Formatted almost like a film school lecture, “Leap of Faith,” a new documentary about the making of “The Exorcist” and now streaming on Shudder, is a master class in how a classic movie was made.
In the almost fifty years after the release of a movie that was heralded as everything from “religious porn” to “pure cinematic terror,” “The Exorcist” has not lacked for critical analysis. Thousands of gallons of ink have been spilled printing books and articles on the subject while in the internet age everyone who has ever stepped into a theatre seems to have written something about the film. “Leap of Faith” does everyone who has ever posited an opinion on the film’s meaning one better. It goes to the source with an in-depth interview with the movie’s director William Friedkin.
Documentary filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe goes long with the director on the creative process, nailing down the definitive stories of how the 1973 horror film came to be. Much of the information was covered in the 2014 autobiography, “The Friedkin Connection,” but here the director’s way with a story and Philippe’s use of visuals makes the stories cinematic.
This isn’t a casual fan doc. Friedkin and Philippe dig deep to uncover the film’s visual influences—everything from Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1955 “Ordet” to Magritte’s “The Empire of Light” series—to how recording the score ended a long-time friendship. There is great detail on the casting, the filming of controversial scenes and why star Max von Sydow, who once played Jesus in a film, had so much trouble performing one of “The Exorcist’s” most pious and famous sequences.
Over and over Friedkin talks about following his instincts and making decisions that either seemed counterintuitive or deemed too costly by the studio. “I didn’t question my instincts,” he says, which I suppose is at least part of the reason the film is called “Leap of Faith.” There’s the obvious reason and then there’s the small leaps of faith that those working with Friedkin had to take along the way. Hearing about his battles with everyone from studio heads on down to get his vision to the screen is an interesting reminder of Hollywood when creative vison could trump corporate interference.
“Leap of Faith” isn’t a flashy film. It’s a detailed, if straightforward, making of documentary that connects the dots between the filmmaker and his faith in an interesting, if long winded way.
Richard speaks to “CTV News at 11:30” anchor Andria Case about movies on VOD to watch this weekend including the Disney+ talking animals movie “The One and Only Ivan,” the World War II drama starring Gemma Arterton “Summerland on VOD and the self explanatory documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies.”
Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel with host Jennifer Burke to have a look at the new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and theatres including the Disney+ talking animals movie “The One and Only Ivan,” the World War II drama starring Gemma Arterton “Summerland on VOD, the self explanatory documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies” and the dreary drama “Euphoria.”
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to theatres, VOD and streaming services including the Disney+ talking animals movie “The One and Only Ivan,” the World War II drama starring Gemma Arterton “Summerland on VOD, the self explanatory documentary “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies” and the dreary drama “Euphoria.”
“Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies” calls itself the “definitive documentary” on the subject and it is hard to argue the point. An exhaustive looks at naked folks (although to be fair, it is mostly women) on film from the early silent days to the present, from the Hays Code to #MeToo, it bares all in an attempt to contextualize how nudity changed cinematic culture. “Twenty minutes after they invented film someone started photographing naked people,” says one of the film’s experts
Not for the prudish, “Skin” is illustrated with graphic film clips, ranging from Hedy Lamarr’s “Ecstasy,” the first film to depict a woman having an orgasm, to Malcolm McDowell dropping trou at every opportunity beginning with “If….” in 1968 and culminating with Bob Guccione’s enhancements of “Caligula,” through to the werewolf three-way of “The Howling” to “Boogie Nights,” “American Pie,” Sharon Stone’s unwitting nude scene in “Basic Instinct” and beyond.
Using talking heads like Pam Grier, Shannon Elizabeth, Traci Lords, Mariel Hemingway, Sean Young, all of whom have disrobed for the camera, and directors like Kevin Smith, Amy Heckerling, Peter Bogdanovich who have directed others of them to do so, documentarian Danny Wolf assembles a revealing picture of a business that once thought appearing nude would ruin a career but is now an industry that expects and exploits nakedness.
“Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies,” isn’t exactly clinical in its approach, it veers between the academic, the personal and the leering, but never shies away from real discussions. It’s a history lesson on how political and artistic interests changed the societal landscape, sometimes to be welcoming of screen nudity, others times censorious. It examines gender bias, the creation of sex scene intimacy coordinators and the range of experience of those who have appeared nude for entertainment purposes.
“If I hadn’t done the nudity,” says “American Pie’s” Shannon Elizabeth, “I might not have a career today.” Contrasting Elizabeth’s experience is Chyler Leigh of “Not Another Teen Movie” who says, “I wasn’t prepared for the entire world picking my body apart.”
At two hours “Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies” is everything you always wanted to know about sex in the movies but were afraid to ask.
“The Exorcist” was released 40 years ago to great fanfare.
“This film, when it came out, lived at the very center of popular culture,” film critic and author Richard Crouse told CNN. “It was the only thing that people talked about. The speed of popular culture wasn’t as fast as it is now. Even a big hit like ‘Gravity,’ people are excited for a week, excited for two weeks, and then it fades away until awards season comes around. But it wasn’t like that in 1973. This movie, for a year, really inked out all available entertainment space.”
Crouse, author of the book “Raising Hell,” recalled “stories about people throwing up at screenings…