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    Hardcore Searcher

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    As he turns 70 today, writer/director Paul Schrader can not only celebrate a milestone birthday but also point to more than a few titles on his 30-film resumé – The Yakuza, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull as writer; Cat People, The Comfort of Strangers, Auto Focus as director; Blue Collar, American Gigolo, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, Light Sleeper, Affliction in both roles – that draw so deeply from his life experiences and worldview that the personal melds with the provocative, the dreamlike with the everyday, the tawdry with the tantalizing. That he has viewed many of his movie projects as exercises in intellectual rigor rather than the acting-out of youthful fantasies (due to his strict Calvinist youth in Michigan he didn’t see a movie until he was 17) somehow doesn’t lessen their impact. Thanks to the mentorship of influential critic Pauline Kael, he caught up quickly with his movie love and has pursued it across four decades to this day, as his newest thriller Dog Eat Dog with Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe unspooled at the 2016 Cannes and Munich International Film Festivals and awaits a North American release. Arguably one of his most personal films is the piquantly titled Hardcore (1979), not only referencing the seamy milieu of the pornographic film industry of Southern California that is its backdrop, but also to the philosophical bent of its main character, a rock-ribbed Michigan Calvinist father powerfully played by George C. Scott, who journeys into this dark subculture to find his missing runaway daughter. He is sure she’s a reluctant victim, and that his righteous quest will result in the restoration of his family and his insular, God-fearing world. However, the pain that he will experience and the transformative process he will undergo is the film’s real revelation; Schrader, who drew on memories of his own father and Midwestern upbringing, and consciously tapped into the DNA of John Ford’s pantheon Western The Searchers for this evocative morality tale, sees to that. Taxi Driver cinematographer Michael Chapman provides a neon-lit, luridly colorful cityscape of sin for sale as the disbelieving dad finds himself reluctantly shape-shifting into an avenging angel as his daughter’s trail takes him up and down the California coast. The key to the father’s search – and possibly his own redemption – is the prostitute/porn actress (Season Hubley in a devastatingly tough performance) he hires to aid him, and who becomes the one person who can open his eyes to his own troubled “hard core.” As in The Searchers, fanatical obsession is tempered by shocking violence and there is forgiveness at the end, if only tentative. Co-starring Peter Boyle and Dick Sargent, with jagged, propulsive music by the versatile Jack Nitzsche on an Isolated Score Track and an Audio Commentary by Cinema Retro scribes Eddy Friedfeld, Lee Pfeiffer and Paul Scrabo, Hardcore will rivet and shake you on Twilight Time’s hi-def Blu-ray August 16. Another Audio Commentary features Schrader himself leading viewers on his own personal, intellectual and spiritual journey making Hardcore. Preorders open July 27.