Q&A with Paul Schrader
“I had never imagined myself as someone suited to a life of incarceration.” So begins Schrader’s followup to First Reformed, which casts Oscar Isaac as William Tell, an ex-con whose eight-year prison sentence for the torturing of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib gave him time to form new gambling skills to employ in the outside world. A solitary routine of casino-crawling and eking out meager winnings is punctuated by moments in spartan motel rooms where Tell obsessively revisits past misdeeds in his diary. But that lasts only so long before an interested financier (Tiffany Haddish) and the son of a late military vet (Tye Sheridan) offer him a risky path to redemption. The Card Counter is part crime thriller, part horror-war film—a tightly wound, ominous plunge into the moral terror between indifference and suffering, revenge and self-sacrifice. A Focus Features release.
For nearly half a century, Paul Schrader has crafted a personal and provocative body of work typified by an obsessive focus on moral decay, isolation, and self-redemption across various dispirited pockets of the United States. Rounding out an era-delineating thematic trilogy that began with First Reformed (2017) and The Card Counter (2021), Master Gardener (NYFF60) continues what the writer-director has referred to as his “man in a room” movies with a startling tale of dormant violence and the possibility of regeneration.
In anticipation of Master Gardener’s theatrical release at FLC on May 19, which will feature a Q&A on opening day with Schrader and stars Joel Edgerton and Sigourney Weaver, we are pleased to present a double feature of First Reformed and The Card Counter on May 17, followed by a Q&A with Schrader.