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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Light Sleeper - Light Sleeper(Blu Ray) [Powerhouse - 2021]

Light Sleeper is a decidedly moody & compelling 1990’s film that blends elements of noir, drama, and later fairly tense thriller. The New York city set film moves between the shadowy, rain-soaked & rubbish piled streets of the city, and it’s glitzy-yet vapid up-market clubs & apartments. It focuses in on world-weary & troubled high-end drug courier John LeTour (Willem Dafoe), as his risky-if-becoming predictable life gets slowly-but-surely shaken up. From Powerhouse here is a most welcome reissue of the film- featuring a high definition re-mastered print, and a good selection of new & archive extras.

Appearing in 1992 Light Sleeper was written & directed by Paul Schrader who is known for both his scriptwriting & directing, on the writing side of things he has penned the likes of Taxi Driver, Raging Bull & The Mosquito Coast. With his directional credits taking in films such as Hardcore, American Gigolo, and The Comfort of Strangers. Light Sleeper is a very nicely realized and expertly scoped film, which for its first three quarters or so dwells in mood & drama, before nicely slipping into thriller mode in its last quarter.

The film opens with John LeTour (Dafoe) travelling in the back of limo through NYC’s nighttime streets- his driver stops, he gets out & exchanges something for money, before getting back in the car. Fairly soon a noir voice-over kicks in, and he starts talking about his life as a drug courier/ dealer. In due course we get introduced to his boss Ann(Susan Sarandon) & fellow drug courier Robert(David Clennon)- the three work out of an apartment that sits somewhere between chic & cluttered. The business is run via phone & beepers- with largely John & Robert been ferried around the city in limos to do drops to their customers- be it in their apartments, hotel rooms, or clubs/ bars/ restaurants. One rainy night on his way from a drop, John picks out a woman trying to hail a taxi-  it’s an old flame, Marianne Jost(Dana Delany) & we find out their serious relationship was pulled apart by their drug use. They are now clean, so John attempts in re-light their passion, and this is what slowly-but-surely pulls his life apart.

Dafoe is on fine form as the self-assured, yet troubled John. Sarandon is also great, as the elegant-yet-tough Ann, with Clennon topping off the trio nicely as the campy & quipping John. Delany does a nice job as the gone straight ex-lover, nicely shifting through a range of emotions in a most believable manner. The supporting cast is well picked & placed too- with worthy mentions been Victor Garber as one John’s rich, but creepy & sleazed clients, and a brief early career appearance from Sam Rockwell as the jive-talking & big ‘n’ leather jacketed Jealous. The films script & slowly building pace expertly pulls you into its characters world nicely, and as we move towards it’s more thriller focused side you are well & truly hooked into all Light Sleeper has to offer.

Moving onto this new region B Blu Ray release- and first, off we get a nice & classy high definition print of the film, really enhancing the moodiness of the whole thing. On the extras front we get two new things- first is a seventeen-minute on-camera interview with writer/ director Schrader, here he talks about how the project got off the ground & cast selection, moving onto talk about how he had self-fund the film for a few weeks. Later he discusses in-depth about the film's soundtrack- which initially he wanted to feature Bob Dylan songs, and his feelings about the film now- all told a most worthy interview. Next, we get Dear Paul Schrader, Thank You for ‘Light Sleeper’- this runs nearing eleven minutes, and is a decidedly quirky appreciation of the film by critic and filmmaker Mark Cousins who interviewed the director round the time of the films original release. It finds him reading out a letter to Schrader, as he shaky cam films around his flat & down into the night time street- certainly a rather different type of film appreciation, but it’s nice to see something different done with the form instead of set talking head interview mode. Moving onto the archive extras- and there’s a good selection of stuff- we get a commentary track from Schrader, a just over hour-long interview with Dafoe from 1998, a thirty-minute with Schrader from 2008, selected scenes gallery, and image gallery. The finished version of the release comes with a 36-page booklet featuring a new essay by Christina Newland, an archival on-set report for Sight and Sound by Kevin Jackson, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits.


I was really surprised & most taken by Light Sleeper, so thanks to Powerhouse for this reissue- and once again they’ve done a classy job on this Blu Ray. If you enjoy where moody character studies meet low-key thriller, you’ve really got to pick-up this release- a great start to 2021 release schedule from Powerhouse!.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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