The Card Counter is a dark meditation on guilt | Movies | San Luis Obispo


Writer-director Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, American Gigolo, Affliction) directs this dark story about player William “Bill” Tell (Oscar Isaac), who is haunted by his past as a US military interrogator trained by Gordo (Willem Dafoe ). Bill meets Cirk (Tye Sheridan), the son of a former soldier, and takes him under his wing as he embarks on a poker tour funded by La Linda (Tiffany Haddish). (111 minutes)

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  • Photo courtesy of Focus Features
  • REVENGE OR REDEMPTION? William “Bill” Tell (Oscar Isaac) is a professional gamer haunted by his past, in the excellent slow-burning thriller by author Paul Schrader, The card counter, screened exclusively at SLO’s Palm Theater.

Glen Paul Schrader is the master explorer of the American psyche, be it Travis Bickle’s twisted morality from Taxi driver (1976) or the troubled past of the pastor of the small congregation, the Reverend Ernst Toller of First reformed (2017), Schrader finds his way into the minds of people broken by the ontological complexities of being a part of American culture. In Bill Tell’s case, he’s a man in search of redemption. To calm his mind, he immersed himself in the routine. Card counting keeps him busy, and he stays off the casino radar by winning small and continuing. When La Linda sees him at a poker tournament, she suggests funding him for higher stakes games, and although he’s not interested at first, he reluctantly agrees when he sees this as a way to help. Cirk to overcome his financial problems, giving him a better chance at life. As for Cirk, he’s angry. Like too many soldiers, his father was destroyed by his service. He blames Gordo, but Bill wants to keep him away from thoughts of revenge. It’s a story about the inner lives of struggling people, and maybe not for all viewers, but I was fascinated.

Anne I was totally surprised when I posted the Rotten Tomatoes page for this movie and saw a disastrous 42% audience score. Although the critics score is much higher, I just can’t believe that so many people walked away from this movie without liking it. It’s dark and brooding and not necessarily a lot of fun to watch, but the simmering heat of Isaac’s performance here is so good. He clearly has a difficult relationship not only with his past, but with himself, with the person he has been and can be. He starts out in prison where his card skills are mastered, but the meat of this movie is his time on the road with Cirk and La Linda. He doesn’t like to play celebrity poker. Much like the rest of his life, he prefers to be an anonymous spot on anyone’s radar. But when it comes to helping Cirk get out of what might be a dark and deep path to revenge, Bill feels compelled to steer the kid elsewhere and decides to try his hand at the World Poker circuit to do so. a large seizure of money relatively quickly. Personally, I found this film captivating, from the enigmatic character of Isaac to the odd but somewhat sweet relationship he has with Cirk and La Linda. There are a lot of great performances here. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you don’t mind mixing a little grain in your movies, this is definitely the one to grab.

Glen Not only does Schrader get amazing and nuanced performances from his actors, but he also delivers a masterful staging. I especially liked its hypnotic and haunting use of light, from stray light and blurry traffic lights to neon glitter in casinos. A swirling kaleidoscope of light surrounds the lives of Bill, Cirk and La Linda. There are also flashback scenes to Bill’s time in the military that use an extreme fisheye lens and long tracking shots that are baffling as hell! The movie has three distinct lighting setups: the colorful gift, the vomited yellow military flashbacks, and the cool, colorless scenes from the American Penitentiary at Leavensworth, which Bill tries to recreate in an interesting way in his various motel rooms during his travels. . It’s just a beautifully crafted movie, albeit a bit slow. It also has a conclusion that might not be right for some viewers, but there’s no denying its potency. In terms of atmosphere, the only film in recent memory that compares is that of Nicolas Winding Refn Only god forgives (2013). The card counter proves that Schrader still has a lot to say about the dark undercurrents of American personality.

Anne You are there; this use of lighting is simply masterful and very clearly defines the mood of the different places and times we visit in the film. Schrader has a ton of skill in letting silence in a movie speak volumes, and while it can seem slow at times, I also see it used as an asset to evoke feelings, emotions, fear whatever. that he’s trying to bring out. of its characters and its audience. The stark differences in Bill’s past environment and the way he organizes his life now speak of a man who knows his ability to break lies just below the surface, a man who worries about feeling too alive and of what it can do to him to face it. The ending was unexpected, and I won’t reveal anything here, but the more I think about it a day later, the more I agree with the choice of the filmmaker. The characters aren’t particularly designed for happy endings, and what we get makes sense in the context. It’s not a movie that I would tell everyone to see, but I will definitely tell those I know who don’t mind a dark, difficult movie that this is a movie to watch. ??

Senior editor Glen Starkey and freelance writer Anna Starkey write Split Screen. Glen compiles streaming mailing lists. Comment at [email protected]

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