High-Def Digest was given the chance to take a look at Alexandre O. Philippe's Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on the Exorcist, courtesy of Shudder. The Video, Audio, and Bonus Features sections have not been analyzed since they're not pertinent at the moment. However, when a Blu-ray is made available, we will update the review accordingly.
Taking a cue from William Friedkin, the central subject of Alexandre O. Philippe's surprisingly engrossing Leap of Faith, writing a review on a documentary about a filmmaker reminiscing on a seminal, iconic horror film nearly fifty years later is ultimately a leap of faith. Much like him on the production of The Exorcist, I'm just going to wing this as I go along. In fact, this is true of all movie reviews in general — the faith being on a receptive audience wanting to read and be entertained by another's opinion. Granted, I customarily outline a general idea of specific points I want to target or to be sure to mention in my impression of a film, something akin to how Friedkin mentions he envisions scenarios in his mind prior to shooting a scene. But truth be told, once I'm sitting in front of the computer and typing away, I often find myself improvising, formulating new ideas and frequently editing as I furiously jot down my thoughts.
The French Connection director essentially expresses as much about his approach to making movies in general — self-editing and planning in the moment, realizing his overall vision as he goes along and with little pre-planning. As he explains it, he tackles each project with a guerilla filmmaking style, a one-take visionary who shoots a scene from the gut and going purely on instinct. The camerawork is decided on what feels right on that given day. His hiring process is with a preference for those with a background in documentaries and who share in his rebellious methods. This was his strategy in filming the horror classic that still ranks as one of the scariest and most terrifying motion pictures ever made, virtually proving his point. The film continues lingering in our collective consciousness and attracting new audiences with its gritty, unsentimental take on a rather traditional tale of good versus evil.
And this is arguably the more interesting aspect of the entire documentary, which is in itself unconventional. It is merely nothing more than a 100-minute interview with the legendary filmmaker reminiscing on the production while sharing various anecdotes from the set. He shares a memory where he had a brief exchange with star Max von Sydow and his lack of faith before shooting a pivotal scene. Then, we have his near-comical decision to replace Stacey Keach with Jason Miller or his conversations with Mercedes McCambridge and the extent she went for training her vocal cords to voice Pazuzu. Personally, I enjoyed best listening to his thought process when filming the conversation between Ellen Burstyn and Lee J. Cobb. It was wonderful to hear Friedkin essentially analyze his own technique and the entire sequence while also preferring the audience to interpret the end result as they wish.
For its entire runtime, the filmmaker behind such beloved cult classics as Sorcerer, To Live and Die in L.A., The Guardian and Cruising holds our attention without fail. Although his work of the past twenty years has largely failed to garner the same mainstream attention as he once had, this interview demonstrates that his talent as a gifted storyteller has not waned. It's easy to see how fondly proud he is of The Exorcist, talking passionately and openly about how thinks the production was serendipitous. Things just seem to fall into place, and it came just at the right time when a receptive audience was ready and waiting for it hit cinemas. For Friedkin, it was more a matter of fate than some stroke of luck, as though the stars aligned perfectly and the pieces simply fell into place, making for a relatively smooth production. Ultimately, Leap of Faith makes for a wonderful, captivating supplement to the horror classic.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Exhibit A Pictures released Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on the Exorcist on 19 November 2020 exclusively on the digital streaming service Shudder.
Alexandre O. Philippe's Leap of Faith is a surprisingly engaging interview conversation with William Friedkin, the legendary filmmaker behind The Exorcist. Demonstrating his talent as a gifted storyteller, the director captivates the audience for 100 minutes as he fondly reminisces on his work, creative approach and overall thoughts on the production for one of the most terrifying motion pictures ever made.