Edited by Christopher
Conversations with Filmmakers Series
(Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2020)
Review by Dr.
Central Texas Historical Association
October 10, 2022
| William Friedkin
(born 1935) stands as one of the great filmmakers of the Seventies,
directing two genuine classics during that decade: THE FRENCH CONNECTION
(1971) and THE EXORCIST (1973). The former motion picture garnered
eight Academy Award nominations while the latter gained ten! Friedkin
won Best Director for THE FRENCH CONNECTION, which was also named
Best Picture at the 1972 Oscars. While these certainly rank as his
most notable features, and represent his commercial and critical peak,
Friedkin went on to helm such films as SORCERER (1977), CRUISING (1980),
TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. (1985), JADE (1995), BUG (2006), and KILLER
JOE (2011). In 2013, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at
Cannes. At the age of 87, Friedkin remains active; in August 2022,
for example, DEADLINE reported that he is set to direct Kiefer Sutherland
in an update of THE CAINE MUTINY COURT-MARTIAL.
Fans of the heralded, and sometimes controversial, auteur will appreciate
cinema scholar Christopher Lane's superb new book, WILLIAM FRIEDKIN:
INTERVIEWS (University Press of Mississippi, 2020). This volume offers
more than a dozen discussions and AFI seminars with Friedkin, conducted
between 1974 and 2018. The interviews and articles appeared in such
publications as VENICE MAGAZINE, LITERATURE/FILM QUARTERLY, CINEASTE,
ROLLING STONE, and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.
Friedkin devotees will relish the insights and opinions found in Lane's
terrific collection. Consider eight such observations from the celebrated
and irrational fear are two elements that interest me as a filmmaker.
I'm drawn to people who are thrown together in a tense situation,
with no escape."
- "I try to
cast people based on one inherent quality: intelligence. I don't
care how good an actor is, or how good his performances have been,
when I talk to him, in my initial meetings up front, I try to
- "I know
that some critics like me and they'll always write a good review
and some don't like me and they'll write a bad review no matter
what I do. Hostile journalists are depressing."
- "The most
important theme in my films is the thin line between good and
evil. The fact that, very often, there are equal parts of both
in all the characters, which is what I encounter in life. I don't
know anyone who is all good, or all evil."
- "I do believe
in the Academy Awards as a standard, as the best prevailing standard
that the motion picture industry has to honor those films that
it believes are meritorious."
- "Why make
a film about someone, unless you're going to reveal something
about their humanity?"
- "There are
a lot of people running studios that I don't respect."
- "The characters
that interest me are obsessed by one thing or another, be it religious
fervor, the pursuit of a criminal, money, fame, recognition, freedom."
addition to the interviews, this superb study also includes an Introduction,
a Chronology, and a Filmography. "William Friedkin," Lane contends,
"represents one of the last great true American auteurs, helping to
define and shape what would become known as the Directors Era…Friedkin
is no stranger to controversy, or hard work, often outspoken, always
opinionated, with a wry and devilish sense of humor-and an absolute
willingness to speak his mind unabated."
KILLER JOE, an unsettling black comedy starring Matthew McConaughey,
received an overall rating of 80 % on Rotten Tomatoes. According to
the website's Critics Consensus, the movie is, "Violent, darkly comic,
and full of strong performances. KILLER JOE proves William Friedkin
hasn't lost his touch, even if the plot may be too lurid for some."
GUARDIAN critic Peter Bradshaw calls the film, "A gruesome, brutally
violent and queasy trailer-park nightmare from deep in the heart of
Texas." And ROLLING STONE critic Peter Travers observes that, "As
a sadistic Dallas cop who moonlights as a hit man, Matthew McConaughey
is on fire in KILLER JOE, fierce and ferociously funny."
Friedkin buffs should also read the director's captivating memoir,
THE FRIEDKIN CONNECTION (Harper, 2013).