“Sorcerer”

Paleo Retiree writes:

Sorcerer-poster

William Friedkin’s 1977 metaphysical action-adventure film had an almost ludicrously unhappy initial release. Although it was widely anticipated and was one of the biggest productions of its era, the critics were hard on the film, finding it overbearing and overlong, and the mass audience ignored it almost completely; the popular phenom of the year turned out to be “Star Wars” instead.

As the years passed, and to the extent that anyone gave it much thought at all — finding and watching a copy of “Sorcerer” wasn’t easy — the film was generally seen more as a symbol than a movie. It acquired a reputation as the moment Friedkin (one of the most successful directors of the ’70s) came a-cropper, as filmmakers often did in those days. It also acquired notoriety as an example of the way that the rampaging, adventurous “New Hollywood” gang self-immolated, thereby making way for the the corporate-blockbuster era we’ve been saddled with ever since.

Though I was a huge movie fan in the 1970s, I was one of the millions who didn’t bother with “Sorcerer.” I didn’t dig Friedkin, for one thing. He was too hard-hitting, too devoted to obvious dramatic effects, and too content to work within genre for the Me of that era. (What can I say — I was a bit of a damn hippie.) For another, I couldn’t imagine anything that sounded less appealing than a big, pretentious action picture made by the guy who’d already walloped us over the head with “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist.”

But in very recent years “Sorcerer” has begun to acquire a few fans; some of them have discussed it as a film maudit, and some have even made the claim that it’s an overlooked masterpiece. Friedkin himself sees the film as his greatest movie. After years of effort he was recently able to straighten out some rights problems and to do some restoration work on the film. A result of all these rumblings has been a glossy new digitally-encoded / digitally-projected version of the movie that has been making the rounds of film-buff venues. In New York City, that means the Film Forum, and the Film Forum is where The Question Lady and I finally caught up with the picture.

Put both of us down on the list of the “overlooked masterpiece” people. Jesus H. Christ, what a transportingly exciting experience “Sorcerer” was for me. A quarter of the way into the movie, I was thinking “This is fuckin’ great!” Two-thirds of the way through, I whispered excitedly to my wife “This is the movie that ‘Apocalypse Now’ should have been!” As we left the theater, I was so moved that I could barely express my enthusiasm for the film without passing out from sheer movie bliss. We spent our entire dinner (enjoyed at this wonderful Greenwich Village bistro) yakking fervently about the movie.

Quick explanation of the content and story. The setup and plot come from the same 1950 Georges Arnaud novel that Henri-George Clouzot’s legendary 1953 “Wages of Fear” was based on. Four guys have wound up in desperate straits in a seedy oil town and, in a bid to get out, they take on the near-suicidal job of trucking a big load of nitroglycerine across rough terrain. Since I haven’t watched “Wages of Fear” in decades, and since I’ve never read the novel the two films are based on, where comparisons go I’m going to confine myself to reporting that “Sorcerer” has a very different feeling than I recall “Wages of Fear” having. Despite using the same setup, “Sorcerer” doesn’t feel like a re-make — it’s very much its own film.

What’s distinctive and wonderful to me about “Sorcerer” is that the film works both on a metaphysical / visionary level AND as a lean-and-mean narrative picture. On the simplest level, it’s a heist / caper movie, really — something like “The Bank Job” or “The Asphalt Jungle.” It doesn’t once violate the genre’s conventions. There’s a long “assembling the team” stretch at the beginning of the movie. The “heist” thing itself starts to go awry early on. The characters come undone, each in his own way … Every scene advances the story. You watch the film playing the genre game of knowing what to expect and hoping it gets delivered in a fresh way. Friedkin and his screenwriter, Walon Green, twist the knife in a little deeper and little more painfully with every step the story takes, and they orchestrate tones brilliantly. Humor (mostly of a slapstick-absurd sort) alternates with horror and intensity in a most expert suspense-movie way.

