Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Friedkin Fest '08

On Friday, I'll be debuting a new feature on the blog called Friedkin Friday, where I gaze back at some of the truly exceptional cinematic work of William Friedkin, an Oscar-winning director who happens to be one of my favorites. In particular, I'll be looking at some of Friedkin's more controversial, lesser-known works (in other words, not The Exorcist or The French Connection, at least to start). So I'm headed towards the likes of Sorcerer (1977), Cruising (1980), To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), Rampage (1988) and Jade (1995), specifically.

In fact, I'll be kicking off Friedkin Friday with a review of the notorious Cruising, a much-reviled film about an undercover cop (Al Pacino) frequenting the Big Apple's gay leather bars (of the pre-AIDS era) in search of a serial killer. If you haven't seen the film yet, queue it, watch it and get on board. Seriously, I'd love to have the readership here join me in gazing back at Friedkin's impressive, controversial and colorful film oeuvre, so pick up any of these titles and start thinking about what makes a Friedkin film unique or special.

I know that for me, I appreciate the almost documentary-style approach Friedkin adopts in key scenes. Remember Regan's visit to the hospital in The Exorcist? Or the close-up montage of the counterfeiting process in To Live and Die in L.A.? The attention to detail is amazing; as is the feeling "you are there."

Also, Friedkin boasts the nickname "Hurricane Billy," and this is appropriate since his films do frequently hit you like a hurricane, especially in the meticulously-constructed action sequences. The sheer audacity, complexity, and pace of the highway car chase in To Live and Die in L.A. pops to mind, but I could be making the same claim for The French Connection.

I also appreciate Friedkin's attention to detail and accuracy, whether he's making a film about counterfeiting or the leather fetish scene. He's remarkable at capturing the vibe of a place: a city, a night-club, Iraq even. Furthermore, Friedkin's films feature a deep-seated sense of moral ambiguity (some might say cynicism or pessimism) that I find fascinating to watch (and again, that may go back to his history as a documentarian).

What leaps to mind when you think of a Friedkin film? I'd love to see your comments. But definitely tune in here Friday for a review of Cruising.


  1. My favorite Friedkin film--over and above THE EXORCIST, even--is TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. I only recently found out about it and watched it. Certainly one of the iconic films of its era, at once very original in execution but at the same time an amped-up, West Coast riff on MIAMI VICE. Fantastic cinematography by Robby Muller, who had recently lensed REPO MAN in the same city.

    I see CRUISING as more residual or symptomatic of the 1970s, while TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. treads more in Reaganite shoes. It is a shame that I was only two when the movie was released...

  2. Have to echo Kevin's love of To Live and Die in L.A. It's a fantastic film that doesn't get enough attention. I never will forget first seeing it late at night and being blown away by a major surprise around 20 minutes prior to the conclusion of the film. It was surreal. Every time I show it to someone it has a similar effect. Plus the delirious chase scene midway through the film is worth the price of admission alone (way better than The French Connection if you ask me).

    I also really like Sorceror. It takes a beating as being inferior to Wages of Fear, but I think it stands on equal ground personally. Folks complain it should've been McQueen and not Scheider in the lead, but I think Scheider's everyman quality works far better.