HURRICANE BILLY: The Stormy Life and Films of William Friedkin by Nat Segaloff

HURRICANE BILLY: The Stormy Life and Films of William Friedkin

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Highly readable life and career of the maker of The Boys in the Band, The French Connection, The Exorcist, and Sorcerer. Oscar-winning director (The French Connection) Billy Friedkin emerges from this bio as a man obsessed by an honesty that demands he show his dark side, although this often defeats the commercial life of his pictures. He also appears to be a shockingly foulmouthed intellectual bully (who plays Mr. Charm when needed) whose main comment about films, including most of his own, is that they are ""superficial."" Segaloff has some interesting queries about why a man who views movies this way should involve himself so deeply in the Hollywood variety, but has no strong answer. Friedkin dismisses his first two marriages (one to Jeanne Moreau) as empty experiences that happened to some other guy he no longer knows. He enters only upon projects that allow him absolute control, and the charisma of two blockbuster hits early in his career still looms--although lately he's done a lot of expensively high-class TV work. Unusually gifted, he is a total technical master of his craft. And within the limits of his chosen theme of males veering along the edge of existence, his is more craft than art, always accenting how things work in odd macho fields. The souping up of his soundtracks with every rustle, zip, click, footstep, and wheel-turn artificially boosted often has viewers squirming. Much of his work still haunts, especially the nostalgic first half of The Boys in the Band and his two classic blockbuster melodramas, with Mercedes McCambridge's demon speaking from Linda Blair and Gene Hackman careening on his insane train chase by car under the elevated subway. And the car chase in To Live and Die in LA is perhaps even more nerve-wracking Both Segaloff and Friedkin think Friedkin's best is Sorcerer, his spellbinding, complex remake of The Wages of Fear--a choice that gets no argument here. Fast and gripping, a good try at a tough subject, without all the answers.

Pub Date: Feb. 21st, 1989
Publisher: Morrow