“Atrocious…Horrifying”

Last night renowned French Connection cinematographer Owen Roizman trashed William Friedkin‘s bleachy, grain-heavy Blu-ray transfer of his 1971 Oscar-winning film, which many DVD and Blu-ray aficionados have already savagely dismissed. Roizman called the transfer “atrocious,” “emasculated” and “horrifying.” He said that he “wasn’t consulted” by Freidkin and he “certainly wants to wash my hands of having had anything to do with [it].”


(l. ro.) Owen Roizman, frame capture from French Connection Blu-ray, William Friedkin.

Roizman was speaking to Aaron Aradillas on a blog-radio show called “Back By Midnight.” Thanks to Some Came Running‘s Glenn Kenny for the tip-off.

Roizman “had only heard about the new Blu-ray version [of The French Connection] when Aaron was booking his appearance,” Kenny informs. “He went out and bought a Blu-ray player and the disc and did not at all like what he saw.”

I transcribed some of what Roizman said so here’s a fuller version: “Billy [Friedkin] for some reason decided to do this on his own. I wasn’t consulted. I was appalled by it. I don’t know what Billy was thinking. It’s not the film that I shot, and I certainly want to to wash my hands of having had anything to do with this transfer, which I feel is atrocious.”

He later called it an “emasculated” and “horrifying” transfer, and said “it would be a travesty to see The Exorcist [which Roizman also shot] transferred in this fashion.”

Here’s a link to the show. Here’s a poorly recorded mp3 of Roizman’s comments. I’ve also pasted an embed code below if you want to listen to the whole show but beware — Aradillas is an undisciplined interviewer who meanders all over the place and even forgets to ask Roizman about the TFC Blu-ray issue. Roizman finally has to prompt him.

70 thoughts on ““Atrocious…Horrifying”

  1. Watched this last night. I don’t know about atrocious, but different and at times downright weird when comparing scene to scene.

  2. There’s something so inside baseball about this that is fascinating.

    First thing to consider when launching a new product is to win over the mavens, and this release has so obviously enraged the BluRay mavens out there.

  3. Average people with real lives and jobs (what’s left of them) have no time to watch and compare Blu-Ray and straight DVDs. It’s an interesting discussion, but moot for many people outside the industry. Don’t really care myself, as I will not be investing in Blu-Ray. Waiting for digital downloads to take over. I am almost ready to buy AppleTV.

  4. “Yes and no, but one thing for sure, William Friedkin has the best DVD commentaries out of almost anyone I have ever seen.”

    You’ve listened to his EXORCIST: VERSION YOU’VE NEVER SEEN commentary, I take it?

    That thing ain’t going down in history as one of the all-time greats, put it that way. Sonorous, boring, narrative, and drier than a popcorn fart.

  5. Washed up directors like Friedkin shouldnt be allowed to touch their work almost 40 years after their movies originally came out. they dont look at their films the same way and they end up butchering it.

    Also, whats the big deal? If the bluray sucks, dont buy it. Stick with the dvd.

    great flick. one of my favorites. but i dont need it on bluray.

  6. Friedkin has made two classic films and a handful of decent films. That itself is impressive. He has always been a hard one to work with. I know Peter Blatty, the screenwriter for the Excorcist, had problems with him too in creativity differences, similar to this with Owen Roizman, but all in all, Friedkin has made his mark. Love him or hate him, he is talented even if he has not have had the longevity of some other directors. A nice little analogy would be him as the Jon Voight of directors: A handful of classics with a handful good ones later on.

  7. PCP_Patriots wrote:

    Yes and no, but one thing for sure, William Friedkin has the best DVD commentaries out of almost anyone I have ever seen.

    Don’t forget John Frankenheimer.

  8. BurmaShave, I’d agree with that one. I’d put Exorcist, French Connection, Bug, and To Live and Die in L.A. as “classics” … or if not, almost classics indeed.

  9. don’t forget Sorcerer

    The Hunted isn’t brilliant by any stretch but it’s slightly underrated. Same with Rules of Engagement.

    Friedkin makes manly-men action films. I like those.

  10. I don’t think any studio would support a cinematographer’s desire to radically alter the look of something he/she shot long ago, so why on earth do they let directors do it?

  11. Just wanted to say that besides L.A., French and Scary Catholic movie William directed another film that is sorely under-appreciated… Sorcerer which at the time of it’s release was a terrible title to go with. Sure it was the name of the Truck Roy drove, but the original source title was great already: Wages of Fear.

    That said one I can say one good thing about one of William’s worse movies: Jade… the song selection of Mystic Dream by Loreena McKennitt which was used a few times throughout the film and over the end credits. Great artist.

    As for this new transfer… have to see it before I comment.

  12. Yes and no, but one thing for sure, William Friedkin has the best DVD commentaries out of almost anyone I have ever seen.

    [head explodes]

    No accounting for taste, I suppose, but as far as I’m concerned Friedkin is the epitome of the “audio description” school of commentating. It’s absolutely shocking that studios turn to him for commentaries on other people’s movies (do not under any circumstances listen to his commentary on Vertigo, your ears will bleed).

  13. Ironically David Poland has posted a review of the Blu-ray on his blog and *raved* about the transfer. When commentators called him on it he claimed to be unaware of the brewing controversy and then got snippy in his classic Poland way. Priceless stuff.

    For someone who claims to have his finger on the pulse of Hollywood his being unaware of the problems with this Blu-ray make him look mighty out of touch.

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