Light Sleeper (1992): Paul Schrader’s Tale of Middle-Aged Drug Dealers, Starring Willem Dafoe and Susan Sarandon

After “The Comfort of Strangers” (1991), writer-director Paul Schrader went on to directing his own script, “Light Sleeper,” a tale of middle-aged drug-dealers in New York, in which he essayed semi-successfully yet another ascetic Bressonian style.
Willem Dafoe plays John LeTour, a melancholy driver who delivers drugs for his chatty New York dealer-boss Ann (Susan Sarandon), who’s considering switching careers into another trade, cosmetics. The drug business is changing rapidly, moving away from the recreational market, with the upscale clients beginning to need and demand rather than merely enjoy them
At 40, Dafoe is at a crossroads himself: It’s time to reconsider his life, a decision exacerbated by a chance meting with an old flame and fellow drug-user (Dana Delaney). He deals with his mid-life crisis by visiting a professional psychic (played by Schrader’s wife, Mary Beth Hurt), who is also a confidante. Meanwhile, the police is investigating the drug-related death of a rich student, which is linked to Sarandon’s loyal client (Victor Garber).
The tale’s POV is that of a young middle-aged character.  Indeed, Dafoe’s voice-over narration recalls Robert De Niro’s in Scorsese’s 1976 “Taxi Driver,” which Paul Schrader also wrote. Also like “Taxi Driver,” the male character seeks redemption, but in order to accomplish that he’s forced into a violent confrontation. Trim and well groomed (costumes like those of Schrader’s “American Gigolo” are by Giorgio Armani) Le Tour practices an ascetic Buddhist lifestyle. He’s a former junkie who no longer needs AA meetings, a diarist who stays up nights scribbling notes in his  Tenth Avenue apartment.
Schrader borrows from his own work in other scenes: Sarandon’s visit of LeTour in prison recalls Schrader’s same idea in “American Gigolo” (1980), starring Richard Gere, though overall, “Light Sleeper” is a more personal and resonant film.
The acting of the two leads is good. Dafoe gives a solid performance as the world-weary, philosophically bent narcotics dealer.
In an uncharacteristic part, Sarandon, still sexy in her late 40s, conveys vividly a low-life femme.
The Village Voice critic Jim Hoberman has suggested that the rock music that opens the film is a mournful salute to the old New Hollywood of the 1970s, of which Schrader was a founding member.
With Light Sleeper, Schrader, always a self-conscious, intellectual director, has made another cold and detached film, which is more calculated and planned out than truly inspired or emotional.

New Line (Carolco Production)