Wednesday Round-Up: Why I’m Fascinated by “The Canyons,” But Afraid to Watch It

canyons

Full disclosure: I have not yet seen “The Canyons,” the Lindsay Lohan/James Deen-starring film from Paul Schrader and Bret Easton Ellis. I have heard horrible things. The reviews are mostly terrible. Yet I cannot wait to see it.

Perhaps it is a perverse desire to find something special in a roundly criticized project — see also, “Only God Forgives” — or maybe I just find something fascinating about the film’s messy production, its trailers, and its clearly icy aesthetic, but to me, it feels like a must-see.

And I will, soon. But I’m afraid.

Why? Because I desperately want to love it. I don’t want to be one of the many critics calling it an embarrassment, or making “less than zero stars” cracks. In other words, I want to be part of that slim minority that finds the film a smart, intoxicating look at, as Film Comment puts it, “sex, career, money, and power in contemporary Hollywood.”

What a treat, for a film causing this much frothing-at-the-mouth to be released in the summer months! I love it … at least until I watch it.

This week, our round-up is focused entirely on “The Canyons,” and just some of the many articles and reviews about the film, as well as Paul Schrader. Will these prove more entertaining than “The Canyons” itself? Time will tell.

“Canyons”-mania:

  • The Hollywood Reporter looks at the film’s VOD release; IFC’s president calls it “must-see VOD.”
  • Schrader participated in a Reddit Q-and-A this week.
  • Film Comment cover story: “When they rejected the film, South by Southwest said: ‘There’s a cold deadness to it.’”
  • Meanwhile, Schrader himself penned an appreciation of Lohan for Film Comment: “From a selfish point of view, from a director’s point of view, that is, from my point of view, it was a treat to work with Lindsay. All the drama, the mishegas, all the stress—that means little. A director can shoot around misbehavior. He can’t shoot around lack of charisma. I just wish it was easier for Lindsay.”
  • Calum Marsh, who is fast becoming a favorite of mine, agrees “The Canyons” is ugly, lifeless, and cheap … But so what? Marsh: “Terms like ‘lethargic,’ ‘insipid,’ and ‘lifeless’ are not criticisms in and of themselves—these are aesthetic decisions, configured for a reason, and to reject them means doing more than simply observing their presence. It would be like castigating a Bresson film on the basis that its performances are not expressive. … Nothing is being acknowledged here that cannot be discerned by two working eyes. Kohn and Lumenick are not wrong: ‘The Canyons’ was inexpensively made and looks harsh and ugly. But they have not addressed an obvious follow-up question: So what?”
  • The Playlist looks at the long varied career of Paul Schrader, while The Film Stage explores Schrader’s Los Angeles.
  • Variety’s Justin Chang says watching at home might be ideal for this film, one that is perversely unpleasurable: “[D]espite its flat, airless style and sometimes less-than-adroit acting, its occasional full-frontal nudity and the prominent casting of adult-film star James Deen, ‘The Canyons’ is decidedly not pornography. Its restraint in that department — or its timidity, depending on your taste — may well be its most perverse stroke, for this is a film that deliberately short-circuits the viewer’s pleasure in every way imaginable. Our entertainment, to say nothing of our edification, could scarcely be more beside the point.”
  • Pointing to the film’s infamous New York Times making-of piece, Ryan Lattanzio says “‘The Canyons’ never had a chance.”
  • Molly Lambert for Grantland; a very insightful piece: “Right off the bat, no, ‘The Canyons’ is not a very good movie. But it has some great moments that make it worth watching, and it looks mostly gorgeous for a movie costing $250,000.”
  • Bret Easton Ellis, to the AV Club: “I really don’t care what people think of the movie. There, I said it. I don’t really care what anyone says about any movie or book I write. On a certain dopey level, you hope people like stuff, I guess. You don’t want people to dislike it. I think the movie is well done enough that if you don’t like it, it’s just not your cup of tea. I just don’t think that watching the movie and knowing how this movie was made, that you can really slam it. I’m kind of confident on that level. But, you never know. It could come out August 2nd and be a disaster.”
  • Kanye West remixed the film’s trailer, of course.
  • Last, but not least, Vulture collects the many faces of Lindsay Lohan. Of course.

Photo courtesy of IFC Films; from Indiewire

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