(AFP) – A lonely anti-hero who drags his scars in a climate of muted violence: 45 years after writing “Taxi Driver”, a New Hollywood masterpiece, Paul Schrader continues his path alongside the ghosts of the ‘America with “The Card Counter”, Wednesday at the cinema.
Faithful traveling companion of Martin Scorsese, for whom he also wrote “Raging Bull” or “The last temptation of Christ”, the 75-year-old filmmaker has also made his way as a director.
His “Card Counter”, which was in competition at the last Venice Film Festival, is bathed in darkness: it tells the story of a veteran of Iraq, haunted by the tortures in which he took part in the military prison of Abu Ghraib.
“Society has forgiven him, but he has not forgiven himself,” the filmmaker said at a press conference in Venice, captivated by “the lack of a spirit of responsibility in contemporary societies”.
As Travis Bickle (Robert de Niro) drifted in his taxi through the night of New York, William Tell (Oscar Isaac) is an unattached man, who crisscrosses the United States from casino to casino, playing poker tournaments. professional.
The character is solitary, stingy with his words, and cultivates strange rituals, for example wrapping in white sheets the furniture of the motel rooms he occupies. A main role that Schrader entrusts to Oscar Isaac, revealed in the Cohen brothers (“Inside Llewyn Davis”) and also known for the Star Wars.
“All the characters I’ve played have their weirdness, but William is probably the most mysterious, the hardest to pin down,” said the magnetically charming actor in Venice. “I read, reread and reread” the script before realizing that the “key” was to capture “how the body remembers trauma”.
He explained that he worked on body language, like a poker player who doesn’t let anything show through his face.
The film is also the story of a surrogate family, the one that William will end up forming with other injured characters: Cirk (Tye Sheridan), a young man whose father, a soldier, committed suicide, and who seems to be looking for a father figure, and La Linda (Tiffany Haddish), the unlikely agent of professional poker players.
Will William eventually believe in redemption? Nothing is less certain, so much violence threatens while the crimes of the past continue to haunt him.