Paul Schrader is one of the seminal figures of the contemporary American cinema. His success is attributable to the creative use of his critical faculty and a commercial deployment of his Calvinism. The result is a body of work that is a bracing commentary on classic and modern Hollywood, and whose bleak vision would make film noir look like musical comedy.
Blasphemy is by no means dead in Britain, as the recent condemnation of Gay News, for publishing a poem portraying Christ as homosexual, reveals. But The Life of Brian has nothing about it as shocking to the faithful as this, and is saved indeed from blasphemy by its sheer vulgarity.
Escape from Alcatraz opens with the camera panning across San Francisco Bay and the bridge, and then to the grim, gloomy island of Alcatraz. The first sequence, as the credits come up, shows the arrival, through rain and darkness, of a prisoner for the "Rock": it is shot in tight, constricted close- up and mostly in shadow.
Much of the confusion about "Once Upon a Time in America" stems from a certain critical inability to understand why the film is structured the way it is, and why Leone chooses to conclude the fiction with such a supposedly enigmatic scene.
Ennio Morricone has written some of the cinema's most- recognizable and best-loved film scores including the recent Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America". Here he is interviewed by Sue Adler.