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  Canyons, The Look But Don't Touch
Year: 2013
Director: Paul Schrader
Stars: Lindsay Lohan, James Deen, Nolan Gerard Funk, Amanda Brooks, Tenille Houston, Gus Van Sant, Jarod Einsohn, Chris Zeischegg, Victor of Acquitaine, Jim Boeven, Philip Pavel, Lily Labeau, Thomas Trussell, Alex Ashbaugh, Chris Schellenger, Lauren Schacher
Genre: Drama, Sex, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Hollywood couple Tara (Lindsay Lohan) and Christian (James Deen) are out for a meal with two of Christian's employees on the movie they are making together, boyfriend Ryan (Nolan Gerard Funk) and girlfriend Gina (Amanda Brooks), yet once they have discussed the film and the parts they play in its production, the conversation turns to other topics. Christian begins to hold forth on the rather open relationship he has with Tara, in that he uses social media to get together with other swingers and even lone individuals looking for a sexual thrill, and they spend an evening thoroughly enjoying themselves, or at least that's the idea. But could Christian be more controlling than he lets on?

The Canyons was one of those films whose behind the scenes tales were more notorious than the film itself, and that was largely down to one thing, which was its female lead. Lindsay Lohan by this stage, after a promising career as a child star had gone off the rails, was now looking more like Joey Heatherton than Annette Funicello, and though only in her twenties thanks to ill-advised cosmetic surgery was resembling an ageing star in her forties desperately trying to hang onto her youth. It could have been unflattering lighting or makeup, or it could have been the surgery, but oddly for a story which revolved around the moral bankruptcy of the self-obsessed Hollywood culture, she was undeniably, almost cruelly appropriate for this escapade.

For cineastes, the interest lay not in how late Miss Lohan had shown up for her scenes or how much she had imbibed to get through those scenes, but the man behind the camera, Paul Schrader. Although never one of the most stable of directors, he was talented though many feared his ability, born of an unusual, strictly religious upbringing (for someone in the film business), had deserted him the further his career progressed. Couple him to a screenplay not penned by himself but by writer Bret Easton Ellis, another talent whose glory days may have been well behind him, and you had the prospect of a movie where it might have been more satisfying if these two men had collaborated about twenty-five years before instead of hitching their reputations to a "troubled" actress.

What you had was a film where a making of documentary could be more revealing than what ended up unfolding as Ellis's story, such as it was, considering they both seemed to fuel the worldwide obsession with celebrity, only one was fictional and the other was as factual as this sort of thing would appear through the prism of gossip mags and rumours nobody needed proof to believe, just because. The characters could be best described as wallowing in their own showbiz filth, in a world where technology has made everyone in the area the subject of close scrutiny whether they were worth that or not, but this has built on the suffocatingly insular atmosphere of a society where knowing the global population was watching with equal doses of envy and disdain only magnified their oblivion.

There's a fin de si├Ęcle tone which Schrader saw fit to illustrate with imagery of decaying, long-closed cinemas, suggesting the movies had nowhere to go but circle the drain, and that was only encouraged by the sort of folks making them, the sort we watch in The Canyons, devouring both the culture and their own connections and bonds to expel the waste lapped up by the rest of the world community for their entertainment. It might be safe to say Schrader and Ellis were a tad cynical, suggesting they had been around those people too long but unable to break free of the pull this had for them, and by the close of their story the only thing that has made Tara feel anything is that sense of being trapped, never to be rescued, doomed to live out her life in the eye of the storm Christian, arch manipulator, has encouraged. Which was all very well, but Lohan looked more tired about having to make this movie than portraying that fatigue, and porn actor Deen coasted on one note arrogance. Still, there were always sex sequences and nudity to get prurient punters in. Music by Brendan Canning.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Paul Schrader  (1946 - )

American writer and director, a former critic, who specialises in troubled souls. After writing Taxi Driver for Martin Scorcese (who has also filmed Schrader's Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ and Bringing Out the Dead) he made his directorial debut with Blue Collar. Although this was not a happy experience, he was not discouraged, and went on to give us Hardcore, American Gigolo, a remake of Cat People, Mishima, The Comfort of Strangers, Light Sleeper, Affliction, Auto Focus and a doomed Exorcist sequel. After the latter his output became troubled in films like The Canyons or Dying of the Light, but First Reformed won him his best reactions in years. He also scripted The Yakuza and Old Boyfriends with his brother Leonard Schrader.

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