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February 04, 2010

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buck.swope

god, i love this movie. don't forget the excellent wang chung soundtrack.

bill

I haven't seen this movie since I was a kid, and I had not idea that was Jane Leeves...oh my stars.

Friedkin is almost an "interesting question" all by himself. I watched THE FRENCH CONNECTION again recently, and it holds up beautifully, while THE EXORCIST is, to me, the gold standard of, at least, modern horror filmmaking. And then what? A lot of his films have their supporters, but nothing again like that mid-70s stuff. Except BUG is pretty darn good, and, damn it, so is THE HUNTED. He can be so precise, and his eye can be so beautiful, when he's not spinning his wheels and burning bridges.

Matt Dutto

Glenn, I always enjoy reading your blog, though, occasionally, I regret checking it out at work. What if my boss were to walk by just in time to see me scrolling down to a picture of a spread-eagled Daphne Moon?

Glenn Kenny

@ Matt: Oops, sorry. I figured that, as she was clothed, it would be okay. Clearly I need to get some kind of office job again, as my sense of "safe for work" has gone all askew...

Mack Lewis

i love this movie but the looped dialogue distracts me through the whole movie on dvd. i certainly didn't notice it was that bad in the theater.

also, your "safe for work" seems fine by me. rowrrr.

bill

Yeah, that ain't "spread eagle". Wishing it was will not make it so.

Jon Hastings

The more I think about The Hurt Locker, the more I appreciate what TO LIVE AND DIE does with its take on an "adrenaline junkie".

James Keepnews

What Bill said in re: early Friedkin, and I've opined enough on my love for Sorcerer on this site to hold me (possibly you, as well) for a few years.

How spectacularly Mr. Billy went off the rails prior to/following Live/Die (Deal of the Century, Blue Chips, et., you'd better believe, cetera), which is, as you observe, truly an epicenter for sui generis 80's-ness. Starting with Mr. Peterson, who I've never watched on this CSI program the kids cvontinue to like on the television but who impressed me again recently when watching Mr. Mann's Manhunter, notably his scenes with Brian Cox and Kim Griest (WEHT her?). Also, the neon cursive blocked Mr. Pankow, doing time "also starring" here and in excitable period pulp like Romero's Monkey Shines and Stone's Talk Radio.

As to Friedkin's failure -- not to have it both ways, but maybe, he ended up both outta time AND talent? Hard to know how he went from some of the finest films of the 70's to some of the worst films of subsequent decades. Cf. Woody Allen directing both Annie Hall and Anything Else? Jim McBride going from David Holzman's Diary and Glen and Randa to Great Balls of Fire. Add your own examples of directors so in-tune with the times early on and embarrassingly not working at a peak thereafter. Time marches on, sometimes with deterioration in its wake.

That said, I do want to see Bug. Sort of.

bill

BUG is worth seeing, and I liked it quite a bit, though I make no guarantees. Also, oh yeah, SORCERER...that's a great one, that I think we've agreed on here before.

Just for the sake of neurotic clarification: THE EXORCIST and THE SHINING are in a dead-heat as the gold standard for modern horror filmmaking.

The Siren

Ah Glenn. Love you, loved this post, but...only a man could write about this movie with nary a mention of the hotness that once was William Petersen.

Jane who?

pdf

Love this movie. Don't know if I need it on Blu-Ray; my "special edition" DVD from a few years back holds up just fine. Really wish Sorcerer would get the same treatment - hell, if they could reissue Cruising in a nice widescreen print with commentary track etc., why not what I really do think is Friedkin's best movie? And yeah, I'll stick up for Bug, too.

Tom Russell

Bill, I agree with you re: THE SHINING but don't share the love for EXORCIST-- it was brilliant in parts but mostly left me bored. I actually think Paul Schrader's prequel is a much, much stronger film: deeper, scarier and more audacious.

Admittedly, I am someone who actively dislikes most of Friedkin's work. I'm not sure if I can exactly articulate why, which is why I don't participate too much in Friedkin discussions, and I have been meaning to give his films another shot-- which is something I've been doing with Rohmer, who I must say I'm getting more out of then I did oh-so-many years ago.

