Fri Jun 15, 2018 11:24 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 12:10 pm
All the Best People wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 5:32 am
Schrader does say in that interview with Sofia (who actually asks him if he had a religious upbringing, a stunning question to ask of Paul Schrader in 2018 [though I liked the discussion on the whole]) that he worked to get a
SpoilerShow
50/50 reaction on the diegetic reality of the ending, but when you hear him discuss the two possibilities, he's clearly much more invested in the notion that it's not a literal reality. It actually never occurred to me that it might be a reality within the film's narrative, it struck me as an obvious fantasy for Hawke's character. I actually found it a bit distasteful on that level, because the whole "lay on me" thing felt like such a contrived male-centric fantasy, and the ending simply ups that gross ante.
SpoilerShow
Wouldn't the characters fucking be the far grosser male fantasy? I'm male, and I'm not sure I've ever fantasized about having a woman lay on top of me and meditate.
I was referring to the
SpoilerShow
kiss, not the laying-on-top-of thing.

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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#45 Post by mfunk9786 » Fri Jun 15, 2018 11:42 pm

It's earned, both within the reality of this film and were the events of this film to that point to occur in real life. In my opinion, of course.

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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#46 Post by mfunk9786 » Sun Jun 17, 2018 11:58 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 11:11 am
Taking my father* who I am 99% sure still does not believe in global warming to see this on Sunday... wish me luck, everyone!

*Were this made by some young filmmaker I wouldn't even bother, but his love of Schrader's 70s and 80s work leads me to want to get very close to the electric fence and challenge him with this one.
Saw this again, and it was indeed a struggle with my father, who often took it at face value as some kind of an environmental screed from "Hollywood" (he was quick to point out, for example, that the white substance coming from the smokestacks in the factory in the film was just vapor from boiling water to make paper, as he worked for a paper factory for the last 40 years up until his recent retirement). But discussing it more, it was enlightening to see how much someone like him (right, right, right winger) finds it so much easier to plug into character motivation in Taxi Driver than First Reformed. Because the source of the malaise in the former (some partially misguided impression that the streets are overrun with criminal scum, etc) is so much more in line with an ongoing life philosophy than the latter, which can easily be brushed aside as someone buying into, again, "Hollywood" propaganda, or some such - I believe the name Al Gore was muttered under some breath on the way out of the theater. It took a pretty lengthy conversation for him to even entertain the idea that maybe, just maybe, this isn't the film you'd make if you were trying to convince people to take concerns like these seriously, since. Ahem.

That said, it certainly was something he saw a lot of value in, particularly at the end. The way that this film manages to deftly hold cinéma vérité horrors in one hand and metaphorical history that goes deep into the soil in the other is no small feat, particularly in its waning moments. This time I tried to see said moments from LQ's point of view (scroll up for all relevant spoiler boxes) and it all went down much more smoothly. That does not mean, however, that those who need to see the ending from my initial point of view won't find a deep well of value in doing so, either their first time or their 100th. This film is a Rorschach test for all those who seek to be washed in the soul cleansing blood of the lamb, whether your garments are spotless or not.

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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#47 Post by Murdoch » Mon Jun 18, 2018 1:26 pm

Re: the ending
SpoilerShow
I'm still mulling this over but I read the ending as a counterpoint to Bergman's Winter Light, in which the pastor embraces his faith despite the doubt and tragedy he's experienced. I feel like the final act was Hawke giving in to temptation - to lust, to rage - in light of the revelation that the mega church was bankrolled by BULQ and his powerlessness to reverse decades of environmental destruction. I took the makeout session at face value so I read it as him giving up on the restrictions and conventions he's embraced as a reverend. I'm not sure if it's representative of Hawke losing his faith, but I do see it as him losing hope.

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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#48 Post by Persona » Mon Jun 18, 2018 2:37 pm

senseabove wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 10:20 pm
Persona wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 2:13 pm
I'm not seeing the caricatures that some others are seeing. Even Balq isn't painted as an outright villain. And aside from him I thought every character here was pretty nuanced and believable.

There is a certain sort of dark comedy and kind of heightened perspective that is happening with how the film is framed and edited, and I think it almost leads one to expect caricature, so bitter is the film's thematic undercurrent. But I think the end result is something very rare in modern cinema--it lays the themes on heavy, but it does so with barely ever compromising character or organic storytelling. And it makes a huge impact with how it presents itself.

I understand not liking the film and I think there are definitely things that Schrader is trying to sort through and navigate in the film without taking a hard-line position on some of them (and I am in favor of that approach, personally) but I find it odd that some would try to single this film out as distasteful when it is so earnestly trying to tackle things that deserve tackling and on a daily basis films are being released that are far more lacking in sensitivity or more egregious in their perspective.
Even the wife, Amanda Seyfried's character? I found myself having to give Schrader the benefit of the doubt that he asked for that performance and it was intentional, some sort of Bressonian homage, that didn't come off at all for me. The other performances were fine, acting-wise. And I wasn't necessarily talking about the characters themselves being caricatures, so much as the way religion and business are represented as outright villains compared to Toller's struggle with his own belief. (And I'm not trying to say that religion or business got short shrift and deserve better—I'm an atheist living in northern California, after all.)

I do appreciate that Schrader's trying to tackle a complicated topic, and what's more, an emotional take on a complicated practical topic. But it just didn't work for me. I'm happy it did for you and other people, though! I've just been trying to talk out loud so I can finally figure out what rubbed me the wrong about it.
mfunk9786 wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 4:42 pm
senseabove wrote:
Fri Jun 15, 2018 2:11 pm

SpoilerShow
It's been a few months—I saw it at a film festival in April, so I'm a little fuzzy on the specifics, admittedly—so maybe he picks it up then drops it, but we don't see the glass leave the frame, so there's no moment in the film for him to drink the contents before the fantasy sequence.
Which is the reason I come down on the side I do.
SpoilerShow
I just didn't get the sense Seyfried's character felt anything strongly enough to be so overwhelmed she wouldn't notice the man she is embracing is wrapped in barbed wire. And given that the only other drastic stylistic departure we're shown is another fantasy of Toller's (Schrader says in an interview at Vulture: "I knew at the end I wanted to jump out of the world,” Schrader told me, “and I thought I should prefigure that in some way..." ), the sudden use of a defiantly circling camera is another thing that indicates fantasy to me.
Certaintly Schrader is a stronger writer of male characters and he knows that and plays to it. And certainly Mary is a pretty archetypal character. I thought Schrader made a fair go of trying to develop her but I also think there's just a lack of time for the character, maybe a tad less than what there should have been given how pivotal her role is (with the caveat that I had to use the restroom quickly during a scene where she and Toller were talking and when I came back they were praying together, so I might have missed a choice moment or two). I found Seyfried's performance interesting. Certainly kind of pales next to the pitch-perfect Hawke performance but I was interested with how she was both emotional and pretty disaffected at the same time... probably about as solid a read on the character as any.

As for big religion and big business painted as outright villains in the film... I mean, I actually thought the film deftly avoided that trap. Cedric's character is portrayed as someone who is actually kind of wise and caring but also a bit of pragmatist--his church has some of the pitfalls of a larger church but also seems truly invested in helping people. Certainly Balq's character is the most sharply antagonistic because of what he is associated with and the arrogance that he carries himself with but he is not openly rude or mean, and in the visit to his company and the diner scene it's not like he's twirling a mustache stating, "Yes, I am contributing to the destruction of the world and I don't care." There is a lot of that familiar dismissing of the signs of climate change on the grounds of asking for concrete prophetic proof of ecological decline or establishing causality that a lot of the corporate types engage in at the same time they make token strides towards becoming more environmentally conscious or at least assuming that appearance. A lot of psychological self-justification and some just putting their hands up and saying, "Hey, we're working on some of these things, we're getting better, but in the meantime we just gotta do what we gotta do."

Certainly, again, there is that stark contrast between the intensity of what Toller is going through (and Michael, for that matter) and then you have these scenes where other characters feel like they can act more cavalier about it (or living in a relatively blissful state of ignorance/denial). But in terms of how these institutions and other characters are actually portrayed in and of themselves, I actually thought it was a reasonably balanced portrait, but with some satirical undertones just in terms of how the film plays with the contrast.

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Persona
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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#49 Post by Persona » Mon Jun 18, 2018 2:43 pm

Murdoch wrote:
Mon Jun 18, 2018 1:26 pm
Re: the ending
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I'm still mulling this over but I read the ending as a counterpoint to Bergman's Winter Light, in which the pastor embraces his faith despite the doubt and tragedy he's experienced. I feel like the final act was Hawke giving in to temptation - to lust, to rage - in light of the revelation that the mega church was bankrolled by BULQ and his powerlessness to reverse decades of environmental destruction. I took the makeout session at face value so I read it as him giving up on the restrictions and conventions he's embraced as a reverend. I'm not sure if it's representative of Hawke losing his faith, but I do see it as him losing hope.
Interesting, and I think it's a valid read, but not the effect that I got from the film and based on his interviews, probably not quite the effect that Schrader was going for.

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All the Best People
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Re: First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2018)

#50 Post by All the Best People » Tue Jun 19, 2018 2:28 am

I'm actually not sure I agree with that reading of the ending of Winter Light. To clarify, while I don't think he
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abandons belief at the end, I'm not sure he fully embraces it either; I think he ultimately subscribes to the ritual as a proxy for belief. Then again, maybe the upshot is that these are the same choice.

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