Thursday, December 06, 2007

Transfixed on Friedkin

Hey all,

Been a rough few days...Im starting to relate to Robert Neville lately...

But last night, after a particularly shit ass day, I came home, greeted by smiles and tail wags as I sat down to TRY and decompress when I switched on the ole Plasma and JUST made it in time to watch the car chase scene in Billy Friedkin's TO LIVE OR DIE IN LA. First off, I love this movie. I love it's ferociousness, the intensity and tension captured in this yarn of counterfeiting in the City of Angels and the blurred line between police and perp, love the style and even how it's dated, how the clothing, the hair, hell even the sunglasses everyone wears instantly transports you back to the 80's, when Wang Chung WAS the soundtrack to Los Angeles and venetian blinds were SO the rage. The movie simply rocks, and watching it on HD only sucked me in more.

All that aside, the car chase scene that Friedkin and his crew crafted is at once one of the most bombastic and ridiculous chases put to film, yet its a masterpiece in speed and geography. Watching it in glorious HD, I became entranced in the scene, as the undercover cops (played by William L. Petersen & John Pankow) are ambushed during a botched robbery they're involved in by a slew of thugs in mid-level chevy sedans and M-16's. The perp they were shaking down is gunned in the back, and thus the wheels are in motion (no pun intended) as the undercover cops are chased through the labyrinthian alleys of downtown and through the busy interstate as more and more gunmen keep popping up, trying to gun them down. They weave narrowly through tight corners, blaze through the LA river and even go the wrong way during rush hour on the 710! Not that you have to live in (he)L.A. to fully appreciate the action and the landscape they cover through this extended sequence, but while watching the film, I was blown away with just how Friedkin, who burned a hole in my retinas with THE FRENCH CONNECTION & THE EXORCIST and I've been a fan ever since, choreographed the scene not like an action sequence, but almost like a war scene in GLORY or SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, the troops using cars and guns equally in their arsenal, and how the "opponent" can be anywhere in the melee. The chase defines VELOCITY, you can almost taste how fast the cars are going, and how Friedkin (mostly) puts the actors in the thick of the action, focusing in their faces-their eyes-and even their internal thoughts (suddenly cutting to silent moments of introspection as the madness is unfolding around them, bullets whizzing from every corner) as they screech and swerve through the streets, dodging everything in their way. There is an amazing sense of well-planned geography in the sequence, where the camera hints at the obstacles each set of cars (the cops and the thugs) have to hurdle through that I dont remember before, how a simple turn one car makes later becomes a terse moment for the speeding antagonists as they have to swerve and jump a curb to keep up....the attention to detail is almost surgical. Plus, you have amazing shots where one car is in the lower level of the highway and then the camera glides up to reveal their pursuers on the level above...the kind of shot that probably took weeks to execute, yet Friedkin and co. make it seem effortless, even spontaneous as if they were just "there", capturing the moment. You literally find yourself unable to pull away from the screen, because you feel like you truly are in the car with the cops, and there were 3 times I had to tell my body to breath, I was holding my breath during every heart-pounding moment, which climaxes as Petersen, looking suave and toned pre-CSI days, as he darts onto oncoming traffic to lose his pursuers, who seem to be coming out from EVERYWHERE. By the end, I was exhausted...and smiling. It's filmmaking like this that reminds me of the power a 2-D image and how it can affect it's viewer...even remind them why they are pursuing their own dream to craft cinema as sharp and spellbinding as this. If you get a chance to see the film, it's worth it. Friedkin at his manic best (and with the advent of his BUG adaptation, it seems he's on his 4th wind)...Just watch out for Willem that guy is evil (and so is his fashion).


Staying Scary,


Blogger giles edwards said...

That's Freidkin's documentary routes shining through, alright. that sequence is a real scrote-clencher and one of my favourite scenes of his, alongside the opening Santa Claus-on-foot chase sequence in The French Connection, which is more kinetic for me than the car chase in that picture.

12:30 PM  

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