Last night director William Friedkin tweeted that the much-hungered-for, long-stymied Bluray of Sorcerer, his brilliant 1977 remake of Henri Georges Clouzot‘s Wages of Fear, is finally in the works. “The original negative is in good condition [and] it’s now being budgeted to make a new digital master,” Friedkin said. He added that the Bluray will “not be released by Criterion.”
This is excellent news, of course. I’ve been pining for a Sorcerer Bluray for years. But a thought occured when I read this, and I tweeted it right away to Friedkin. Why not master Sorcerer at 1.66? Friedkin replied that it was framed for 1.85 so why 1.66? I came back with my usual “1.66 is beautiful + it breathes better” response.
But I was also thinking that 1.66 fits because Sorcerer has an international cast, one of the major characters (played by Bruno Cremer) is French and the dominant non-Scope aspect ratio in France during the ’70s was 1.66. (I saw that 1.66 version of Roman Polanski‘s Rosemary’s Baby at a Paris revival house in ’76.)
An hour later I discovered a passage from Thomas Claggett‘s 2003 Friedkin biography, “William Friedkin: Films of Aberration, Obsession, and Reality,” that states the following, according to Sorcerer‘s Wiki page: “During the 1980s and 1990s, like Stanley Kubrick, Friedkin consistently claimed that he preferred the home video releases of his films to be presented in the full-frame format.”
But things are different in 2013, apparently. All TVs are 16 x 9 and Friedkin now wants the Sorcerer Bluray to be cleavered in order to conform to this aspect ratio (i.e., 1.78 to 1 with thin black borders on the top and bottom, which renders 1.85). He did frame Sorcerer for 1.85, of course — the long-established U.S. aspect-ratio standard. There’s nothing wrong in releasing the Bluray this way. And there’s nothing wrong with Friedkin wanting to go with the current commercial flow.
But asserting “during the 1980s and 1990s” that he preferred the full-frame version clearly indicates Friedkin would be at the very least content with a little more height on the Sorcerer Bluray, if not secretly pleased. You can’t be a quoted vocal supporter of the “boxy is beautiful” aesthetic and then turn around a decade or so later and say “Naah, I didn’t mean that…chop off the tops and bottoms and make it 1.85.”
How could it hurt to go the Masters of Cinema route and present two versions of the Sorcerer Bluray — one in 1.85 and the other in either 1.66 or 1.37? Where would the harm be? The 1.85 fascists would hate this, of course, but isn’t that a good thing? These guys are on the ropes after Criterion’s multi-aspect-ratio release of their On The Waterfront Bluray. Bluray distributors who “get it” need to seize the moment and release more of these and marginalize the fascists as much as possible.