It’s a brilliantly-constructed — resourceful, witty and incisive — narrative moustrap, IMHO. Had it been filmed simply and straightforwardly, the results would have been, at the very least, more than OK. But what Friedkin as director chose to do was roar off, pedal-to-the-metal, in the direction of hyperbole and hallucination. The flamboyance never lets up. That little Central American oil town? It has got to be the seediest, muddiest, most corrupt such town in movie history. The mountain slopes that the trucks threaten to tumble down? They’re HUGE. The rains, when they come, are enough to flatten New York City. The men’s leathery faces are photographed in Sam Fuller-like (in other words, expressionist / psychological) ways that turn closeups into epic studies in masculinity, fear and toughness.

The real landscapes themselves grow more alive and bizarre as the film proceeds — combinations of Caspar David Friedrich and Henri Rousseau. Who knew that Friedkin was such a gifted image-maker? The adventure challenges themselves — narrow mountain roads, soggy jungle ones, recalcitrant machinery, threatening natives — are so flamboyantly detailed and methodically drawn out that that they take on their own mind-altering qualities. The film is unquestionably one of the greatest collections of action-movie stunts ever, btw. Friedkin and his cast and crew shot the film on a huge budget over the course of ten months (!), much of it in horrendously challenging conditions in the jungles of the Dominican Republic, and they came home with a lot of stunning, daredevil footage. (Another thing I kept thinking as I watched the film: “How many crew members were lost or maimed during the making of this film?”) One landscape tops the previous one, and one absurdly challenging situation caps what preceded it. There are lulls … but they’re cannily-placed, and the film always roars back with more intensity.

What’s remarkable is how well this combo works; the shrewdly executed, never-once-violated entertainment framework and the demented-Expressionist attack aren’t at war with each other, they balance and enhance each other. And the film really does express a vision. You might almost say that it’s more driven by its vision than it is by its characters or its story, but that would do an injustice to the film’s narrative momentum. True to the film’s DNA, the vision it expresses is a hybrid one — a cross between, on the one hand, hardboiled American-tough-guy cynicism and, on the other, Euro-style metaphysical absurdism. Do any of our efforts ever really come to anything? If not, why do we bother trying? Yet for some god-unknown reason we do … only for nature and fate to slap us senseless all over again.

That jungle that’s entered-into and penetrated? It’s the jungle of Life Itself — irrationality, surprises, blind gestation and survival. The phallic men and their machines do their best to negotiate, master, take advantage of (and even violate) this out-of-control, vegetative fecundity. Yet it always grows back and throws new impossibilities at them. Nature’s a honey badger, and honey badger just don’t care. When will we finally earn a few moments of R&R? And maybe even get to enjoy some peace and pleasure? Ever?

Small side note: That overgrown jungle? I don’t think Friedkin would mind us taking it as “pussy.” Hetero guys who enjoyed a few sexual adventures back in that funky, unkempt, oral-sex-obsessed era well remember what it was like to come face to face with a ’70s twat. Going down on a ’70s girl, you really were heading up a dank river into a fetid, mythological jungle. And yes, you had to be a Real Man to face (let alone to enjoy) the challenge. Note to self for future pondering: Isn’t it interesting how the vogue for the hyper-trimmed, often bare female crotch has emerged AT THE EXACT SAME MOMENT when we’ve lost touch with traditional, grown-up masculinity? Coincidence? Perhaps the glossy, flawless, always-fresh pussy is the only kind of pussy today’s eternal 14-year-old boys can stand to face. No more overgrown, mossy jungles to attempt to conquer. Maybe Photoshop and CGI have a tendency to keep everyone in a state of infantility. Yes? No? Anyhoo …

The film plays the cosmic predicament almost as much for laughs as for horror. There’s a lot of slapstick scattered between the nearly-over-the-top carryings-on. Half the time the beat-up, clanking, cobbled-together trucks the guys drive lumber along like primordial, mythical gods; the rest of the time they look like forlorn insects lost in a vastly-out-of-proportion landcape. We’re clowns as often as we’re (very occasionally) heroes. We can sometimes summon up amazing amounts of style and sang-froid, yet when the chips are really down we’re alone and afraid; we watch our sanity dissolve in a harsh, cold universe that barely deigns to register us. Staring fate in the eye, we fall to our knees — and then collapse onto our faces.

