Light Sleeper

Light Sleeper

DVD Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Read Angus Wolfe Murray's film review of Light Sleeper

The look of this DVD is pristine, considering its age. The colour is crisp, the sound exquisite.

Commentary 1: Paul Schrader's legacy is closely allied to Martin Scorsese's best work. He wrote the scripts for Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and The Last Temptation Of Christ. Already, in the mind of moviegoers, he seems a disturbed, angry, violent man, a view based entirely on his aversion to publicity, the blistering realism of his writing and the films he made - American Gigolo, Mishima, Patty Hearst, Affliction.

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When you listen to this commentary, an entirely different personality emerges - modest, funny, honest and engaging. He considers Light Sleeper his favourite. "It effects me stronger than the others. It is the only film I have written that came to me in a dream."

He had been waiting to do what he calls "a mid life film" for ages, but nothing felt fresh, or original. He based Willem Dafoe's character on a real person who died of Aids.

The movie was shot entirely on location in New York during a garbage strike. Susan Sarandon "did this as a favour for me." She squeezed it in between other commitments and spent two weeks there. "It was her involvement," Schrader says, "that made it possible to get it financed." He is fulsome with praise ("Susan really gets inside a scene")and complimentary about every actor. "Tony Perkins said that films were 70% casting. I think it's 90%."

Money was tight. "You learn to shoot close to the bone." He describes it as "essentially a character study, except something must happen. You need plot." There are echoes of Taxi Driver and three, or four, scenes "borrowed" from The Conformist - "the Bible of how a film should look."

He confesses that he does not like to watch his movies after they are made. He gives no reason for this, other than wanting to move on to the next thing. He makes an exception with Light Sleeper and admits, "this ending never fails to move me."

Commentary 2: Scene Specific with Susan Sarandon and Willem Dafoe is broken down into five chapter headings.

CHARACTERS: Dafoe - "If my life had been different, I could have been him - a drifter."

Sarandon - "Nice clothes and drugs. You don't get to be boss very often as a girl. How could I say no? She's so bossy and so needy, it's complicated. She's a little girly and, at the same time, tough."

Dafoe - "It's a tiny story that leads to a bigger story. I like films like that."

SHOOTING: Sarandon - "I expected him (Schrader) to be strict, repressed. Actually, he was really a lot of fun. It was a nice late night dance for a couple of weeks. I have lived all my life in New York."

Dafoe - "He is very decisive and doesn't like to linger on things, but that's alright because his screenplays are so precise. He's dictatorial about certain details. Very direct. I liked that it was counter to drug movies of that time."

RESEARCH: Sarandon - "Life is much more imaginative than you can ever be."

Dafoe - "I changed my line of work, but it was worth it."

ACTING: Sarandon - "In the final action scenes, I had to spit and I'm not a spitter. I don't have to get naked, or die, or kill anyone."

RELEASE: Sarandon - "I never read reviews. I don't pay much attention."

Sarandon's humour shines through, while Dafoe appears thoughtful and intelligent.

Reviewed on: 09 May 2003
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Light Sleeper packshot
A drug dealer 'sleep walking' through life begins to wonder about his trade.
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Product Code: MP215D

Region: 2

Ratio: 1.85 Wide Screen

Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0

Extras: Trailer; Commentary by writer/director Paul Schrader; Scene specific commentary by Willem Dafoe and Susan Sarandon

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