Sorcerer

Sorcerer ★★★★★

The film that was unfairly blown out of the water by the inevitable game-changing blockbuster success of Star Wars (1977) endured decades of neglect and legal issues to eventually be remembered as a definitive cult classic, one of the very best from the '70s cinematic renaissance and, in some circles, Friedkin's magnum opus.

Sorcerer reworks Clouzot's The Wages of Fear (1953) into an equally tough and uncompromising thriller that features some of the most authentic and treacherously-staged stunts I've ever seen. In doing so, the film's premise - four unscrupulous characters from various backgrounds relocate to a remote Latin American village and take on the unenviable job of transporting highly unstable nitroglycerin through a hazardous jungle via trucks to extinguish an oil fire - serves as a neat metaphor for humanity's perennial struggle for peace: work together or die. (A pertinent message considering the recent terrorist attacks).

I've always admired Friedkin's filmmaking style; it seems to be a cross between sleek Hollywood fare and fearless cinéma vérité - it's totally his own. His use of editing here appears pragmatic but impulsive and the cinematography is stunning, capturing the intensity of the action and the sheer beauty and tangible dirtiness of the locations situating the film on a very real and physical plain where reality is heightened just a notch. Then, over the top, is Tangerine Dream's darkly sublime electronic score (their first for Hollywood) that puts the film in a world completely unto itself (also note some use of Keith Jarrett's intense neo-classical tunes). The action sometimes overshadows the characters, but Roy Scheider's memorable anti-hero can surely be noted as one of his great performances.

This has been one of my favourite films for a while. At first I thought my effusive admiration for it was merely bias courtesy of my predilection for cult films that barely anyone else has seen, but after watching it many times I can safely say I believe Sorcerer to be some kind of masterpiece. It may have bombed on release - the result of going insanely over-budget, no real bankable stars, the first twenty-five minutes being in a foreign language and some serious over-ambition on Friedkin's part - but that just adds to the film's strange, alluring mystique. It also makes a terrific double-bill with the somewhat comparable Apocalypse Now - so go watch it!

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