Paul Schrader on ‘First Reformed,’ Why There’s No Cause for Optimism, and Directing Bob Dylan

The number of questions any reasonable journalist has for Paul Schrader would be massive, enough to fill a book if he had the desire to indulge curiosity after curiosity. It adds up that sitting with one of my favorite American filmmakers, speaking for both screenwriter and director, leaves many possibilities. So if the topic at hand is limited, it is because his newest film, First Reformed, offers a panoply of riches all its own, to say nothing of how evidently it stands with the best of a directorial career that turned 40 this year. So’s the jumping-off point for my discussion, which, of course, couldn’t just be about one picture — all the more so when his range of references runs from Peckinpah to Rossellini, back through his new, wild charting of slow cinema in the republished edition of his seminal Transcendental Style in Film.

Our conversation is as follows.

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