William Friedkin's Bug (U.S. / 2006)

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William Friedkin's Bug (U.S. / 2006)

Postby arsaib4 » Sat Jul 07, 2007 7:06 pm

*A 2007 U.S. Release*

***possible spoilers***

William Friedkins first film since... 2003s undervalued The Hunted, Bug ostentates Lynchian eerines early on as a magnificent panoramic shot, set to the sounds of a tense encounter between a ringing telephone and an unstrung woman, takes us to a dilapidated, nearly-deserted motel somewhere and nowhere in the American heartland. The squalid room in which the film is primarily set is long being occupied by Agnes (Ashley Judd), a downtrodden barmaid who probably spends a little too much time around alcohol and drugs. She fears that her ex-con ex-husband who mightve just gotten out of prison is behind those empty calls. In the meantime, her co-worker friend (Lynn Collins) introduces her to a drifter named Peter (Michael Shannon) whos ostensibly only looking for a friend. Shy, introverted, anxious, and thus a tad mysterious, Peter ends up engaging Agnes by his read on her situation, and the fact that he might just be a lost soul himself.

Quite possibly the most accomplished passage of Friedkins career thus far, the first hour of Bug could serve as an epitome of formal control: pacing, editing, shot selection (the awkward cutaways to the room air-conditioner, notwithstanding), sound design -- facets which corroborate in ratcheting up the claustrophobic tension to an unnerving level. And during this process, juxtaposing Agness naivet and vulnerability with Peters concentrated intensity wouldnt have been an easy task for the director of The French Connection (1971) and The Exorcist (1973) if he didnt have the right performers: Judd arguably does her best work since her one-scene tour de force in Smoke (1995); and Shannon, who reportedly reprises his stage role from Tracy Lettss off-Broadway play on which the film is based (he could also be seen in the likes of The Woodsman [2004] and Lucky You [2007]), is physically and impulsively mannered even in the most extreme of situations (Nic Cage could learn from him). Collins and Harry Connick, Jr. (the brutish husband) also provide strong support.

Even though Bugs eventual absurdly stylized and surrealistic descent into madness almost seems Eastern European (a whiff of Zulawski is noticeable), its root cause and trajectory lies in the same vein as that of Linklators masterful A Scanner Darkly (2006). And while Friedkins namedrops the Gulf War, the Oklahoma City bombing, Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, etc., it's less politically savvy about dealing with infestation and paranoia than the Philip K. Dick adaptation. Perhaps itd be appropriate to say that the film borrows Scanners idealistic and moral concept and, for better or for worse, turns it on its supermotherbuggin genre head.

Grade: B

*BUG premiered at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight). It won the FIPRESCI prize.

*Lions Gate Films (U.S.) will most likely issue the film on DVD in late September.

Re: William Friedkin's Bug (U.S. / 2006)

Postby arsaib4 » Fri Oct 26, 2007 12:03 am

Bug was released on DVD by Lions Gate on September 25. Extra features include Friedkin's audio-commentary, along with discussion and introduction/"making of" featurettes. In related news, Friedkin's controversial 1980 effort, Cruising, starring Al Pacino, is now also available on DVD.

Re: William Friedkin's Bug (U.S. / 2006)

Postby R6dw6C » Wed Oct 31, 2007 4:58 am

Your suggestions about the film are quite accurate, arsaib. The first thing that came to my mind when I thought about writing a review (which I did - in german, of course) was: As If Werner Herzog, Andrzej Zulawski and Friedkin himself collaborated. The ironic, in the finale even extremely sardonic sneering note by Herzog (unbelievable - this film really is a swan song of the human race!) , the excessively overstylized and outcrying attitude by Zulawski. I also thought that the overacting (which wasn't actually overacting but the necessary style for this film was 100 percent Friedkin.

