peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2023 09 23 Hardcore

Hardcore (1979)

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Paul Schrader wrote and directed, somewhat autobiographically (the Dutch Calvinist bits). Also some George C. Scott completism.

A straight (businessman/Christian) father goes looking for a daughter lost to the Californian demimonde. This is Schrader post-Taxi Driver, filling in the backstory of Jodie Foster's young hooker, probing the seams of the coast, riding the 1970s porn wave from a prudish angle. Sometime collaborator Scorcese went to similar places later in After Hours but nowhere as hard. There's a dash of Roger Ebert's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls in the acting.

Schrader spends the first hour at Christmas in dreary Grand Rapids Michigan with the aim of showing us how dreary and stifling Dutch Calvinism can be. (Barbara Loden in Wanda demonstrated that it doesn't have to be quite this painful.) After this unpromising beginning Scott unleashes his timeless Dr. Strangelove abilities around the 55 minute mark and we're off to the races. About three minutes later he's in authentic Boogie Nights mode with a bogus Burt Reynolds mustache and shirts that even I wouldn't wear. This pivot is way too quick. The camera angles often make him look like Philip Baker Hall in the 1990s: craggy, worn, relentless — I wanted the subtleties (or at least humour) he brought to The Hospital. Call girl Season Hubley keeps up as best she can; they leave the boys far behind. Scott rapidly (too rapidly) evolves beyond private dick Peter Boyle's ability to cage him. There are many tears before bedtime.

Roger Ebert: four stars. Is Schrader having it both ways with his prudish prurience? The ending is blown. Janet Maslin: The Searchers. A man loses control but not his religion. The pivot is "dramatic suicide". She found some humour here.