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Soundtrack Mix #19: Paul Schrader's Unseen Angels

Enter into the dark depths of Paul Schrader's world through the melodies and lyrics that define his films.
Florence Scott-Anderton
“I have decided to keep a journal. Not in a word program or digital file, but in longhand, writing every word out so that every inflection of penmanship, every word chosen, scratched out, revised, is recorded. To set down all my thoughts and the simple events of my day factually and without hiding anything. When writing about oneself, one should show no mercy. I will keep this diary for one year; 12 months. And at the end of that time, it will be destroyed. Shredded, then burnt. The experiment will be over.” 
Searching narration binds Paul Schrader’s work, the lone ranger facing a crisis of faith, unable to shake off the past. The above dialogue introduces Ethan Hawke’s Reverend Ernst Toller at the beginning of First Reformed (2017). Schrader’s characters share their own folklore and throughout this mix their tales come and go. The lyrics take on the form of character too, candlelit messages in a dark fog of mystery and conflict. This mix focuses on Schrader’s directorial canon, emphasizing the stirring moods embedded in his character’s worlds. 
The late Michael Been’s aching soundtrack to Schrader’s brilliant Light Sleeper (1992), with lyrics like “I struggle through the day to day, I brace against the storm… It feels like the world’s on fire.” That same aching is found in Brian Ferry’s  “Which Way To Turn,” Woody Harrelson’s companion piece throughout The Walker (2007). Several collaborations are highlighted including: Angelo Badalamenti for Auto Focus (2002), The Comfort Of Strangers (1990), Forever Mine (1999). Jack Nitzsche’s masterful Hardcore (1979) OST (he also worked on Blue Collar [1978] with Captain Beefheart and Ry Cooder), Giorgio Moroder’s Cat People (1982) and American Gigalo (1980) (that feature David Bowie and Deborah Harry on guest vocals respectively) and the strings from Philip Glass’s score for Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters (1985). A surprising turn comes in the form of a blissful guitar and vocal piece for Touch (1997), scored by Dave Grohl. Joan Jett stars as struggling rocker Patti Resnick alongside her brother Joe (Michael J Fox) in Light Of Day (1987). Instead of the 80s rock songs devised by Jett and Bruce Spingsteen for the film, its pensive, ambient end titles scored by Thomas Newman felt more apt to pull in for this overview of Schrader’s sound palette.
There’s a push and pull between abject lyrics and narration, sensual strings and synths that promote longing and desire and the spiritual sounds of church chorus with organs. Schrader uses sound and music to emphasize characters in states of flux. 
  1. Affliction (1997) edit 00:00
  2. First Reformed (2017) edit 00:00
  3. Giorgio Moroder, “The Myth,” Cat People (1982) 02:00
  4. Michael Been, “World On Fire (John’s Theme),” Light Sleeper (1992) 05:30
  5. Blue Collar (1978) edit 11:05
  6. Philip Glass, “F-104: Epilogue From Sun And Steel,” Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters (1985) 11:10
  7. Dog Eat Dog (2016) edit 12:55
  8. Angelo Badalamenti & Paul Schrader, “Snap (Instrumental),” Auto Focus (2002) 13:15
  9. Forever Mine (1999) edit 16:45
  10. Giorgio Moroder, “The Seduction (Love Theme),” American Gigolo (1980) 18:50
  11. Light Sleeper (1992) edit 21:30
  12. Light Of Day (1987) edit 22:08
  13. Dave Grohl, “Saints In Love,” Touch (1997) 23:12
  14. The Comfort Of Strangers (1990) edit 26:20
  15. Brain Ferry, “Which Way To Turn,” The Walker (2007) 27:00
  16. First Reformed (2007) edit 32:38
  17. Susan Raye, “Precious Memories,” Hardcore (1979) 34:09
  18. Jack Nitzsche, “Van Dorn,” Hardcore (1979) 36:40
  19. Hardcore (1979) edit 37:54
  20. Michael Been, “Marianne’s Fall,” Light Sleeper (1992) 38:10
  21. Affliction (1997) edit 40:45
  22. Forever Mine (1999) edit 43:00
  23. Cat People (1982) edit 44:45
  24. Hardcore (1979) edit 47:28
  25. Dum Dum Girls, “Coming Down,” The Canyons (2013) 49:29
  26. Mink Deville, “Guardian Angel,” Hardcore (1979) 55:53
  27. First Reformed (2017) edit 58:40 
28. Michael Been, “Fate,” Light Sleeper (1992) 61:04


AudioSoundtrack MixesPaul SchraderMichael BeenBrian FerryAngelo BadalamentiGiorgio MoroderColumns
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