StoryThis edition of The Directors is a mixed blessing, but it's refreshing for the candid manner in which William Friedkin assesses his own career. Having once aspired to a pro basketball career, Friedkin saw Citizen Kane and was inspired to pursue filmmaking. Of course, the Oscar-winning director of The French Connection and The Exorcist can claim his own phenomenal successes, but this kid-gloved program glosses over Friedkin's subsequent fall from Hollywood grace following the commercial and critical failure of Sorcerer, his ambitious remake of the French classic The Wages of Fear.
Given such a lightweight treatment of Friedkin's volatile career, interview clips offer adequate compensation. Once maligned as a megalomaniac, Friedkin is seen here (during the production of his 1995 thriller Jade) as an engaging subject, allowing that The Exorcist is "the one film I've made that could be called something of a classic," and chiding current Hollywood films for offering little more than "easy answers to easy questions." Friedkin discusses highlights from his best films (including the awesome chases in The French Connection and To Live and Die in L.A.), and concedes that while directing is "a young man's game," he still enjoys the challenge. Additional interviews include fawning sound-bites from Jade co-stars David Caruso, Chazz Palmintieri, and Linda Fiorentino, but the list of absentees is nothing if not conspicuous. Friedkin may have alienated many of his past collaborators, but this talented filmmaker has clearly mellowed (he's been married since 1991 to studio executive Sherry Lansing), and filmgoers can only hope his considerable talent enjoys a latter-day revival. --Jeff Shannon