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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

LIGHT SLEEPER wins my sleeper award for best original screenplay

Review by Dana Biscotti Myskowski

Part drug dealer, part counselor, all drifter, the forty-something character John LeTour of Paul Schrader’s LIGHT SLEEPER is both charming and captivating.  We might despise what he does for a living, but because he genuinely cares about the people that surround him, other readers may find themselves as I did: rooting for this unlikely hero.

The script is a quick and delightful read because Schrader writes for his audience.  Sure, ideally the screenplay will eventually serve as a blueprint for a film as this one did.  But before it can make its way to the can it must first capture the attention, admiration, and accolades of the film financiers, actors, agents, cinematographer, studio execs, and more.

One of the difficulties in reading most screenplays is the inclusion of industry formatting.  Instead of using standard slug lines, Schrader begins one sequence with the title “CONFESSOR LETOUR.”  In the next line we learn when and where we are, but from the onset we understand the thrust of the story.  Hence we read on anxious to learn about this remarkable character who is more than just a drug dealer to his clients, but a confidant, a counselor, an in-person hotline operator, and even—occasionally—a friend.

The dialogue is equally enthralling.  Call me picky, but I enjoy hearing characters actually speaking to each other—listening or deliberately not listening—rather than diving into tangents as the writer suddenly realizes he needs to develop a plot thread. 

Schrader also writes as people speak.  In short sentences. Using nouns and verbs.  One word, when necessary.  Really.  And an occasional simple expression, foul or not.  It makes for a quick and enjoyable read, one that can easily fit into the hectic routine of just about any reader. 

Grab LIGHT SLEEPER* and slip it into your beach bag, carry on, or glove box to read the next time you need to fill a few minutes.  You’ll be glad you did, even if the subject matter falls a bit outside your ordinary world…or triangularly within it.

Schrader, Paul.  Light Sleeper. London: Faber and Faber, 1992.

 * Now you'll have to settle for the trilogy collection of Schrader works that includes the mesmerizing TAXI DRIVER, LIGHT SLEEPER and AMERICAN GIGOLO, also published by Faber & Faber. (Apparently they've discontinued the single issue screenplays of LIGHT SLEEPER and TAXI DRIVER, though you can score a used copy.)  

6 comments:

Andy said...

Hey there! I only had 2 I needed to make up, so I hop you don't mind me posting them both here. They're for Stafford and Anna.

Stafford:from his 11/5/08 post
I heard that was supposed to be a really cool game. Hope it wasn't too bad. 10 to 2 though? makes me glad lenscrafters doesn't have a midnight release when we get new frames...

Anna: from her 11/6/08 post
I'm always impressed with your insatiable desire to help people. It's a rare and admirable quality that definitely sets you apart. Africa is no small start to a huge journey I'm sure you'll be taking through life. Just make sure to take a few good pictures on your way. :-)

Andy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meghan said...

I wanted to let you know I passed along your recommendation for the screenplay to my boyfriend (the aspiring screenwriter)and he is very excited to read it. He said, "I never read Taxi Driver either so maybe I'll get the trilogy." He loves to read screenplays so I appreciate the write-up. If there are any more screaming "must-read" feel free to let me know; I will run them past him and see if he has read them yet. Thanks.

Anna Gdanian said...

Dana! I decided to keep my blog when I go to Africa! I hope that you keep checking and let me know what you think. Thanks for teaching me this method. I would have never thought of it; the easy way of communicating.

Young Grasshopper said...

How cool! Well done :)

Cassandra Lee said...

Somehow can't find through other's blogs Abby's blog! So this is my attempt to leave atleast three comments this week! Don't know if you noticed the book sale today in the third floor area near the elevator and computers- got two hard cover books for $4.00! Talk about a steal- I love used books :) It's like someone's best friend they're sharing with you. Semester's almost over thank you for a good one!