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Michael Gaston (#110 of 3)

Toronto Film Review Paul Schrader’s First Reformed

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Toronto Film Review: Paul Schrader’s First Reformed

TIFF

Toronto Film Review: Paul Schrader’s First Reformed

Everything Paul Schrader has done throughout his career has led him to First Reformed, potentially the finest entry in what my friend and former Slant contributor Jeremiah Kipp refers to as the writer-director’s “men in rooms” films. These include 1980’s American Gigolo, 1992’s Light Sleeper, and 2007’s The Walker, all woozy character studies of not-quite-alpha males drifting through impeccably maintained, utterly empty lives that are summarily upended. The spaces these men inhabit seem an extension of their preplanned existences. Look at the way, for example, Richard Gere’s high-end sex worker, Julian Kaye, in American Gigolo organizes his California apartment as if it were a sun-dappled monk’s cell, with Armani suits as his chaplain’s wardrobe and a luxury-linened bed as his altar.

The Leftovers Recap Season 1, Episode 8, "Cairo"

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The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 8, “Cairo”

HBO

The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 8, “Cairo”

“Cairo” begins with a song, climaxes with a poem, and concludes with a whisper, but it’s what each of these leaves unspoken that captures the testy relationship between faith and doubt at the heart of The Leftovers. As the opening montage augurs the coming collision between Patti Levin (Ann Dowd) and Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux), suturing her arrangements for the Guilty Remnant’s next radical act to his preparations for dinner, the music we hear is excerpted from “I’ve Been ’Buked and I’ve Been Scorned,” an African-American spiritual. Left out when Patti closes the church door, however, are the lyrics that traditionally come next: “Ain’t goin’ to lay my ’ligion down,” the hymn resolves, “no, Lord.” “Cairo” is a dark night of the soul, but the power of conviction is omnipresent at its margins.

The Leftovers Recap Season 1, Episode 2, "Penguin One, Us Zero"

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The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 2, “Penguin One, Us Zero”

HBO

The Leftovers Recap: Season 1, Episode 2, “Penguin One, Us Zero”

Troubled chief of police Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) first encounters the penguin of “Penguins One, Us Zero” during an exchange with the police department psychologist assigned to evaluate his fitness for duty. Garvey’s massacre of a pack of dogs (gone wild, local myth has it, after witnessing the Sudden Departure firsthand) has Mayor Lucy Warburton (Amanda Warren) and the chief’s colleagues on the force worried about his mental state, and Garvey’s unsubstantiated claim that an unnamed “mystery man” (Michael Gaston) joined him in the shooting does little to quell their doubts. Amid the combative atmosphere of the counseling session, the most jarring detail is the presence of a goofy, inflatable black bird with large blue eyes and toucan-esque splashes of color on its body. “I work with a lot of kids,” the shrink explains. “They use it for aggression.” As its title suggests, the second episode of The Leftovers teems with flashes of anger, but it’s the objects of frustration that end up winning out.