Let me acknowledge that the film isn’t the most persuasive thing in a conventional sense. There’s a lot of ’70s character, color, grit, swagger and atmosphere to be relished; the stunt work is “real” in the best pre-digital way; and Friedkin likes to bring a lot of documentary-style immediacy to bear on his projects. But in dumbass TV-realism terms the film is at best half-convincing, and people who insist on a lot of that kind of thing might find themselves resisting being swept up by the film. The film’s real existence happens on a heightened — metaphorical / poetic / theatrical — plane. If you can join it there, though, you might enjoy a seriously sweet experience; if you’re into it, “Sorcerer” is like an otherworldly cross between “Jurassic Park,” tragic opera and the Three Stooges.

Hmm, since I’ve stumbled into a making-comparisons moment I’m going to treat myself to a few more. Three films it’s almost impossible not to compare “Sorcerer” to: “The Wild Bunch” (another overblown, nihilistic and exciting genre picture, also written by Walon Green); “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (another harsh-vision-in-the-guise-of-an-action-picture tale of white men coming unraveled south of the border); and “Aguirre, the Wrath of God” (another hallucinatory jungle epic that’s a meditation on civilization and barbarism).

And a fourth: “Apocalypse Now.” I liked “Sorcerer” a lot more than I liked “Apocalypse Now.” For all its virtues, Coppola’s movie has always seemed to me to be a dud — a mishmash of portentous, promising scenes capped by a final act no one gave enough pre-production thought to. “Sorcerer” by comparison has tons of narrative drive and bears down on its climax in a totally controlled way.

Also, “Apocalypse” — inspired by Joseph Conrad and Werner Herzog — is more in the art movie tradition. This isn’t automatically a bad thing, of course, and like a lot of people I often wish that the U.S. had more of an art-movie (and high-art generally) tradition. But the simple, inescapable reality is that a lot of our best work has always made its appearance in non-high-art forms and fields: dance music, crime fiction, vaudeville acts, commercial design … To me, what Coppola’s movie expresses is a hippie artist’s yearning to be free of commercialism and to achieve visionary art at all costs, and it’s weighed down by personal psychological struggle and a woozy kind of self-consciousness. All those visions that Coppola willed himself into having wound up seeming kinda arbitrary to me. Friedkin, by contrast, places his visions in the context of a streamlined narrative. And, maybe partly because of that, Friedkin’s visions hit me as more resonant and mind-altering than Coppola’s did.

America, eh? Isn’t it remarkable how often in our art and entertainment the fusing of art AND trash out-achieves the kind of art that wants to deny or overcome trash? “Apocalypse” was a great summing-up of an era or it was nothing. “Sorcerer” is both a summing-up (it’s very easy to take the film as a parable of America, perhaps even Western Civ, getting lost in foreign adventures and then trying to extricate itself) AND a heck of an action pic.

I’m not sure why, over the years, I’ve grown so much more fond of Friedkin’s work than I was back in the ’70s. Maybe I’ve learned how to enjoy the flamboyant and the hard-hitting. Maybe I’ve acquired respect for the craft of putting a story over. Maybe I’ve just grown tired of the whiny, burnt-out quality that hovers around many of the other moviemaking talents from that era. So many of the Movie Brats burned up what they had to give awfully quickly, you know? If Coppola had devoted himself to winemaking after “Apocalypse,” if Scorsese had become a fulltime film preservationist after “The Last Waltz,” if De Palma had gone to medical school after “Blow Out,” would the world be a vastly poorer place, aesthetically speaking?