As expected, "Bug" will not be released theatrical in Germany but on DVD in December. A shame - I think it's one of the best american films in 2006 (I rated it 9/10 - 23/25). Fortunately, It was screened on the "Fantasy Filmfest" (in front of a spiteful laughing #%&*?$ crowd). Though it doesn't seem like a film made for the big screen at the first look, it really need to be seen in this way. The camerawork and the editing were - as you already mentioned indirectly - brillant and I think, the love scene between Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon is one of the best in english language cinema since the famous one in Nicolas Roeg's "Don't look now".

By the way, I didn't like any of Friedkin's films before, especially "The Exorcist" and "Cruising" were terrible experiences two years ago - I disliked both of them a lot. But as I changed by cinematic point of view a bit since and also my opinion on Friedkin (a sympathetic a**h**e, indeed ), I probably owe them a second chance.

Re: William Friedkin's Bug (U.S. / 2006)

Postby justindeimen » Wed Oct 31, 2007 5:02 pm

Well I do agree that Bug is one of the best (American) films of the year, and I will also agree that The Exorcist was a "terrible experience", and for that reason, The Exorcist is one of my favourite films of all time.

Bug convulses with mania throughout. I loved how the film played on so many levels, including humour with the blackest of hearts. The ones I manage to get in that single screening of the film was psychosis and loneliness, a probable cautionary tale on crack and a examination of corporations and government selling to us unseen terror and foregone ideas of danger when paranoia and misinformed delusion strikes the carefully calibrated chamber piece. The real genius of the film is that the moment we start to believe the characters (made all the more easier with ace work by the cast, especially Harry Connick Jr.), is when the film starts to work and click into gear.

To me, it's a near masterpiece of mood and tone. Friedkin's best work in ages, and has an edge and energy and a precise focus about it that works on an intelligent and visceral level. It manifests its characters' buried thoughts and hidden fears into a climactic blowup with Ashley Judd's awesome monologue. It becomes a collective descent into madness that ultimately includes its audience as well, and actually recalls the clockwork horror in the denouement of The Exorcist where hope is sapped and the entire tone evokes mutual doom.

Re: William Friedkin's Bug (U.S. / 2006)

Postby arsaib4 » Thu Nov 01, 2007 4:05 am

Thanks, R6dw6C.

During the latter stages, Zulawski's presence is quite palpable in the film, and plays a role in one's understanding of the material. Sadly, there are many who've dismissed the film based on their own inadequacies.

As for the love scene, the surrounding circumstances also brought to mind the one between Goldblum and Geena Davis from The Fly.

I'm not a huge fan of Cruising either, especially when compared to a few other Friedkin efforts, but I thought it was worth mentioning since the film has been in the limelight for the past few months.

Btw, have you seen A Scanner Darkly?

Re: William Friedkin's Bug (U.S. / 2006)

Postby R6dw6C » Sun Nov 04, 2007 5:52 am

No, unfortunately the only films by Richard Linklater I've seen so far are "School of Rock" and "Fast Food Nation". I didn't like both of them very much but I'm sure that Linklater is a great filmmaker and worth to check out. Everything my two friends from Erlangen told me was music in my ears (they were lucky enough to meet him in person on the Munich Film Festival), so in the future I'll watch out for his more interesting works like "Dazed and confused", "Slacker", "Suburbia" and "Before Sunrise" for example.

Probably the greatest unintentional disadvantage of "Bug" was its distribution which made many believe they were attending a horror film ("By the acclaimed director of "THE EXORCIST"...), which it isn't really. (Though a very disturbing and frightening experience)

Btw, was it realeased theatrical in the US?!

@ justindeimen:

I agree with most of your notes (but your political associations seem a bit, well, bustling to me) and I've had an incredibly amount of interesting thoughts in mind after the screening. So it was pretty hard to write the review which I worked on for almost three weeks.

I'm looking forward to revisit "The Exorcist" and "Cruising" and probably, the latter will grow on me but I suggest that my opinion on the first will remain the same. It would be most interesting to see "The boys in the band" (still not available on DVD in the US, right?) as one of the main reasons why I disliked "Cruising" were the usual - I thought it to be extremely homophobic and disgustingly striking. So I'm absolutely anxious to see "The boys..." as it probably reveals how Friedkin really deals with homosexuality.

