What happens when you take a kid who, thanks to his strict Calvinist upbringing, never saw a movie until he was 18 and turn him into an author/director?
Chances are you'd get something pretty wild. At least that's what happened in Paul Schrader's case: his films often celebrate the seamier side of the world. But they're more than mere walks on the wild side, as the Paul Schrader retrospective at International House Feb. 3-7 makes clear.
Schrader's work is known for its mix of grittiness and sensuality, beauty and violence, qualities found in films like "American Gigolo," a Kafkaesque tale about a male prostitute who must abandon his own character to save his skin in the face of a murder charge, and "Cat People," his 1982 remake of the sexually-charged thriller featuring Natassia Kinski (photo), two of the five films on the festival schedule.
The retrospective also includes his most daring film, "Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters," an exploration of the conflicted life of the celebrated Japanese novelist; "Blue Collar," a gritty, cynical look at life on the assembly line; and "Light Sleeper," featuring Willem Dafoe as a mid-level drug dealer facing a mid-life crisis and a host of other problems.
The Neighborhood Film/Video Project scheduled the festival to coincide with the local premiere of "Affliction," the 12th feature film directed by Schrader, who has also written 20 screenplays in his two decades in film.
-S.S.PAUL SCHRADER RETROSPECTIVE: Feb. 3-7 at International House, 3701 Chestnut St. See day-to-day listings for specific films and show times. Tickets $6.50, students/seniors/International House members $5.50. Info: 895-6537.
Originally published on January 28, 1999