Meanwhile, while Friedkin has certainly had his ups and downs, and while he unquestionably has his own rabid arty-Expressionist side, he has gone on delivering satisfying and juicy films for decades. Now in his late 70s, he’s still making remarkable films. Maybe the main difference is that the Movie Brats were mainly focused on self-expression while Friedkin has always been as much about selling the hook, the story and the characters as he has been about expressing himself. After all, if expressing yourself is all you really care about, once you’ve finished expressing yourself, where really do you have left to go? But for the telling-a-story crowd, there are always new yarns to spin, new characters to put over, and fresh new ways you can apply your talents, as unruly and out-of-control (in a good sense) as they may be.

Related

About Paleo Retiree

Onetime media flunky and movie buff and very glad to have left that mess behind. Formerly Michael Blowhard of the cultureblog 2Blowhards.com. Now a rootless parasite and bon vivant on a quest to find the perfectly-crafted artisanal cocktail.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to “Sorcerer”

  1. Tex says:

    Friedkin actually wanted Steve McQueen to play the lead in this film, but McQueen wouldn’t unless Ali McGraw got written into the script (WTF). Thankfully he got an actual actor to do it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL. Stars, eh? I read somewhere that Friedkin’s dream cast for the movie was McQueen, Marcello Mastroianni and Lino Ventura. Would have been interesting in its own right, and would probably have given the film another mythic dimension … but I found that the B-movie character of the cast he did assemble worked really well.

      Like

  2. Fenster says:

    One corker of a write-up. 2Blowhards nostalgia.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

    Terrif piece. As discussed the other night, I’ve only seen it on video. I recall being very impressed with it (everything Friedkin does is impressive, really) but also kind of unstimulated. Looking forward to revisiting it via the restoration.

    The men-trapped-in-a-primeval-jungle movie is one that seems ripe for revival. Or maybe it’s not a ’10s sort of genre? Men today are probably too wussified to even daydream about being trapped in a primeval jungle…

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t watch enough brand-new movies to know: is there an adventure form that new young men enjoy seeing themselves enacting? The sci-fi, computer universe of video games would seem to qualify … but does it really? I sometimes think that today’s youngdudez just don’t know what manhood is, let alone that it demands to be achieved and then tested. So what *is* the epic journey for a modern youngguy?

      Like

  4. Fenster says:

    And sure to a gendered reading of the film. Go for it. Why should feminists have all the fun?

    All that overabundant chthonic fertility getting in the way of MAN achieving his objective. Guy’s big dreams shattered by Fortuna’s whims.

    And remember the scene at the end: Scheider, having been the only one that Fortuna has smiled on, at least for the moment, agrees to dance with her. Dreamy.

    Finally, recall that Musique’s Push Push in the Bush dates for this same era!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Stirge says:

    No comment on the soundtrack? I notice Tangerine Dream gets the musical credits

    Liked by 1 person

  6. plwinkler says:

    I wish the movie I saw was the movie you saw, Ray. I saw Sorcerer when it was first released, didn’t enjoy it, especially the ending, which I hated. I watched an old VHS edition not long ago, and my opinion of the film didn’t really change much. The rope bridge sequence was the only really tense sequence in the film. Casting more charismatic actors in the film would have also helped. In order to get caught up in the truckers’ plight, we have to identify or at least like them. Except for his performance in All That Jazz, where he was remarkable, I’ve never thought much of Roy Scheider. Since the truckers’ backstories are too perfunctory to develop their character, the audience needed actors who presented stronger identification figures.

    I agree with you about Apocalypse Now, though.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. they've had their revenge says:

    I don’t know if it was nature or nova but did you see the honey badger episode? the little bastards are comedic geniuses.

    Like

  8. they've had their revenge says:

    that has to be the best movie poster ever.

