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Paul Schrader’s much-maligned ‘The Canyons’ finds sanctuary at IFC Films

Movie Talk

Paul Schrader’s much-maligned ‘The Canyons’ finds sanctuary at IFC Films


Well, we're glad to see that someone likes the new Lindsay Lohan movie ... or at least sees its potential as a long-running, endlessly quotable cult classic.

"The Canyons," director Paul Schrader's DIY film that's been the subject of much ridicule since the day it was conceived, has managed to score a distribution deal with IFC Films -- which means the day is soon coming when we can all see this supposed cinematic train wreck for ourselves.

"The Canyons" is a contemporary L.A.-set melodrama (to say the least) that centers around a group of young twentysomethings (including Lohan and porn star James Deen) caught in a downward spiral of drugs, deceit, sexual obsession and misguided ambition. The script comes courtesy of Bret Easton Ellis, returning to the sleazy "Less Than Zero" kind of territory he knows so well.

The film was designed as a comeback of sorts for both Schrader and Ellis, with most of the film's budget coming from their own money and a somewhat successful Kickstarter campaign. The production shot on cheap-looking digital video, with a series of trailers showcasing the film's would-be attempts at recreating an old-school exploitation vibe, complete with (way) over-the-top acting and grind house aesthetics like film scratches and lens flares added in post.

"The Canyons" has become the joke of the town upon the release of a New York Times article last month that served as a tell-all on what it was like to work with the notoriously troubled Lohan on the production. Schrader has also publicly expressed his anger about the film being rejected by both Sundance and SXSW, with a "festival insider" of the latter claiming "The Canyons" has "an ugliness and deadness to it" -- a quote that Schrader certainly didn't appreciate.

"This was outrageous," said Schrader to Deadline earlier this month. "Confidentiality is sacrosanct in the festival submission process and this was amateur hour. I've been around it a long time and you cannot get responsible people to even say they saw the film, if it isn't in the festival. We received a private apology, but I didn't get a public one. The first excuse that came from [SXSW festival director] Janet Pierson was really lame, basically saying, we didn't do it. It was Nixonian in nature."

It certainly isn't often that a film inspires someone to be "Nixonian." Well, at least where someone actually calls them out on it.

Now, IFC Films has stepped in and acquired the North American distribution rights for the film Schrader describes as "cinema for the post theatrical area" -- which certainly makes it a good fit for IFC, who have had much success with their Video On Demand model. However, even the film's distributor is being cautious -- or at least clever -- when it comes to offering any real genuine praise to "The Canyons."

"This film is a wild ride through the psyche of Bret Easton Ellis courtesy of Paul Schrader. Lindsay Lohan is terrific as Tara and James Deen will be a big surprise for people," said Jonathan Sehring, President of Sundance Selects/IFC Films. "We are thrilled that the filmmakers' adventure in filmmaking 2.0 has brought them to our door."

"The Canyons" will premiere in theaters, on DVD and on digital platforms in early summer in conjunction with a Special Presentation at Lincoln Center, where the film will be screened and followed by a conversation with Schrader and Kent Jones, Director of Programming of the New York Film Festival.