First Reformed & Ask The Storybots


Manage episode 349228635 series 2645791
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Scorsese collaborator Paul Schrader penned TAXI DRIVER and that is the laziest but inevitabliest comparison for FIRST REFORMED which tells the story of Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke), reverend, tour guide and souvenir shop salesman for the eponymous church as it approaches its 250-year reconsecration. Undergoing a spiritual crisis of his own, he is approached by expectant mother Mary (Amanda Seyfried), who asks him to talk to her husband, an eco-activist depressed because he believes it's morally wrong to bring life into a world with the planet on the brink of irreversible environmental damage and civilisation ill-prepared to deal with multiple social crises. The exhilarating conversation lights a fire in Toller and as his alcoholism and illness grows he finds himself on a path which sees him questioning corporate megachurch and benefactors Abundant Life and its relationship with energy company Balq Industries.
It’s not often that you find a deep philosophical and theological discussion as an inciting incident in a movie and its rarer still to find one that seems authentic and richly relatable even to those with little interest in organized religion. My wife and I did have a conversation about the ethics of conceiving in an already over populated world (our rationale was that 'two in, two out' seemed just about fair in terms of headcount production) and about the fear of the kind of world our children would grow up in but eventually closed our eyes and ears to the overwhelming mass of evidence that told us not to and went with blind hope for the future, a sentiment that Schrader would presumably endorse. The writer and director's own strict Calvinist upbringing meant he'd never even seen a film until he was 17 when he sneaked away one night to watch HOME ALONE. Actually, it was WILD IN THE COUNTRY but that doesn't make as good a punchline. After becoming a published film scholar (following the encouragement of Pauline Kael no less) with his seminal work Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer, a book bought up in every review of this movie and which I haven't read but based on the title alone I can assume is some sort of comedy, Schrader transitioned to screenwriting and his utterly unique perspective means that yet again indie production and distribution specialists A24 have delivered.
I'm such a shameless fanboy for A24 now, having watched 14 of their movies for the pod and found all of them to be at least interesting and at best profound, though I tend to think of their 'A24-ness" as a secondary quality of the movie based on their body of work being aesthetically, politically and conceptually different and distinct from one another. I don't find the idea of enjoying all that a production company has to offer that unusual having been used to a music scene in the 90's and early noughties where the record label alone - Warp Records for example - was enough to inspire me to hoover up new talent. With a business model built around producing unique and original films that other sequel and franchise-obsessed major film studios wouldn't or couldn't take a chance on and a mission to bring the arthouse to the mainstream, the cynic in me expects their decline when Marvelisation of the A24 product inevitably occurs.
We also watched Netflix's ASK THE STORYBOTS featuring friend of the pod Kevin Smith which was superb but I don't have the space to write about having used up my word count masturbating over A24 stuff.

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Bad Dads

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