Empire (UK) - - ON SCREEN -

Stu­dios are haem­or­rhag­ing money as bloated, big-bud­get spec­ta­cles are re­jected by fa­tigued au­di­ences — specif­i­cally the much-cov­eted and ever-fickle younger de­mo­graphic. But then emerg­ing tech­nol­ogy, en­abling dra­mat­i­cally lower pro­duc­tion costs, finds its way into the hands of a new gen­er­a­tion of hun­gry film­mak­ers who will change the in­dus­try for­ever. The year is 1971. At the cut­ting edge of cinema’s new wave is direc­tor Wil­liam Fried­kin, fresh from his ground­break­ing The Boys In The Band. Ahead of him lie such films as The Ex­or­cist, Cruis­ing,

Sorcerer and To Live And Die In LA. But first will come a po­lice drama based on the true ac­count of a 1960s nar­cotics in­ves­ti­ga­tion in New York City, a case that be­came known as ‘The French Con­nec­tion’. Fried­kin meets with the cops who broke the case, de­tec­tives Sonny Grosso and Ed­die Egan. Their sub­se­quent friend­ship will re­sult in a con­spir­acy to com­mit cinema.

When I floated the idea of sit­ting down with Fried­kin to dis­cuss the 45th an­niver­sary of his oft-im­i­tated and never-sur­passed mas­ter­piece, Empire im­me­di­ately said yes. Which is how we wound up in New York in mid-au­gust at Chazz Palminteri’s Ristorante Italiano with Fried­kin and Grosso, still go­ing strong in their eight­ies, to dis­cuss the mak­ing of a film that would make stars of Gene Hack­man and Roy Schei­der; and that re­mains the gold stan­dard for the docu­d­rama, the po­lice pro­ce­dural, the buddy/cop movie, the car chase and the pre­car­i­ous art of hand-held film­mak­ing.

Left: Wil­liam Fried­kin makes his point. Above right: Christo­pher Mc­quar­rie mid-de­bate. Be­low: Sonny Grosso en­joys a glass of red.

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