And reading through the Biskind book recently gave me a new appreciation for Friedkin the man-- there was something just so cheerfully, enthusiastically crass about the quotes attributed to him that I couldn't not like him, kinda like how you can't hate John Falstaff and Eric Cartman. If for no other reason than that, I plan on approaching his films again.

Glenn Kenny

@ The Siren: It's interesting; with the exception of Pankow's character, who I think is mean to be a bit epicene if anything at all, the sexuality/sexiness of all the main characters is a crucial part of the narrative. There's that notorious first kiss between Dafoe's character and the one played by Debra Feuer, who I think is doubled by a man in the first of the two shots to create the necessary illusion. And Petersen's hotness of the day was used in a really interesting way. He's less sleek than Dafoe, a little softer, rounder-cheeked, and it adds to his toughness a kind of callowness that works on the character in a fascinating way; the character played by Darlanne Fleugel seems somehow harder than his. Indicative of Friedkin's thorough engagement with this project is the way he's always juggling these various opposing qualities of the characters throughout the picture

Steve Winer

Speaking of Friedkin and William Petersen, CSI hired Friedkin to direct two episodes of the show and seemed to let him have his head. He added an over the top hallucinatory quality to those episodes (especially the second) that almost made it possible to ignore the formulaic scripts -- and, of course, anything you do to mess with CSI has got to be an improvement (as in Quentin Tarentino's episode). In any case, these are worth tracking down for the dedicated Friedkin fan.

Aaron Aradillas

I'd be willing to make the case that the storytelling in TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. is crisper, more coherent than in the still potent THE FRENCH CONNECTION.

Petersen's one-two punch of L.A. and MANHUNTER is still astonishing.

I'll also defend JADE. I saw it recently and realized that Friedkin's direction is quite good. He nails the atmosphere of sleaze and perversity beautifully. It's just too bad that the screenplay by Joe "She-fucked-me-so-I'm-gonna-fuck-her Ezsterhaus is an utter mess.

His made-for-Showtime remake of 12 ANGRY MEN is vastly underrated. Amazingly, George C. Scott gives a weak performance, while Tony Danza quite good.

And Friedkin directed two episodes of CSI and, like Tarantino, brought life to the show.

Friedkin's worst film remains the morally offensive RAMPAGE.

Tony Dayoub

What a movie. I saw it on my cousin's (a fellow movie buff) recommendation years ago. For the first 2/3, I was dumbfounded at what seemed to be an exceedingly sleazy, formula action film, admittedly with some nice auteurial touches here and there (like the Feuer male double thing, for instance).

Then the thing you refer to as "what happens to the film's putative hero (named Chance!) after he releases this particular round" occurs. And I just about pissed my pants with the giddy laughter one gets when a film transcends whatever hopes one might have had for it. Talk about game-changer. And it reframes all of the wild 80s joyride action setpieces that I wrote off only minutes before.

PS: To borrow a phrase from the Siren, what happened to "the hotness that once was" Darlanne Fleugel? Leone's ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, Mann's CRIME STORY television series, this film, and not a word since.

bill

I've always wanted to see that 12 ANGRY MEN remake. Also, I liked RAMPAGE. Sue me. It is, in fact, a personal favorite, though I haven't seen it in a very long time (don't think there's ever been a DVD).

Tom - I don't know, man. I was bored stiff by Schrader's movie. When I heard it got Blatty's seal of approval, I got very excited, but it really let me down. It was better than that other prequel by what's-his-name, but not by much.

If you're bored by the original EXORCIST, I don't know what to tell you. I think as a piece of directing it's abosultely brilliant (and deeply influenced Blatty's own two, excellent, directing efforts) -- patient, and attentive to the small details, and strangely, creepily orderly (I don't know quite what I mean by that, but it sounds good), and the use of sound is unmatched in the genre. Add to that Jason Miller's world-class performance, the inspired use of Mercedes McCambridge and images that still disturb, a deeply provocative take on regaining one's lost faith (through coming face-to-face with unspeakable evil), and I don't know what more you could ask.

