Roy Scheider in Sorcerer (dir. William Friedkin, 1977).

Here is yet another film I became aware of years ago through its soundtrack, but did not see until now. The music in this case is by Tangerine Dream, and it plays permanently in a small, dark area of my consciousness. No movie could ever live up to the one I had imagined for it: a swirling, poisonous odyssey of hallucination and peril, a radioactive rain forest in hell. Some of Friedkin's footage does actually approach this "ideal," although there is disappointingly little of the full soundtrack in the film itself. Disappointing, because little else in it is fully realized, though Friedkin has said in interviews that of all his projects, it is the one that comes the closest to realizing his starting vision (although he also ungraciously blamed Roy Scheider for its failure at the box office, claiming that he was not capable of pulling off a strong leading role). It is certainly not in the same league with the original The Wages of Fear. Friedkin adds a ton of backstory that does absolutely nothing but delay the main narrative. A lot of fuss has been made over the elaborate car crash scene in the Philadelphia sequence, but please. It's a car crash.

There is still enough effective moviemaking here to make it a crime that the DVD is only available in full screen (Friedkin has been promising a new edition for years, but I haven't heard anything concrete about when it's coming out, if ever). The South American scenes are sometimes so nightmarish that they place an obligation on the rest of the picture to follow through on their gravity--an obligation it simply can't meet. And Friedkin was wrong about Scheider. He is really just right for this role, precisely because he embodies a particular strain of weakness-in-ruggedness, of corrupted masculine confidence.

1 comment:

girish said...

Speaking of shameful full-frame DVD releases, one of my favorite 'guilty pleasures' is in this category: Roman Polanski's Hitchcockian thriller with Harrison Ford, Emmanuelle Seigner and Betty Buckley, FRANTIC (1988). It was among the first DVD's ever released, and they've never bothered to go back and rerelease it in widescreen. I've watched it a half dozen times in this format, always cursing it and swearing that I'll never watch it again in this butchered version, but I can't resist returning to it.