Cinema: Where Did All the Magic Go?

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Once the little band of ill-assorted brothers hits the road, the suspense picks up considerably, but, frankly, there is a strange monotony in their travails. If the road is not washed out, then you can bet that around the next curve a huge tree is going to be lying across it. And, of course, all the bridges are just terrible. Everyone is pretty brave and persevering about all this, and reasonably ingenious in solving the problems. Still, nerves should be screeching steadily instead of intermittently as Friedkin and company wend their way, more or less tragically, through fen and forest.

One hates to be hard on a director who is so earnestly trying to reform, who wanted to make something that feels suspiciously like an art film so badly that he spent as much as $21 million-worth of two studios' money in the attempt, has issued directives to theater managers insisting that the houselights be dimmed while an overture, for godsake, which he ordered up, plays us into a mood suitable for his work. Friedkin's pretensions do not entirely defeat the film, and his craftsmanship often rescues him from self-betrayal. But Sorcerer lacks the kind of low cunning — the sorcery — that is Friedkin's strong suit.

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