Craig

If memory serves, Jane Leeves got her start on "The Benny Hill Show." The girl's gotten around.

Tom Russell

See, that's the funny thing-- I love detail work (big Zodiac fan), I understand exactly what you mean by "creepily orderly" (love that too, it's what attracts me to a lot of Schrader's work) and I love slow-build cinema. I should clarify that I actually saw the rather inapty named "Version You've Never Seen" with 12 or so minutes of added footage-- in your opinion, does it make for a substantially different (by which I mean, worse) film?

Either way, I sincerely hope he doesn't carry through on his threat to color, er, "correct" the film in the same way he did THE FRENCH CONNECTION.

bill

Tom - The extended edition is substantially worse. And that's Blatty's fault, in my opinion, not Friedkin's. Blatty's is correct that some people do miss the point of the ending -- he believes too many people think that Pazuzu wins, and that the demon hurled Karras out of the window, instead of the intended reading, which is that Karras sacrifices himself -- but I think they're a very small minority. Anyway, that's the main reason Blatty pushed for that version, and I think it was a big mistake. Thank God I have the original on DVD.

Tom Russell

Thanks for the feedback, Bill, I'll definitely give the original cut a go when I have some time.

Blatty is honoured in a local museum and represented by a screaming typewriter.

bill

That's funny, Tom, because he kind of fell ass-backwards into horror. Up until he hit on the idea for THE EXORCIST, he was a comedy writer, both novels and film. The last piece of fiction he published, a HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE/HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL riff called ELSEWHERE, was pretty dire. Oh well. He has at least four good books to his credit, two great films as a director, and lots of solid screenplay credits.

Tom Russell

It's the Arab-American National Museum in Dearborn. In the same room, they represent Moustapha Akkad-- not with, say, Lion of the Desert, or The Message, but with Halloween 6.

bill

Christ, why not HALLOWEEN 1??

Aaron Aradillas

The Blu-ray of THE EXORCIST will come out later this year. Cinematographer Owen Roizman WAS consulted on that transfer. There will not be any of that infamous color-timing that divided people with last year's THE FRENCH CONNECTION.

Cam Moneo

There's nothing like great 80s sleaze. (Or great 80s Friedkin, for that matter--anybody else willing to defend Cruising, even sheepishly?)

Incidentally, Glenn, I'm one of the invisibles who frequents your site but never comments. I felt compelled to do so here because I also recently watched a fine piece of 80s sleaze myself: the Steven Bauer sex thriller THIEF OF HEARTS. Nowhere near the genuine artistry of the Friedkin picture, but it's got an air of irresistible 80sness about it: over-earnest pop tunes sung by the likes of Joe Esposito, tacky interior decorating, Steven Bauer, sex so "hot" the actors glisten. David Caruso (so great in JADE!) is also in it, and looks unmistakably like a redheaded Mozzer, circa Viva Hate.

Anyway, I just wrote about the movie over at my own blog, if anybody cares to take a peek. (Sorry about the self-promotion!)

Ed Hulse

Glenn, do you perchance recall that one of our VIDEO REVIEW colleagues -- who later attained considerable prominence on the staff of a major entertainment magazine -- used to consider TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. the best movie he'd ever seen? True, he was a callow youth back then, but still....

Richard Blaine

Actually a good companion piece to this is Hal Ashby's last film 8 Million Ways To Die (1986)with the great Jeff Bridges.

Jaime

McBride was mentioned for a brief second there. I like his work - what little I've seen, in particular is made-for-TV vampire movie (!), BLOOD TIES.

But my friend, filmmaker and critic Dan Sallitt, wrote about a practically invisible McBride film called UNCOVERED. And man, does he make you want to see it:

http://sallitt.blogspot.com/2009/12/uncovered.html

Jimmy

What? No props for early John Turturro? Dangerous. Love the guy.

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