The Canyons has had more publicity than many films can dream of before it was even finished, thanks to having Lindsay Lohan and porn star James Deen as its leading actors, Paul Schrader (he wrote Taxi Driver) as director, and Bret Easton Ellis as screenwriter. Oh, yeah, and there was that epic NY Times Magazine article about the difficulties of filming the low-budget (it was funded on Kickstarter) feature. But now you can decide if it's any good, because it's having its world premiere in New York City on July 29th.
The Film Society of Lincoln Center is screening the film and hosting a discussion with Schrader afterwards. What's the movie about? According to the Facebook page, it's "about the dangers of sexual obsession and ambition, both personally and professionally, among a group of young people in their 20's and how one chance meeting connected to the past unravels all of their lives, resulting in deceit, paranoia, cruel mind games and ultimately violence." Schrader will doubtless answer questions about working with Lohan. But he does she think she's incredibly gifted.
Noting how Marilyn Monroe was notoriously problematic for her directors, Schrader writes in Film Comment:
Monroe and Lohan exist in the space between actors and celebrities, people whose professional and personal performances are more or less indistinguishable. Entertainers understand the distinction. To be successful, a performer controls the balance between the professional and personal, that is, he or she makes it seem like the professional is personal. It is the lack of this control that gives performers like Monroe and Lohan (and others) their unique attraction. We sense that the actress is not performing, that we are watching life itself. We call them “troubled,” “tormented,” “train wrecks”—but we can’t turn away. We can’t stop watching. They get under our skin in a way that controlled performers can’t.
I think Lohan has more natural acting talent than Monroe did, but, like Monroe, her weakness is her inability to fake it. She feels she must be experiencing an emotion in order to play it. This leads to all sorts of emotional turmoil, not to mention on-set delays and melodrama. It also leads, when the gods smile, to movie magic. Monroe had the same affliction. They live large, both in life and on screen. This is an essential part of what draws viewers to them.
FSLC's Kent Jones says, "On one level, The Canyons is a visually and tonally precise, acid-etched horror story of souls wandering through a hyper-materialist hell, with a fearless and, I think, stunning performance by Lindsay Lohan at its center. On another level, it’s an inspiration and an example to us all: it’s difficult for me to imagine another filmmaker of Paul Schrader’s stature diving into the world of crowd-sourced moviemaking, let alone with such fervor, dedication and rigor."