Friday, June 8, 2007
Scratch It Up
Wild William “Billy” Friedkin once sat atop the Hollywood dogpile as one of the brashest and brightest, serving up audience and nitcrit favorites like The French Connection (1971), The Exorcist (1973) and To Live and Die in L.A. (1985). It’s been a precipitous downhill slide ever since, filled with mediocrity (1994’s Blue Chips), curiosity (2003’s The Hunted), and idiocy (1995’s Jade), sandwiched around a whole lotta TV work. There’s hope yet, as evidenced by Friedkin’s latest, an ambitious movie adaptation of Tracy Lett’s play, Bug. It’s an intense and strange film, assaultive and claustrophobic. Although it’s being marketed as yet another entry in the gore porn genre, it’s the exact opposite, a thoroughly psychological exploration of paranoia, centering around a down and out waitress (Ashley Judd), and that oh-so-familiar dramatic figure, the mysterious stranger (Michael Shannon, repeating his theatrical role). Most of the movie centers on these two, crawling around and exchanging monologues while pouring out paranoiac sweat in a bare hotel room, as Friedkin employs a wild array of weird shots and ambient sounds. Bug may come across as a bit forced, but one has to credit Wild Billy with infusing the film with a sharp energy and a resolute focus. Like it, dislike it; it’s one hell of an eerie effort.