S. CRAIG ZAHLER: 21ST CENTURY AMERICAN AUTEUR
A successful writer of novels and unproduced screenplays for more than a decade, S. Craig Zahler made his debut as a feature film director with the gripping Western/horror hybrid Bone Tomahawk in 2015, followed shortly after by the urban crime dramas Brawl in Cell Block 99 and Dragged Across Concrete. Often provocative for their genuinely shocking moments of violence and narratives driven by well-defined, yet unpredictable characters, Zahler’s enticingly titled movies follow in the tradition of classical cinematic storytellers like John Carpenter, Walter Hill, and Jean-Pierre Melville. A gifted writer of tightly constructed plots and spare, but flavorful dialogue, Zahler is also the co-composer (along with UW Whitewater Professor Jeff Herriott) of the songs and music score on each of his three features. While they have debuted at prestigious international film festivals, Zahler’s films have mostly received limited theatrical distribution in the U.S. Now, with this series of all three Zahler-directed movies presented in a proper cinema setting, you have the opportunity to join this complete auteur’s fast-growing group of cinephile admirers.
- Sat., Mar. 14 | 7:00 PM4070 Vilas Hall
After publishing several novels and writing numerous unproduced screenplays, Zahler made his debut as writer-director with this gripping Western-horror hybrid. The slowly unfolding story focuses on a grizzled sheriff (Russell) who leads a posse of men to rescue two white settlers abducted by a cave-dwelling tribe of cannibals. A fully-realized first feature, Bone Tomahawk is marked by Zahler’s ear for colorful, even poetic dialogue and at least one moment of genuinely shocking violence.
- Sat., Mar. 21 | 7:00 PM4070 Vilas Hall
Writer-director Zahler earned wide-spread critical acclaim for his second movie, which follows the descent into crime of the former boxer Bradley Thomas (Vaughn). When Bradley’s drug-dealing career lands him in prison, he is forced to act cleverly and quickly to outwit both a sadistic warden (Johnson) and the thugs on the outside who pose a threat to his wife (Carpenter). This screening will be followed by a discussion with UW Whitewater Professor Jeff Herriott, who, with Zahler, has co-written the music scores and songs for all three of Zahler’s features. Brawl features several Zahler-Herriott compositions performed by Butch Tavares and The O’Jays.
- Sat., Mar. 28 | 7:00 PM4070 Vilas Hall
A diabolically planned heist unites the seemingly disparate trajectories of two working class cops (Gibson and Vaughn) and an ex-convict (Kittles). Zahler’s third feature as writer-director is a masterful, epic-length story of corruption and urban survival. Filled with irony, memorable characters, disturbing violence, and lean, witty dialogue, Dragged Across Concrete recalls the work of filmmakers like Jean-Pierre Melville and Walter Hill, but Zahler’s own stylistic contributions make it clear he is one of the most distinctive auteurs of our current cinematic era.