William Friedkin has never made a film that wasn't interesting. Some are classics (The Exorcist, The French Connection), a couple are ambitious misfires (Deal of the Century, The Guardian). All of them are worth seeing because Friedkin isn't afraid to take chances. He gives 100% to every picture he makes. That's one of the key takeaways from the documentary Friedkin Uncut, which looks at the career of this remarkable, fearless filmmaker.
Director Francesco Zippel could not have a more open subject. Friedkin goes through the highlights of his career, talking about scaring the world with The Exorcist; winning the Oscar with The French Connection; the controversy over Cruising; casting then-unknowns for To Live and Die in L.A.; the grueling Sorcerer shoot; and eventually directing operas. Bug, Killer Joe, and The Devil and Father Amorth are similarly explored. Friedkin is a gifted storyteller, so his reminiscences about these movies are thoroughly entertaining.
So, too, are his general show business tales. Friedkin tells a hilarious story about trying to secure an interview with director Fritz Lang, and how he later discovered that Lang dislikes his own masterpieces, Metropolis and M. Moments such as this allow Friedkin to expound on his views of cinema overall. When one master is weighing in on the virtues of another master, there's plenty of insight for the viewer to gain.
Additionally appearing in Friedkin Uncut are coworkers and celebrity admirers, including Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, Damien Chazelle, and Francis Ford Coppola. Ellen Burstyn, Gina Gershon, and Matthew McConaughey discuss his process on-set, while Willem Dafoe and William Petersen reveal that their director's commitment to authenticity almost led to trouble on the set of To Live and Die in L.A. when the production essentially counterfeited money for real so the process could be shown onscreen.
Friedkin Uncut works so beautifully because the man has a perspective. He's smart and he's seen a lot in Hollywood. Friedkin cuts through the BS to offer pure, honest thoughts not only about his own career, but also about what makes audiences respond to certain movies so powerfully. What he says contains great substance, and the way he says it keeps you hooked from start to finish.
This is a documentary any serious film buff needs to see.
out of four
Friedkin Uncut is unrated, but contains adult language and subject matter. The running time is 1 hour and 47 minutes.