One of the most entertaining books I’ve read recently is “The Friedkin Connection” by William Friedkin, the director behind The French Connection and The Exorcist. That’s how the book is sold, and those two movies take up a sizable portion here. No wonder, because they are masterful films that have defined Friedkin’s career, for better and worse, since nothing else he’s made comes close to them. It’s a very entertaining read, as Friedkin writes in a candid, passionate way, exposing his inner drive and fears, as well as a lingering disappointment of not having lived up to the initial success of his two classics. If you’re a fan of either film and looking for amusing anecdotes about the making of them, you’re in luck. One of my favorite stories is how Friedkin bribed a Transit Authority representative in order to get the subway scene he needed for French Connection.
If you’re looking for tips on how to make a movie, you’re in luck too. Friedkin goes into detail how he made several of his films, but not in an overly technical way; he takes us through the making of and particular challenges of his movies without losing our interest.
The clip above is a short documentary on the making of Cruising (1980), another Friedkin movie that was highly controversial at the time of its release because of how the New York City gay scene was portrayed. Indeed, Friedkin made other movies that may not have been nearly as good as The French Connection and The Exorcist, but they did create headlines. Sorcerer (1977) and Killer Joe (2012) are other examples, because of a troubled set or excessive violence. Most of Friedkin’s films have been tough and very masculine, although not necessarily macho. Cruising is not a movie I like, for several reasons, and Friedkin writes about what he felt went wrong. That’s an interesting chapter as well, regardless of how you feel about the movie. So is the documentary.
In the book, Friedkin is very open about his craft, and some of his health issues, so when he merely mentions that he was married three times before his current marriage, without elaborating, I can’t help but think this must be a part of his life that he doesn’t have the courage or insight to talk about. No one would buy a book about William Friedkin to read about his marriages to Jeanne Moreau and Lesley-Anne Down. But they’re famous actresses and not even mentioning them in an otherwise honest book looks very strange.