Here's the thing. Coming back from a critics screening I saw of Paul Schrader's The Canyons last night, the question 'do I recommend this film to other viewers?' has never been tougher for me. On one hand the film is an absolute mess. However, hours after seeing it I still find myself thinking about it. As a matter of fact I even dreamt about it last night as I was sleeping (nothing naughty kids).
Before you go see this film I highly recommend you read an article about the troubled making of this picture by Stephen Rodrick of the New York Times: 'Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie'
It's a fascinating, behind the scenes look at the coming together of three famous personalities: Paul Schrader, Brett Easton Ellis and Lindsay Lohan. The film was made on a minuscule budget, mostly raised through Kickstarter and the filmmakers own contributions. Lohan caused quite a lot of trouble on set, but at the same time she REALLY wanted to be in this film. Lohan says :“I’m in a good place now. I mean it’s Bret Easton Ellis and Paul Schrader! It’s a dream. When it’s done, I want to go somewhere far away, maybe Africa. Uganda? But right now all I want to do is work, work.” The making of this picture in itself would probably make a more interesting film then the final celluloid product, but by reading this article it will no doubt enhance your experience of the film.
As for the film itself, it's not good in the traditional sort of sense. Clearly budget constraints were a problem and it shows in some of the performances that clearly need another take or two. Despite that, however, there is a refreshing naturalism that is brought out of these performances. Lohan does a good job! This is clearly a case of art imitating life and you get the sense that only Lohan, with her life experiences, could make this character truer then any other actress.
This film is a complete downer. On one hand it could be about the decline of American cinemas, a sense we get in the really effective first teaser trailer released for the film. In it we get a series of shots depicting a modern Los Angeles mostly featuring abandoned cinemas and famous landmarks with Dum Dum Girls "Coming Down" blasting throughout (a powerful song). What are Schrader and Ellis saying here? Is this the eventual decay of American cinema or Los Angeles? The idea of video, or video on demand, being the death of the cinema is present throughout. This film could be compared to the Los Angeles masterpieces Sunset Boulevard or Mulholland Drive. However it doesn't have the same complex narrative that lures you in. This is clearly an experimental film. These characters, much like all of Ellis's work, are beautiful people doing bad things.
There is plenty of nudity and sex throughout the picture, sometimes erotic, other times disparaging. As a matter of fact one of the best scenes in the film is a four way sex scene. Sadly these are mostly few and far between. The rest of the film feels like Schrader is not in control of his material, and the budget woes are clearly evident. You wonder what Schrader might have done had he have more time and money. Yet I think The Canyons deserves to be seen if nothing else just for sheer experimental value. It's been a long time since a film has left me so intrigued yet so unsatisfied. Many critics are savagely beating up on the film, but I think this is because they don't know what to really make of it (neither do I really) and Lindsay Lohan is an easy target. The Canyons remains one of the more interesting failures I've ever seen.
FINAL VERDICT: TWO AND A HALF STARS OUT OF FOUR.
What most of you will no doubt be doing throughout watching this film.
And for a bit of fun, here's a picture of Lindsay Lohan from the film.
she's still looking great!