Back in the ´70s, William Friedkin was the thinking mans action director. He came out of television in Chicago, where he made documentaries, and one of his first movies when he got to L.A. was an adaptation of Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party. Friedkin had an eye and a nose for urban grit, and he hit the jackpot with The French Connection (1971), winning the Academy Award for Best Director at age 36. The unvarnished, street-level, cops-and-crooks yarn plays Sept. 6 at the William Friedkin Series, along with the ultra-stylish 1985 crime movie To Live and Die in L.A., starring Chicago theater actor William Petersen (now a jaded C.S.I. vet). The director's biggest hit, The Exorcist (1973), ranks as perhaps the most cited and parodied movie ever, yet it still retains its creepy power. It unspools tonight with Sorcerer, Friedkin's relentlessly taut 1977 remake of the explosive French flick The Wages of Fear.
This mini-retrospective is an appetizer for the Sept.7-13 revival of Cruising (1980), the director's still-controversial thriller starring Al Pacino as a macho cop who goes undercover to nab a killer in Manhattan's gay leather scene -- and finds himself falling hard for his new duds and acquaintances. Friedkin's latest, the tense drama Bug, received excellent notices earlier this year during its brief run. Clearly, he's still got a few jolts left.