What is the consensus for Friedkin's Sorcerer?

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Joined: Jul 2008
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I'm struggling to assess it as a whole. The central conflict that's aping Wages of Fear is the kind of gonzo filmmaking I was expecting going in, where Friedkin's insanity is on full display and most of the tension comes from the sheer fact that it was stitched together in a coherent, breathtaking sequence. Conversely, it couldn't help me think of Wages of Fear, where Clouzot's filmmaking feels so airtight that the tension emerges from the control of craft instead of, in the case we have here, unbridled spectacle. I mean, witnessing something like the tree trunk being blown to bits is the kind of cinema I'd only want from few filmmakers, Friedkin being one of them.

But good lord do the surrounding parts feel like they exist just to be there. The changing of locations in the beginning almost made me chuckle, as if Friedkin was gleefully smiling from the excess that he could go anywhere for not much of a reason other than character introduction (the Paris one particularly struck me as superfluous, especially the bit with the wife.) Perhaps it's because I had Wages of Fear in my mind going in and I had constantly heard about how this is one of those jungle movies that I became rather impatient, but the filmmaking felt loose in the French Connection vein, but not in the good way.

I don't know. I kind of just want to watch the Clouzot film now. Maybe I'm misremembering its greatness too much. How does everyone else feel about Friedkin's attempt around here?
Nov 12, 2017 9:46 PM
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I agree that the beginning intro segments are bloated and unnecessary. The film wouldn't have suffered an inch from providing this info in dialogue exposition while opening in South America.

But the remaining film, as you said, is so gonzo on its own merits, the last 45 minutes being especially intense and delirious, that it's hard for me to dismiss it based on its obvious flaws. Clouzot's film is better, but not as insane.

And Roy Schneider is always watchable. His tan is always immaculate.
Nov 12, 2017 10:11 PM
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I haven't seen it, but Tangerine Dream's score is incredible.
Nov 12, 2017 10:14 PM
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I like Sorcerer quite a bit better than The Wages of Fear. I find Friedkin's more visceral leanings serve the material better than Clouzot's tighter craft, which I think create a lot of tension but don't put me through the ringer and make me feel the physical reality of the experience like Friedkin does. But I think the biggest knock against Clouzot's film is the Charles Vanel character, who does nothing but drop the ball at every possible opportunity during their journey. His counterpart in Friedkin's film is introduced to be similarly treacherous but comes off throughout like someone who can actually handle himself in such situations. I also don't like how Vera Clouzot's character is basically in the movie to be slapped around.

As for the character introductions, I don't have a problem with them. Maybe the movie would have worked fine without them, but I think they serve a purpose in establishing these characters as unsavoury and not naturally inviting of our sympathy, so that it means more when we do start to root for them because of how well Friedkin evokes the intensity of their experience.
Nov 13, 2017 12:24 AM
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I looked up the trailer on YouTube, and the description mentioned:

trailer description SORCERER was released to theaters one week after STAR WARS and was completely steamrolled over by the worldwide phenomena of that film's blockbuster success.

Dang. First Bakshi's Wizards, now Sorcerer. I suppose Star Wars took out other movies named Prestidigitator and Magician.
Nov 13, 2017 4:44 PM
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The only thing I know about it is that it is probably Kermode's most referenced film outside of The Exorcist. I need to watch the Blu-Ray treatment ASAP.
Nov 13, 2017 8:46 PM
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I just watched this on the insistence of this thread and Mark Kermode's promotional videos for the new Blu-Ray. For what it's worth, I haven't seen The Wages of Fear.

On the whole, I like it a lot. It's a tense, gripping thriller that truly shows the power of practical special effects. The bridge sequence may the most tense sequence in any movie I've ever seen. I also like what it has to say about the impossibility of escaping one's fate and how globalization has minimized the power of the working person. Like Glengarry Glen Ross and Blade Runner (very odd comparisons to make, I know), it expertly shows how people can be forced to sacrifice their safety, well-being, belief systems and sometimes whittle their identities down to a name (which may not even be their own), title, rank and serial number just to make a buck. At the end of the day, all "the man" cares about is if the job got done.

My main problem is that the main characters are too opaque for us to truly care about their fates. Sure, they get introductions (which I believe are necessary for how they add to Jackie's climactic identity crisis and the ending) that help us understand them, but they don't make us care. I realize they're supposed to be anonymous to each other and their employer and that their opaqueness is beneficial at those moments when they show their humanity, but I still think they shouldn't have been kept at such a distance.
Nov 16, 2017 4:06 PM
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