Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Perversity re: Sorcerer? Blu-Ray review

Watching the restoration of Sorcerer on Blu-Ray for the first time tonight, I actually found myself feeling an unexpected, somewhat unwelcome nostalgia for the crappy old DVD.

Part of that may be that I now have to say goodbye to the long-held feeling of wanting this film to come out in a decent version. As with Clearcut and the extended version of Phase IV, I've been on that page for so long that now that it somehow has become a part of me; I've gotten attached to the longing, and now that the Blu is actually out there, now that I've gotten (I think) what I've been desiring all along, it's left a blank space. That part of my identity associated with the desire for a Sorcerer restoration now has to move on to something else... there's a tiny feeling of loss, of letting go. I am truly a sentimental guy, I guess.

Still, I'm not sure how I feel about Friedkin's tinkerings with the film. Unsurprisingly, the soundtrack has been remixed for 5.1, but I also noticed a few musical cues that I did not recall, ones apparently not by Tangerine Dream, unless they were playing stringed instruments; I'll have to do some cross-comparing to see if I'm right, here (I also want to check the nightmare image of the rooster getting its head cut off; it seemed different - shorter, faster, harder to make out - on Blu). (Edit: there are also complaints on the Sorcerer blog about an added gunshot sound at the end of the film, though Friedkin has said that's actually the sound of a vehicle backfiring... like I say, I'll have to do a close comparison).
Further, there are colours that seem impossibly vivid, considering the age of the film, that seem to remove it from its proper milieu (the 1970's), making it seem like the movie just came out theatrically for the first time this year. It didn't, so why should Friedkin try to make it look like it did? There's been some grumbling about this sort of thing on Amazon, after Friedkin's previous unpopular tinkerings with The French Connection, or his inferior re-working of The Exorcist that has annoyingly supplanted the original film on home video. I can see the counterargument to these gripes - that restoring the film includes making the colours rich and vibrant again, making it look as good as it can, and that it is in fact impossible to restore it to the exact qualities of the original film, given that the negative and such have aged and faded over the last three and a half decades; you simply can't go home again, or step in the same river twice, or... All the same, the colours were never THIS rich or vibrant; and I was attached to the muted, gritty, visibly 70's palette of the previous DVD (if not the improper aspect ratio or the graininess of the transfer). Maybe this is just a baby duck thing that I need to get over, but I think it actually might have something to do with my not connecting with the film as much as I usually do on tonight's viewing. It didn't really feel like the same film that I've loved for years; it's a beautiful presentation, but it's considerably different from what we have been used to (edit: maybe I've been forced to complete the film for myself when watching the inferior DVD, and, compensating for its defects, imagined a different, better version for myself that the new Blu- doesn't live up to?).

I guess in the end Friedkin has every right to try to re-present this film in a new light, especially given that it never got a fair shake the first time around. If the end result is a terrific Blu-Ray presentation, which, whatever my quibbles, looks a hell of a lot cooler than any previous release of the film, why should I hold it against him? Of COURSE it looks different; that's the whole point. Still, I'm kind of shocked and surprised and disappointed with myself, as much as with the Blu-Ray: why wasn't I more excited by it tonight? What did I do wrong? This has been one of my favourite movies for years, but tonight it kind of didn't do it for me. Maybe it just wasn't time to re-watch it yet; I only saw it again a year or so ago, and it's at best a watch-every-three-years movie. But maybe all these changes do actually somehow damage the film as much as they save it, at least for a certain kind of viewer...? One can only imagine how I'd feel if I was actually watching this on a hi-def plasma TV...

Anyhow, there's a terrific interview with Friedkin here (that gunshot is discussed). Thanks to David M. for sharing it. I think I'll go see what DVD Beaver is saying about this film... I wonder how many people out there are responding to it the way I am?


Anonymous said...

Hello. This is Toby from The Sorcerer Blog.

Growing up in the 70s, I saw a lot of Japanese monster movies and Kung Fu flicks. The prints were often ragged, with so much white dust printed in 'em you'd think the negatives had been stored in a garden shed. Nowadays, when I see those same films looking like a million bucks on DVD, I miss the dust, the trash, the splices. To me, that's what those movies look like. I think that's what you're experiencing with Sorcerer.

I saw it opening day in 1977, and in the theater, it looked closer to the Blu-ray than the old DVD.

I completely understand the odd feeling that comes with the release of this Blu-ray. What cause do we take up now?

Allan MacInnis said...

Thanks for the comment, Toby, and for keeping the Sorcerer blog! I've checked in on it many a-time and imagine you're even in a worse position than I am re: that odd feeling. Not being serious here, but you could start a Clearcut blog, maybe? This is the film I'm most excited to see presented in a proper format, now that Sorcerer is out - it's even less available than Sorcerer (directed in Canada by Polish political filmmaker Ryszard Bugajski, and very provocative and compelling):