Paul Joseph Schrader (born July 22, 1946) is an American screenwriter, film director, and sometime film critic. Schrader has directed 17 feature films, including his 1982 remake of horror classic Cat People, and critically acclaimed dramas Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985), Affliction (1997) and Auto Focus (2002). Schrader also wrote or co-wrote the screenplays for Martin Scorsese classics Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.
Schrader's upbringing and critical writings
Schrader was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the son of Joan (née Fisher) and Charles A. Schrader, an executive. Schrader's family practiced in the Calvinist Christian Reformed Church, and his early life was based upon the religion's strict principles and parental education. He did not see a film until he was seventeen years old, and was able to sneak away from home. In an interview he stated that The Absent-Minded Professor was the first film he saw. In his own words, he was "very unimpressed" by it, while Wild in the Country, which he saw some time later, had quite some effect on him. Schrader refers his intellectual rather than emotional approach towards movies and movie making to his having no adolescent's movie memories.
Schrader received his BA from Calvin College, with a minor in Theology. He then earned an MA in Film Studies from the UCLA Film School graduate program upon the recommendation of Pauline Kael. With her as his mentor, he became a film critic, writing for the Los Angeles Free Press, and later for Cinema magazine. His book Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer, which examines the cross-cultural similarities between Robert Bresson, Yasujirō Ozu and Carl Theodor Dreyer, was published in 1972. The endings of Schrader's films American Gigolo and Light Sleeper bear obvious resemblance to that of Bresson's 1959 film Pickpocket. His essay Notes on Film Noir from the same year has become a much cited source in literature on film.
The September–October 2006 issue of Film Comment magazine published his essay Canon Fodder which attempted to establish criteria for judging film masterworks.
Other filmmakers who made a lasting impression on Schrader are John Ford, Jean Renoir, Roberto Rossellini, Alfred Hitchcock and Sam Peckinpah. Renoir's The Rules of the Game he called the "quintessential movie" which represents "all of the cinema".