Grand film sick, the american remake of the Wages of fear d’Henri-Georges Clouzot’s inferno by William Friedkin is also considered by many as his “Apocalypse Now”. Same time, same shooting conditions chaotic (more than a year to crank, brawls of all kinds, abandonment of technicians to disease or illegal acts…) for a result that is equally insane : a dive in the jungle, its beauty and its dangers, filmed as one hell of a psychotic in which the man is going to rush. To be honest, it is only at a day of the month of July 2015, on the occasion of its re-release, that I discovered for the first time this work of which I had both read and heard, in a version of the announced director’s cut and boosted to digital. Since the shock was at the height of my expectations, I decided to trace through the lines that follow, the major elements that have contributed to my fascination growing during the projection and to my total satisfaction out of the room.
A first part that is disconcerting but necessary
Between Vera Cruz, Jerusalem, Paris and Elizabeth, the prologue furious we this oh-so effectively four characters, soon to be gathered in the same hole lost. What can be put off, this is the way that the exposure situation is seen stretched out, until the trigger leading to the establishment of the famous suicide mission. It takes its time to present us with quite exhaustively, four mouths of actors, mythical, between the charisma of Roy Scheider, the nose smashed to Bruno Cremer, the elegance of Francisco Rabal and the penetrating gaze of Amidou. Less than an hour later, when they started this that everyone was waiting for, the wait is now finally rewarded, and better, you eventually say, after having been exposed to endless dangers and adventures that will bring upon this quartet, that this step was ultimately necessary. The empathy that is created during this process will contribute a lot to make us feel all the more concerned by the suspense formidable which has lost nothing of its force.
A dimension of fantasy and experimental
Well that resulted in us under the title The convoy of fear, very close to the original as Clouzot, Friedkin baptize his remake SORCERER. A choice before any marketing, as he will explain later himself, since wanting to surf on the success of his previous film, The exorcist, what will be the final one of the main causes of its failure, in addition to coincide with the release of a certain Star Wars in 1977. The audience, expecting a new “fantastic” film, throw in the towel after a few minutes, in front of a film long to start, and especially multiplying the foreign languages. In reality, the work flirts constantly with the fantastic, especially as of the second hour. As a SORCERER, it is also the name of one of the two trucks of the convoy cursed, with its front grille which looks the same to the mouth of the demon Pazuzu in The exorcist, and rightly so. This is not a coincidence that on the box of the title, fade, is a face of the idol akin to the discovery that was father Merrin in the desert. Later, we will again show this idol in its natural habitat, as for the fate of these men, desperate to leave this place sticky in which they are consumed. Another scene, brief but significant, insist a little more on the bias of Friedkin ‘s film these trucks like real gear is of the devil, when men, divided into two groups, repair with blows of the mechanical parts of these iron monsters. Then, the time of a fixed plane front-end, night but bathed in a light, non-naturalist, the spacecraft turns on its headlights one after another, synchronized with the notes of minimalist synth disturbing, and sick of the group Tangerine Dream, who signed a partition to be fabulous. The idea of staging sound John Carpenter will resume six years after in Christine, during one of the key scenes in his adaptation of Stephen King. It is jubilant already, while we have seen nothing yet. The doors of these trucks manned, imprisoning crates of nitroglycerin that our heroes are supposed to bring from point a to point B, are not the only things non-human that Friedkin films as a demonic.
The true protagonist of his film, it is its natural setting, namely the jungle with its winding paths, steep and full of mud, wooden bridges rotten or stale, a torrential downpour exceptional power, the trunks of giant trees across the road at the convoy, or branches of trees rising like a phantom, coming to cut the plan on a new synthetic sound chilling.
This fantastic aspect is clearly assumed through the staging goes hand in hand with an experimental dimension is also very present. Therefore, we find that most of the scenes references tell their stories primarily through image and sound. Virtually-silent, more like a documentary aspect, they highlight the work of amazing precision and efficiency of the assembly, who is still doing miracles almost 40 years later. Include this sequence amazing taking place in a desert mind which the colorimetry is diametrically opposed to all that admired up until then. The sound and visual effects, the laughter of the heretic of Francisco Rabal, to the reflections on the windshield of Roy Scheider, we are entering a whole other dimension, well helped by a music ever more delusional.
“A huge moment in cinema, coupled with a lesson of mise en scene.”
A lesson in staging
With SORCERER, the filmmaker, without a doubt, he himself possessed during the shooting, seems to have reached the peak of his technical mastery. From the first to the last frame, the film is a delight in terms of composition and camera moves. William Friedkin, in trance, therefore, leads this journey to the end of hell with a single word : efficiency. Zoom, panoramic, use of focal lengths short or long, low-angle shots, pov shots, as many tools used to wonder in moments of calm as the most tense or the most chaotic. In addition, as always in the filmmaker, the work on the sound is for rent again, so we swear to take the impact of bullets or an explosion in the face. The nature superbly handled by the sound effects is also often aggressive. It is also Impossible to speak of a SORCERER without mention of his many songs of bravery so-called scenes of the bridge or the tree trunk.
But the ink already has enough casting to this topic, especially as if like me, you were left of the few lovers of cinema have not yet discovered this immense time, it is not necessary to say more. You said the art of exceeding his model ? A delicate question subject to debate, especially as Friedkin does not consider his film as a remake, having entrusted the script Walon Green, the reworking/modifying it. However, it is considered, even today, as his best film, “the one he would not touch a single image.”
Our editor-Maxime pointed out in his text on Wake in Fright, the cinema of the 70s is precious and this SORCERER is, without a doubt, one of the cornerstones of this sacred building. A decade decidedly outstanding that we will be offered two feature films to artistic qualities, and intrinsic, for which the risk of having no right of way for much longer, especially in light of the time that we are going through, in terms of quality and originality in film.
THE SESSIONS OF DECEMBER 3, 2015