Re: William Friedkin's Bug (U.S. / 2006)

Postby arsaib4 » Tue Nov 06, 2007 4:08 am

I've seen all of the feature films Linklater has made so far. The School of Rock certainly has its fans but it's perhaps one of his lesser efforts, and the same could be said for Fast Food Nation. The latter suffered from clichd elements (especially in the illegal Mexicans thread) and a few of the characters served as nothing more than mouthpieces, but I thought it also had a genuinely intriguing "central" figure in Greg Kinnear's Don Anderson, whose ordinariness was extraordinary. As long as he was in the picture, the film worked.

I agree with your friends that Linklater is a great filmmaker, one of the best in the U.S. today. Yes, I hope you get the opportunity to check out the films you've listed. I'd also add Tape and Before Sunset. I have learned that A Scanner Darkly is now available on DVD in Germany. I think you'll like it; hopefully, you'll also be able to see my reasoning for mentioning it earlier.

I agree with you regarding Bug's marketing and distribution schemes. The same was true in N. America. But, as promised, Lionsgate did open this $4 million production wide (1661 theaters), a good move for a film released during the summer. Another independent distributor would've perhaps started on a smaller scale and allowed it to build, but that's always risky. I was pleasantly surprised that a film primarily made for a small, sophisticated audience generally received good reviews in the U.S. French critics from such publications as Positif, Les Inrockuptibles and, of course, Cahiers du cinma appreciated it even more.

Re: William Friedkin's Bug (U.S. / 2006)

Postby R6dw6C » Sat Nov 10, 2007 3:00 pm

You're damn right about "Fast Food Nation", sometimes it felt like Uwe Boll or Joel Schumacher (Sorry to Mr. Linklater) has made film against this industry. But fortunately, I knew almost nothing about Linklater when I saw it eight months ago... But it certainly had a few fine moments, among others the cycle around Greg Kinnear you mentioned. But I don't feel the desire to see it again. Same goes for "School of Rock"...
I'll also look out for "A scanner darkley" (it has some similar thematic and narrative approaches, right?) but the german DVD is still very expensive (too bad Warner didn't release it theatrical over here...).

Quote:I was pleasantly surprised that a film primarily made for a small, sophisticated audience generally received good reviews in the U.S. French critics from such publications as Positif, Les Inrockuptibles and, of course, Cahiers du cinma appreciated it even more.

Do you really think this is surprising? "Bug" is for sure one of those films which get all possible attention by the critics of prestigious, coservative magazins. Although I don't think that's the case - it is possible to see a philosophical or intellectual touch in it (I think it's way too aggressive - I liked that a lot* - for such games - it deals with a lot and mostly in a very polemical way)
* I suppose Friedkin to be a very arrogant and pessimistic man - so his points and his tone in "Bug" are probably pretty honest.

Btw, the film wasn't very successful then (1661 theaters indeed! ) I guess?

Re: William Friedkin's Bug (U.S. / 2006)

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Nov 14, 2007 3:43 am

Conventional wisdom would say so, wouldn't it?! But American audiences have gradually drifted away from nonconformist filmmakers like Lynch, Van Sant, Friedkin, Ferrara, etc. Most of their financing now comes from Europe. This gulf may not seem that wide thanks to the internet, where you'll see hundreds of reviews of a film like Inland Empire, but the fact of the matter remains that it was self-distributed by Lynch in the U.S., who had to travel around the country with a @#%$ cow to promote it. As for the conservative media, I think at this point even they've caught on that there are bigger things at stake here right now, politically. Other than perhaps another very violent movie about Jesus, just about any film could be released here currently and it won't draw much of a reaction. Moore's Sicko, which dealt with arguably the most pertinent domestic issue, came and went like most summer blockbusters.

Bug did okay. It made about $7 million theatrically in the U.S. And ancillary revenue should be decent for a film like this.

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