The 17th Zurich Film Festival honours the American director and screenwriter Paul Schrader for his life’s work. Schrader wrote himself into cinema history when he penned the screenplays for Scorsese’s TAXI DRIVER and RAGING BULL. His own controversial directorial works, such as AMERICAN GIGOLO, have also garnered him much attention. The Hollywood master will present his new thriller THE CARD COUNTER at the ZFF and give insights into his career at a ZFF Masters.
Each year, the Zurich Film Festival presents honorary awards to celebrated filmmakers who have shaped and enriched the film landscape. Now the 17th ZFF honours the director and screenwriter Paul Schrader with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his life’s work. The 75-year-old icon of “New Hollywood” will accept the award in person at Zurich Convention Center on Friday, October 1 before presenting his new film THE CARD COUNTER, which he wrote and directed.
“It is a dream for me as a cinephile to pay homage to Paul Schrader at the ZFF. Paul makes American cinema the way we love it: entertaining and socially critical at the same time,” explains Christian Jungen, Artistic Director. “He is able like no other to create such disturbing anti-heroes in search of redemption as Travis Bickle in TAXI DRIVER or the poker player William played by Oscar Isaac in THE CARD COUNTER, who remain emblazoned on our minds long after the cinema experience is over. Paul is one of Hollywood’s great masters who also has plenty to share with us about his eventful life – which is why we are all looking forward to his ZFF Masters.”
Paul Schrader is equally delighted by the prospect of visiting the ZFF: “I am pleased to be honored by a very hip film festival in the beautiful city of Zurich. I have many fond memories and friends there, and am appreciative that this honor will allow me to visit those”.
Paul Schrader, from Michigan/USA, grew up in a strict Calvanist family and studied theology. Movies were regarded as the devil’s work in his family home, and the young Paul had never seen a movie theatre from the inside until he was 18 years old. It wasn’t until he attended a screening of Ingmar Bergman’s film THE SEVENTH SEAL (DET SJUNDE INSEGLET, 1957) with fellow students and realised that Bergman was dealing with similar issues to those he had been studying in theology that Schrader discovered his passion for film. He met the influential critic Pauline Kael, who helped him get a place at the UCLA Film School and became his mentor.
After making a name for himself as a fearless film critic and also as a theorist with the book “Transcendental Style in Film”, Schrader decided to write his own screenplays. None other than Sydney Pollack himself filmed his first, the gangster thriller THE YAKUZA (1974), which Quentin Tarantino still lists as one of his all-time favourite movies. The screenplays to Brian De Palma’s OBSESSION and Martin Scorsese’s TAXI DRIVER (both 1976) marked Schrader’s breakthrough as a screenwriter of the very highest order. He went on to write film history with the screenplays for Scorsese’s RAGING BULL (1980), THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (1988) and BRINGING OUT THE DEAD (1999).
Schrader didn’t just work for great directors, he also proved his talent as a highly successful director in his own right with AMERICAN GIGOLO (1980), an early masterpiece that launched the career of Richard Gere. The movie that followed, the horror movie CAT PEOPLE (1982) with Nastassja Kinski, is one of his most important works. And the drama FIRST REFORMED (2019), which he also wrote and directed, recently brought Paul Schrader a long overdue Oscar Nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Schraders œuvre now comprises more than 30 films as a director or author. He will present his most recent movie THE CARD COUNTER in Zurich. The densely atmospheric neo-noir thriller starring an outstanding Oscar Isaac in the lead role as Iraq veteran William Tell tackles Schrader’s eternal themes of guilt and redemption as it leads us into the shadowy world of poker players and gamblers.
The Career and Lifetime Achievement Awards have been presented previously to such eminent cineastes as Alejandro González Iñárritu, Harrison Ford, Hans Zimmer, Aaron Sorkin, Donald Sutherland, Marcel Hoehn, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Rolf Lyssy.
The complete program of the 17th Zurich Film Festival will be published on the website on Thursday, September 9, from 12 noon local time. In addition, it can be viewed on the official festival app Tribo, where it is also possible to compile a personal festival program. Ticket sales will start on Monday, September 13, from 12 noon local time.