Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hardcore, Paul Schrader (1979)

Paul Schrader's Hardcore, 1979, is a dark, postlapsarian fable showing America's  rapid and irresistible decline into debauchery and decadence. As the family of staunchly religious busnessman Jake VanDorn unravels, the forces of darkness  move in to entice his teen-age daughter into their subterranean culture.

Jake VanDorn, living in the stoical and strict Calvinist Reformation community in Grand Rapids, Michigan, believes he is pure and protected as Adam did in Garden of Eden.  He faces life headon, an uncompromising and stalwart member of the community and faithful servant of God.  
Iris is the present for Kristen's childhood in
 Eden and Niki's future in Gehenna

Season Hubley is the world weary Niki

The Eve(s) of Hardcore are VanDorn's adolescent daughter Kristen (Ilah Davis), who disappeared on a church trip to California, and Niki (Season Hubley), the sex worker that helps VanDorn search for her.  Together with Schrader's Iris, the child prostitute from his screenplay for Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976), they create single entity;  Hardcore offers glimpses of where Iris may have come from and how she might have ended up if she weren't rescued a brutal, rage fueled father figure.  

The third character in the story of The Fall is the serpent, private detective Andy Mast (Peter Boyle).  The serpent's role in the Fall was to open Adam and Eve's eyes.  Once their eyes were open, God cast them out of paradise and into the broken world we all inhabit.   Mast gleefully introduces VanDorn to the seedy and sinful world outside Grand Rapids by showing him a pornographic loop of Kristin having sex with two men.  

... until Something Weird Video re-releases it on a compilation DVD
By the end of VanDorn's journey (he is called "pilgrim" by Mast), he can no longer stand aloof, free from the woes of the world.  Instead, he becomes a participant, a perpetrator.  After leaving Grand Rapids and dismissing Mast, VanDorn sets about searching for his daughter himself, enlisting Niki, the fallen Eve to help with the search.   He submerges himself into the neon lit, sordid culture of pornography, becoming one of the exploiters, first as a ruse to find Kristen, and then for real as he forsakes Niki, dismissing the promises he made to her for her help.

In exchange for free product placement (billboards advertising
Star Wars glimpsed though out), George Lucas gave
Paul Schrader access to Chalmun's Cantina outtake
Niki questions him constantly, testing him, trying to get him to see himself in a new light, "We are not so different," she tells him.  At the end of the movie, the most interesting question is what will their tomorrows be like?

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