A Little Background: I know, I know… a rather enigmatic film to start with, but it’s for a reason. As I alluded to earlier, I’ve always wanted to start a blog like this and this is the film that finally pushed me into it. I also owe a great deal of my motivation to Marc Maron and his WTF Podcast. I was originally drawn to this podcast because of my love for stand-up comedy and the rich history that goes with it. Imagine my pleasant surprise to find out how much of a filmhead Marc is. I was particularly fascinated with interviews from Peter Bogdanovich, Kevin Corrigan, Charlie Kaufman, Danny Boyle, and… William Friedkin.
Several weeks ago I was listening to said interview with Bill Friedkin and was immediately persuaded to watch Sorcerer. Although I’ve always been a fan of Friedkin, Sorcerer had never peaked my interest for two reasons: first, I had always read about what a commercial flop it was and second, I assumed it fit into the fantasy genre. Regarding the former, I learned that the movie had the privilege of opening one month after a young man named George Lucas released a little film called Star Wars. Needless to say, who could compete? As for the title, it turns out, this movie is nowhere close to being a fantasy. Nor does it involve sorcery of any kind. (I won’t reveal why it is titled as such, because maybe by concealing it, someone will watch it out of sheer curiosity)
So on the night of the exact day that I listened to the aforementioned podcast, I sat down to watch this film… and was engrossed. I knew that as I watched and as I thought back to that interview, that I had to finally get this blog thing off the ground.
The Film: This is the second adaptation of Georges Arnaud’s novel Le Salaire de la peur. The first being the 1952 French-Italian film The Wages of Fear, which is one of my favorite foreign films. I am rather ashamed to say that I never even knew that Friedkin adapted it twenty-five years later.
The narrative follows four expatriates stranded in a remote South American town. Seeking compensation to finance their way out of this town, they agree to drive a truck carrying highly explosive chemicals over miles of hazardous terrain. Suspense of the Hitchockian persuasion ensues.
It is a masterpiece, such a simple idea… transportation. Some backstory precedes it, but not much, and there is certainly a larger theme of control and fate at the center. But what I love most of all is that this could be a poster child for the New Hollywood or American New Wave that dominated the 1960s and 1970s. I am obsessed with this time period in American cinema, an obsession that I gladly share with Marc Maron. I don’t what it is, the revolutionary camerawork, the shift of power from the production company to the director, the rise of method acting… I think I’m drawn to it all.
Three Favorite Things: A subtle but powerful performance from Roy Scheider, a haunting score from Tangerine Dream, and the ending (no, I’m not giving it away)