    Like

  9. Callowman says:

    Looking forward to seeing it, since I liked what Apocalypse Now was. What it should have been should be awesome!

    As for your musings re adventures in the bush, my first reaction was that it seems a little tendentious. Home video mainstreamed porn and people started trimming and shaving. I thought it was a turn-on at the time. It is striking how long the fad has hung on though, so maybe it really does signify something deeper. Young guys seem to call natural-style bush “disgusting” surprisingly often.

    Like

    • God knows there’s nothing wrong with some crotch-hair pruning — the ’70s crowd may have overdone the natural look — let alone having fun with crotch-styling surprises. It can all be part of keeping the sex-adventure side of life pleasant and spirited. Classic V — great! Bald — fun! Landing strip — love it! Boring and neglectful — blech. But for whatever reason — I blame it on Photoshop — a surprising number of today’s young guys seem to find the presence of ANY pubic hair at all disgusting, which is an odd state of affairs.

      Like

  10. gubbler says:

    “Hmm, since I’ve stumbled into a making-comparisons moment I’m going to treat myself to a few more. Three films it’s almost impossible not to compare “Sorcerer” to: “The Wild Bunch” (another overblown, nihilistic and exciting genre picture, also written by Walon Green); “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (another harsh-vision-in-the-guise-of-an-action-picture tale of white men coming unraveled south of the border); and “Aguirre, the Wrath of God” (another hallucinatory jungle epic that’s a meditation on civilization and barbarism).”

    Probably closer to FITZCARRADLO than to AGUIRRE. There is also Hopper’s THE LAST MOVIE.
    Boorman’s DELIVERANCE.
    Huston’s TREASURE, yes, but also AFRICAN QUEEN and MOBY DICK.
    Bunuel’s DEATH IN THE GARDEN.

    Like

  11. gubbler says:

    APOCALYPSE and SORCERER suffer from the same problem. Their lead characters are hollow. Sheen and Scheider are good actors but not very commanding as leading men. Scheider was excellent as sidekick in FRENCH CONNECTION. It didn’t really matter that he was the lead in JAWS since the fish, Shaw, and Dreyfus stole the show.

    But in SORCERER, he has to bear the cross, and he just doesn’t have the depth and charisma. Worse, Friedkin places him in a situation but never delves into his soul.
    Similarly, Sheen is good in APOCALYPSE but given no room for development. Pacino’s Michael in THE GODFATHER grows from an observer to a participant whereas Sheen in APOCALYPSE just remains an observer. So, most of what happens in APOCALYPSE is something we see through his eyes than something we feel and process through his soul.
    Nevertheless, we stick with him because we anticipate some great encounter with Kurtz. But Coppola was so confused as to what Kurtz was about that the ending doesn’t work at all.
    Milius had written the script for improvisational B-film avant-garde-ism, but Coppola gave it respectable art film treatment and therefore he couldn’t go with Milius’ looney tunes zen-fascist ending. He wanted to make a statement about Vietnam, but that’s not what the original script was about.

    Like

  12. Faze says:

    No one seems to be mentioning (or I missed it) the late naming of the film as “Sorcerer”. I believe it had a different title through the filming, and was named “Sorcerer” to capitalize on the unexpected success of Friedkin’s “Exorcist”. Unless you were in your prime movie-going years at the time (as I was) you might not know what a powerful effect “The Exorcist” had on those who saw its first run in the theaters. I mean, my then wife and I excited the theater and straight into a bar where we drank ourselves silly — we were so freakin’ scared. There was widespread anticipation that Friedkin’s next film would be another supernatural thriller, and the title “Sorcerer” fed that expectation. The big letdown that film goers experienced with “Sorcerer” was that it wasn’t another mind-blowing devil-pic. That letdown was so severe, that it has affected the movie’s reputation ever since. I remember seeing “Sorcerer” in the theater its first week out, and thinking, “Man, that was a great movie”, but feeling that very same letdown that it didn’t shake my metaphysical timbers, and bust my Catholic school chops.

