Paul Schrader is one of the most polarizing, revered, and controversial figures in film history. With hard-hitting dramas like Blue Collar, American Gigolo, and his 2017 Oscar-nominated feature, First Reformed, the writer-director is known for some of the most uncompromising and original works of the last 50 years. He’s also known for posting on Facebook about Taylor Swift, whom he loves, or “cancel culture” infiltrating his poker games, which he doesn’t love.
But earlier this month, Schrader decided to post something more on-brand, sharing on Facebook his thoughts on the current state of movies, what with the closing of Los Angeles’ beloved ArcLight theater due to the pandemic and film art consumption after 14-months of streaming:
AN OBSERVATION ABOUT FILM ECONOMICS. The clever post nickelodeon decision to monetize motion pictures (squeezing large numbers of patrons in un air conditioned large rooms with (for a time) intermittent vaudeville acts worked like a charm for decades. Then came TV. Yet movies survived. Became larger scope, racier subject matter, exploitation pix, women’s pix, prestige pix, horror pix, genre pix, realistic pix. bigger in scope, racier in subject matter, newsreels. serious dramas, art films, European films—and air conditioned cinemas. But now comes Phrase Three: BOOM! The growing desire of audiences to see film entertainment in theater like home entertainment at great discount, a transition 14 months in the training, but, more importantly, a shift away from the stand alone 2 hr “important” drama inspired by literature to the ongoing episodic dramas inspired by crime series (true or otherwise), tella novellas, expanded documentary and biographic sagas, stripping story telling of its ability to compose concise stories which land like a punch in the face.
The post got the attention of The New Yorker’s Richard Brody, who called up Schrader for an interview on the future of cinema. Aside from getting Schrader’s takes on what he calls “film economics” and the state of moviegoing, Brody broke a tasty little morsel of news that’s sure to eventually bum everyone out. When the reporter asked if Schrader’s considered working for Netflix, the filmmaker divulged that he’s been working on a three-season series on, get this, “the origins of Christianity.” He says, “Scorsese and I are planning something, and it is.... It would be a three-year series about the origins of Christianity.”
It’s based on the Apostles and on the Apocrypha. It’s called “The Apostles and Apocrypha.” Because people sort of know the New Testament, but nobody knows the Apocrypha. And back in the first century, there was no New Testament, there’s just these stories. And some were true, and some weren’t, and some were forgeries.
Schrader typically makes uncomfortable and depressing movies, so only time will tell if viewers want to deal with three whole seasons of him. Still, our temporary discomfort pales in comparison to the disconcerted relationship he and Scorsese have with Christianity, a wrestling match that’s spanned nearly half a century. It wouldn’t be their first attempt to put that relationship on screen either. Aside from their seminal collaborations on Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Bringing Out The Dead, the pair released 1988’s The Last Temptation Of Christ, which, aside from inciting a controversy of biblical proportions, gifted us the delightful screenshot shown above. So that’s something to enjoy before the series inevitably leaves us in need of a shower.