Walter Mencken 11 a.m., Nov. 27
"Here is a man who would not take it any more."
Wow. Just wow. Can you imagine a Hollywood screenwriter of today taking the time to write a furious letter to a just-started alternative weekly newspaper? But here's Paul Shrader, fresh off the success of Taxi Driver, letting Reader critic Duncan Shepherd know that he messed up but good:
"Re: Review of my movie, Taxi Driver.
You are dead wrong in your cheap, mindless review. If I weren’t so busy putting together half a dozen film packages with my friends Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson, I would personally fly my Learjet down to San Diego and bring a drill down on your soft head until I hit something hard.
True, the script was overintellectualized. But so what? Did anyone ever criticize Shakespeare, Celine, or Rimbaud for overintellectualizing?
Yours, full of anger at 30, and a really big somebody, Paul Shrader,* Beverly Wilshire Hotel"
Someday a real rain will come and wash all these scummy critics out the theaters, eh, Mr. Schrader?
Just for kicks, here's Mr. Shepherd's "cheap, mindless" review:
"The moviemakers, director Martin Scorsese and scriptwriter Paul Schrader, have started with an old-style Warner Brothers working-man premise and tried to cram their learning into it: existentialist philosophy from Sartre and Camus, homages to Bresson's Pickpocket and Diary of a Country Priest, lyrical sketches of New York After Dark styled after undergrounders like Peter Goldman, and a gory suicidal shootout styled after Peckinpah. None of this learning, however, is injected into the seething, glazed-eyed principal character, a White Knight obsessed with ridding the city streets of human garbage. (Indeed, for all that's divulged about a cab driver's profession, the movie might as well be called Street Cleaner.) You never have to confront this slow-witted semi-literate's ideas as ideas, and you aren't given sufficient clues to figure out what makes him tick. The portrait of this character is enough to give you the creeps, but not much more. Robert De Niro, Cybill Shepherd, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel. 1976."
But he gave it three stars! Schrader didn't know how good he had it.
*Alas, the misspelling on the surname does open up the possibility that Mr. Schrader was not, in fact, the true author of the letter.
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