Friedkin Uncut, the debut of director Francesco Zippel, is a new retrospective on the career of filmmaker William Friedkin. The mind behind such acclaimed classics as The Exorcist and The French Connection, Friedkin undeniably has plenty of stories to tell, allowing his life to lend itself to a fascinating documentary.
This isn’t a typical biographical documentary, as the film focuses less on Friedkin’s life and more on his work. However, unlike most documentaries that take this approach, Friedkin Uncut is successful in using the subject’s work in a way that is revealing of who he is as a person. The way in which he talks about his work provides insight on his outlook towards not only film, but also the world as a whole.
Perhaps the most surprising thing that you will learn about Friedkin from this film is that he is surprisingly humble and down-to-earth. Some of the other notable directors can tend to come across as arrogant, but not Friedkin. Over the course of the movie, you see Friedkin give praise where it is due, not only to the people who came before him and the people that worked with him on his films, but also newer filmmakers whose work he admires.
Another thing about this movie that is quite interesting is that it does not spend most of its time on Friedkin’s more well-known films. There is some discussion of The French Connection, The Exorcist, and To Live and Die in L.A., but the deeper and more intriguing parts of the documentary explore Friedkin’s lesser-known but still important gems, such as Sorcerer and Killer Joe.
In addition to Friedkin, the filmmakers interviewed various figures in Hollywood, from actors and crew members who worked on Friedkin’s various movies to other top directors who admire Friedkin’s work. Although some of the interviews in the latter category do come a bit too close to being shallow flattery of the subject’s career, some of them do provide insight as to why Friedkin is such a great and revolutionary director.
The film clocks in at around an hour and forty-five minutes and will be very entertaining for most who are interested in cinema and are familiar with Friedkin’s filmography. If one hasn’t seen some of the films being discussed, the movie does provide enough context and footage to get by, but this documentary is certainly better if you already have an appreciation for Friedkin’s work.
On a technical level, the film is definitely solid. The story is told mostly through interviews, with some clips from the movies being discussed woven in for support. That said, since this documentary does not provide a wide survey of Friedkin’s entire body of work, the use of clips isn’t particularly extensive. This was a brave decision for the director to make, as clips are an easy way to hook in unfamiliar audiences, but for the most part, Zippel’s choice pays off.
Friedkin Uncut is an excellent documentary and will be an especially rewarding watch for any devoted cinephile or film scholar. Because of in-depth interviews with Friedkin about the nature and impact of some of his work, this movie manages to be both extremely informative and thoroughly entertaining.
Friedkin Uncut is now playing in theaters.