"The Canyons" director Paul Schrader couldn't help praising his star Lindsay Lohan with one side of his mouth, while dishing about her out of the other, at Monday night's world premiere held in an intimate Lincoln Center screening room hosted by the Film Society.
At the reception afterwards, Schrader (who made the brilliant literary adaptation "Affliction" and wrote the landmark "Taxi Driver") dropped this anecdote about their collaboration on this dark drama of hook-ups and hang-ups in Hollywood: Lindsay picked her own costumes, Schrader revealed. On set shooting the poolside scene at a cliffside mansion, Schrader told Lohan there would be the blue of the ocean, the white chairs, and then one red chair. That scarlet piece of furniture would be the scene's visual focal point.
Instead of wearing the white swimsuit La Lohan was supposed to wear, the star squeezed into a red one. Oh, no! Behave!
The truth is that Lindsay rocked that red one-piece with the deep vee netting that revealed her cleavage without exposing it. Yes, she became the focal point. Yes, Lindsay blew Schrader’s composition. But she had old-time glamor in that maillot with matching red lips — and that was what made the movie. In fact, her sizzle is all that's memorable about the film.
That disconnect between director and star is emblematic of the movie's shortcomings. Despite Lohan's personal troubles, it's not a red chair in the shot but a red swimsuit on the star that connects with the audience. Her instinctive crazy star power is the only thing real about this movie. She's hot – like Elizabeth Taylor, like Ann-Margaret – in a movie that wrongly thinks that cold is cool and cerebral. Clueless!
And, Lindsay is way more a part of the hook-up, hang-up Hollywood generation than either Schrader, on stage with a cane following a knee operation, or the absent writer Bret Easton Ellis ("American Psycho"). Also absent was Lohan, who is in rehab through tomorrow but, reportedly, mother Dina attended.
Following the premiere, which was greeted with spotty if polite applause, the director joined the Film Society's Kent Jones onstage for a post-screening Q&A. Schrader told a crowded — but not standing room only — auditorium of cinephiles: "You can shoot around bad behavior but you cannot shoot around a lack of charisma."
The prevailing feeling at the screening was that while a lot of talk was about Lindsay Lohan and the hungry beast of celebrity, the more trenchant question was "You can shoot around bad behavior but can you shoot with a mediocre script and an ocean of bitterness and bile against the film industry (however justified)?"
In praising his new paradigm of using his own money – and that of screenwriter Ellis – and crowdsourcing the remainder of the film's micro-budget, Schrader made a swipe at old media. When asked about the studio system, he said to the crowd: "The studio system? All those dinosaurs in the La Brea Tar Pits?"
But the director's bluster couldn't take away from the fact that new paradigm, or old, the simple issue of quality remains. The script has to be in place, otherwise the most charismatic, talented, if troubled, actress can't rescue a movie as shallow as "The Canyons."
Watch the explicit 'The Canyons' Theatrical Trailer: