In The Card Counter, by Paul Schrader, the dips are not made

CRITICAL – Paul Schrader’s new feature film features a veteran fleeing violence and a teenage boy steeped in revenge. Beings like the American director loves them.

The world is a green carpet. William goes from casino to casino. He hardly ever sees the light of day. His life is spent at gaming tables, under pale neon lights, in front of piles of tokens of varying sizes. As in Taxi Driver, a voice-over comments on the action. She explains the rules of blackjack to us, details the intricacies of poker. In roulette, the hero only bets on flush. We are told that he is coming out of eight years in prison. This former soldier has served his sentence for torturing prisoners in Abu Ghraib. His fault is to have posed for a photo with one of his victims. His instructor did not make this mistake. It is Willem Dafoe, with a mustache, who now works for private companies.

On his way, Oscar Isaac crosses paths with his past. He sees him again distorted, screaming, filmed in wide-angle. This neat samurai has a moral. You win, you leave. You lose, you go. Never large sums. With his leather jacket and black tie, this impassive bachelor takes under his wing the young Cirk (Tye Sheridan), whose father was also trained by the horrible Dafoe. It will very quickly be revenge. A strange pact unites the adult and the adolescent. The first will start making love again on condition that the second decides to see his mother again. High five! Fortunately, the beautiful, sweet La Linda (Tiffany Haddish) hangs around. She leads a group of punters, orders whiskeys on the rocks and tries to give a little humanity to the impassive William.

We recognize here the signature of Paul Schrader, beings at the end of their rope in search of redemption. It’s as if Bresson had met Peckinpah, even if this time the violence is still out of the picture. In motels, the hero wraps his bedroom furniture in a white sheet. He keeps his journal. On his back, a tattoo proclaims: “I trust my life in Providence. I trust my soul in Grace. ”

Metaphor of loneliness

In the evening, he reads Marc Aurèle. The Steve McQueen from Cincinnati Kid surely had other bedside books. The film can be seen as a documentary on the world of the game as a metaphor for loneliness, with its regulars (this Mister USA acclaimed by its supporters) and its sets which seem identical. You should be good at math and not be devoid of psychology.

The Card Counter is tense, controlled, pessimistic. America is embodied in these two kids sitting at the edge of an empty swimming pool, one rainy afternoon. Love does exist, however: those fingers that brush against each other during the visit of an artificial garden shining with a thousand multicolored lights. There will be blood. Hope will be there, however. The last sequence squarely quotes the conclusion ofAmerican gigolo. The stakes are not over.

“The Card Counter”, drama by Paul Schrader, with Oscar Isaac, Tye Sheridan, Tiffany Haddish. Duration 1 h 52.


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