    Like

  13. gubbler says:

    One problem I have with THE SORCERER is it’s so shapeless. Narratively, it’s very slapdash, throwing things out without introduction, then jumping on to something else, proceeding without proper development or buildup.

    Also, it might have been better if we hadn’t been shown the backgrounds of each of the characters. It might have lent an element of mystery. But because we were shown what happened to them, we expect some kind of narrative connection between their past and their present. But the two things never come together, especially as the film lacks shape and form.

    In contrast, the introductions in THE FRENCH CONNECTION and THE EXORCIST did wonders.
    We know that the murder in France in the opening of the FRENCH CONNECTION is connected to criminality in NY. We know that what was uncovered in Iraq in the opening of THE EXORCIST has something to do with the demon possession in the US.

    But the past and present in THE SORCERER never come together, especially as characters are never developed. This is especially shameful with the old assassin.
    In Clouzot’s WAGES OF FEAR, he was a multi-faceted character: tough guy, hustler, braggart, coward, and ultimately pitiable tragic figure. In THE SORCERER, he just looks like a Lee Van Cleef impersonator who can’t speak English.

    Also, THE SORCERER was made only in one mode. A big film needs to be carefully constructed with moments big and small, with a sound base and pieces fitting together to rise to a higher peak and climax. Though APOCALYPSE NOW doesn’t work, there is an orchestration with beginning, middle, and ending.
    But THE SORCERER is like a bulldozer that just charges headfirst regardless of what’s in front of it. Emotionally and narratively, it’s stuck on one gear and headed in one direction.

    This is why Herzog’s FITZCARRALDO also doesn’t work either. Kinski is one-dimensional and the narrative thrust is so single-minded. It was made with the mind and muscle of a mule than a human being.

    Like

    • Faze says:

      Really good points, here.

      Like

    • Fenster says:

      As I see it, the idea not to connect the characters’ pasts to their futures is intentional, part of the film’s appealing tragedy (if you are a fan) or it’s dime store nihilism (if not).

      Here is a link to the whole movie.

      http://www.alluc.to/movies/watch-sorcerer-1977-online/303662.html

      If you go to 1:42 or thereabouts you’ll see what I mean. The French and Palestinian characters are driving along the mountain road after just having the exhilarating experience of blowing up that huge log that blocked their paths. They are flying, and as happy as one can be under the circumstances. After a whole movie devoted to male task accomplishment, the Frenchman decides to reveal a little of himself–OK, here comes that backstory! Now we can see how Friedkin the Director God opts to resolve past and present. Maybe it will be a long and fascinating tale.

      But as soon as the Frenchman takes out his watch and talks about his wife–pow–a tire blows out in mid-sentence. Fortuna is jealous.

      Then it is three quick, unsentimental and brutal cuts and in fice seconds it is over: the tire blowing and causing the truck to veer to the the dangerous side of the road; the two characters exchanging a quick glance at one another, recognizing the chance for resolution and communication has past; then the truck tipping over the side of the road. Then boom. Fuck you mortals. So much for resolution.

      Like

  14. agnostic says:

    I can’t comment on this movie, but you can see why the grimy realism movement of the ’70s only lasted for a moment — it wasn’t stylized enough.

    Fortune plays a huge role in real life, and there typically isn’t a memorable, satisfying resolution to most stories. Fictional narratives ought to stylize those details of reality so that the random texture of events is still perceptible, but not calling attention to itself the whole time. And they ought not to get in the way of the larger structure of beginning, middle, and end, including a climax for the audience to feel catharsis, followed by some resolution to bring their elevated state back down to the mundane level.

    Movies where you’re going through a variety of different positions, sometimes easing into it and other times jack-hammering away, have to push you over the top and let you come back down to enjoy that refractory period. Otherwise it feels like your partner is fucking around with you, and wasn’t it so cool how she just up and left without any ultimate climax or resolution to the night’s roll in the hay?

