Exorcist Director: Horror Not Like It Used to Be

Paul Schrader disses "videogame mentality" of modern horror, and more film fest gems on EIFF Day 9.

by Kotleta

Exorcist director Paul Schrader in Edinburgh for an EIFF Reel Life

Exorcist director Paul Schrader in Edinburgh for an EIFF Reel Life

Edinburgh International Film Festival, Thursday, 25 August, 2005

Was today Thursday? I'm starting to lose track. If it weren't for writing notes for this diary I would be struggling to remember what happened yesterday let alone last week. I now feel as if I've been here for at least three months, but although it's gradually killing me, I don't want it to end either. It might be nice to avoid smoking, alcohol and canapes for the next month though.

MirrorMask is genius

This morning I had a mission - to actually make it to one of the 9am industry screenings. I can't deny that it was a struggle but the lure of Neil Gaiman's visual tour de force MirrorMask was just too tempting to miss. The actual story is a little slight, but the cinematography and effects, and the sheer imaginative genius of the piece more than compensate. It's like watching a visual translation of Angela Carter's lyrical prose, but with pretty music as well. I could have sat there and watched it over and over for the whole day.

I called into the delegate centre in search of gossip and a ticket to the retrospective screening of Black Narcissus (no chance), but lovely Nicola at the press desk found me one for Paul Schrader's Reel Life. So I might have missed out on the carnal desires of nuns but a cinematic legend talking about his prequel to The Exorcist, Dominion, seemed a fitting replacement. I felt blessed, and even more so when I found out that these tickets were like gold dust.

After some deliciously nutritious vegetable soup at the Cameo Bar to ward off the shakes, we checked out a screening of The Devil and Daniel Johnston. You may not know who Daniel Johnston is, but chances are you'd recognise his songs as they've been covered by Mercury Rev and Sonic Youth just to name a few. If you haven't heard of Mercury Rev and Sonic Youth, then you are clearly a lost cause. This was supported by a five minute Canadian short called Drummer Wanted, which documented the strange variety of oddballs who turned up to audition for the band Ike. I felt a bit guilty about spending two hours laughing at social misfits and began to wonder if perhaps I am not a very nice person.

Paul Schrader slips in a sermon

The final Reel Life event of the festival was like attending a very exclusive tutorial on the history of American independent cinema. Although he spoke a little about the making of Dominion, and had a very amusing take on why they were allowed even this one screening ("whenever greed does battle with hubris, greed will win"), Paul Schrader mostly talked about his career in a more general sense.

His upbringing in an ultra-religious Dutch Calvinist town impacted strongly on his views of modern culture. Dismissing modern horror as having a 'videogame mentality', he compared his own childhood, where Sunday afternoons were spent listening to the church elders discussing the day's sermon, to today's MTV culture, and found the youth of today lacking. Apparently we don't take things seriously enough. This may be why he believes that movies will never regain the social significance that they had in the last century, and that they're also losing their artistic significance.

Although he was fascinating and often very entertaining, there were times where I found his assertion that 'things were better in my day and it's all going to the dogs' a little depressing to listen to, but it could just be the natural reaction of a rebellious young turk resigning himself to his current position as establishment elder. Listening to Paul Schrader was an education, but I think it might take me a few days to fully digest all that he said. Hopefully there won't be an exam.

Secrets to cinematic success

I'm considering writing a book on How To Be A Successful Filmmaker based on what I've learned at this festival. Paul Scharder and Martin Scorsese hit it off because they were both short, asthmatic products of a religious childhood who saw themselves as outsiders. A bit of righteous anger also seems useful and it never hurts to have some influential friends. This book will be retailing at the bargain price of £9.99 and will be illustrated by biro scribbles and photographs of my shoe collection.

Guess what I did on Thursday evening? Yes, that's right. I went to the bar and drank. And that's where I'm going now....

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