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ReFocus: The Films of Paul Schrader$
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Michelle E. Moore and Brian Brems

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781474462037

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474462037.001.0001

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Schrader’s Women: Cat People and Patty Hearst

Schrader’s Women: Cat People and Patty Hearst

(p.122) Chapter 7 Schrader’s Women: Cat People and Patty Hearst
ReFocus: The Films of Paul Schrader

Brian Brems

Edinburgh University Press

Paul Schrader’s connection with director Robert Bresson is often explored through his male characters, the ‘man in his room’ of Light Sleeper and American Gigolo, but Taxi Driver before them and First Reformed most recently. However, Schrader’s two primary experiments with female characters, Cat People (1982) and Patty Hearst (1988), also follow a similar Bressonian trajectory and end with each female character incarcerated, yet finding a kind of spiritual freedom that helps them realize their identities. This chapter explores Schrader’s women primarily through close examination of Cat People’s Irina (Nastassja Kinski) and Natasha Richardson’s eponymous heroine in Patty Hearst, but use his representation of women in the male-driven films for points of comparison and contrast. In addition, this chapter approaches Schrader’s women as reflections of his male characters, many of whom are driven by existential anxiety that motivates them to seek self-actualization in redemptive violence.

Keywords:   Paul Schrader, Cat People (1982), Patty Hearst (1988), Robert Bresson, Transcendental style, Female protagonist

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