    Hey, I like a lot of the grimy, fate’s-a-bitch kind of movies, but you have to admit why there weren’t so many that worked at the time, and why the movement didn’t have much momentum to keep it going longer. The range of stories that lend themselves to the approach is severely limited, and they’d more or less run through them all by the mid-’70s. Not every narrative calls for Sisyphus and Sado-Masochism, y’know? Not even a majority of them.

    Posing this as a New Hollywood vs. corporate blockbuster thing is going too easy on New Hollywood’s superstar directors. It’s more like, stochastic and fatalistic blockbuster vs. purposeful and cathartic blockbuster, where a hero’s efforts achieve something.

    The waning interest in attempted follow-ups to Chinatown owes more to the constraints imposed by human psychology on the viewer’s side, than to economic motives on the creator’s side.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. agnostic says:

    Pursuing the topic of New Hollywood burning out and what replaced it — it wasn’t Star Wars, Star Trek, E.T., Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, or any of the other optimistic blockbusters that the whole family could enjoy.

    Those movies are so different in tone from Chinatown, Taxi Driver, and The Parallax View, that we’d have to conclude there was an abrupt U-turn in public tastes (or artists’ inclinations) around that time. And in general the second half of the ’70s isn’t so different from the first half of the ’80s — not one of those U-turn periods, artistically or pop culturally.

    What represented the next step forward from the fate’s-a-bitch blockbusters of the New Hollywood period was the sci-fi thriller, whether dystopian or at least in the tradition of “Oh shit, mankind doesn’t belong in this hostile environment.” Alien, Escape from New York, Blade Runner, Videodrome, The Terminator, Predator, RoboCop, Total Recall.

    They portrayed a grimy realistic setting (not an unconvincing emo caricature a la contempo sci-fi thrillers), where the deck is stacked against the puny heroes, and where cruel fate generally has its way with ordinary background characters and featured protagonists alike. Buuuut, where we sense a progression toward an ultimate climax of redemption — and where that is paid off by the end. This allows even the schlockier examples like Predator to satisfy the viewer in a way that the more pretentious examples in the Sisyphean / S&M approach cannot.

    And by telling the story within science fiction, they could get out from the “is this story REALLY plausible?” constraint of the hardcore realism of their ’70s forerunners. Sci-fi is just plausible enough.

    There was a related movement toward slasher thrillers in horror. Grimy, realistic, unrelenting hostile forces wipe out just about everyone, despite their best efforts and teamwork — but not everyone. There’s at least a Pyrrhic victory for the lone survivor. The supernatural element allows the story-tellers to move outside of the strict boundaries imposed by hardcore realism.

    These related inheritors of the ’70s thriller both reached their peak in the early ’90s, when Total Recall styled itself as the sci-fi thriller to end all sci-fi thrillers, and Twin Peaks styled itself as the supernatural thriller to end all supernatural thrillers.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Kevin O'Keeffe says:

    “Isn’t it interesting how the vogue for the hyper-trimmed, often bare female crotch has emerged AT THE EXACT SAME MOMENT when we’ve lost touch with traditional, grown-up masculinity? Coincidence? Perhaps the glossy, flawless, always-fresh pussy is the only kind of pussy today’s eternal 14-year-old boys can stand to face.”

    That’s one of the best social observations I’ve come across in months, if not years.

    Like

    • Harland says:

      Masculinity gets enough bashing these days without any help from movie critics. Let’s stop abusing the males for being a part of society.

      Like

  17. Fenster says:

    It has now made its way to Cambridge, to the local art house, for one night, tonight. I will be there.

    Like

  18. Pingback: Two NYC-Set ’70s Cop Thrillers | Uncouth Reflections

  19. Pingback: The Best of UR 2014 | Uncouth Reflections

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s