This week in streaming brings both the debut film of a New Hollywood progeny and a rediscovered classic from one of the era’s masters. Gia Coppola‘s assured directorial debut “Palo Alto” makes its VOD premiere today. The film has a similarly dreamy quality to her aunt’s debut, “The Virgin Suicides,” but Coppola proves her own talent in getting natural performances from her young cast (especially Emma Roberts), and in aestheticizing teenage aimlessness without sensationalizing teen alcoholism or sexuality. It’s the anti-“Kids” or “Spring Breakers,” a film that shows that the kids aren’t necessarily all right, but that’s all right.
Meanwhile, William Friedkin’s 1977 film “Sorcerer” also makes its VOD debut today. A reimagining of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s “The Wages of Fear,” the film was a critical and financial disappointment upon its release, but time has been kind to Friedkin’s bleak vision of human madness and cruel fate. A restored version of the film was released on Blu-Ray in April after being out of circulation for years, but Friedkin has made it clear that he had nothing to do with the DVD release, which he’s slammed as a terrible version compared to the Blu-Ray’s gorgeous restoration (which he supervised). He even went so far to post an Amazon review of the DVD advising viewers to avoid it (though it seems to have been removed). A proper, Friedkin-endorsed DVD is also out today.
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Eric Kohn, Indiewire
Living out their days in bland suburbia, caught between drunken party excursions and tenuous flirtations with the adult world, this trio and their various friends hail from the same culture of alienation and boredom that assailed the stars of “The Bling Ring” (directed, for whatever it’s worth, by Coppola’s aunt Sophia). It’s not a comfortable place to live, but Coppola makes it easy to get immersed in the environment anyway, nimbly stringing together various encounters between the characters but rarely overplaying their emotions. Read more.
“Palo Alto” has a palpable sense of place, at once both flat and shimmering with the promise of a million brighter tomorrows, but the film could ultimately take place anywhere in America. The white privilege that hosts these particular stories – a surface element as endemic to the work of young Coppolas as soft lighting and perfect music – ultimately helps the characters to be more broadly accessible, their lack of responsibilities helping to forefront and deepen their collective need for purpose. Read more.
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A.A. Dowd, The A.V. Club
Mostly, though, it’s Friedkin’s clean, muscular direction that makes “Sorcerer” worthwhile. The film’s most captivating setpiece, immortalized on the original poster, finds one of the trucks attempting to cross a swaying rope bridge during a tropical storm. It’s a terrifying sequence, made all the more powerful by the plainly visible fact that Friedkin really pushed that monstrous automobile across that flimsy bridge. Few of today’s filmmakers would attempt such a scene through non-digital means, which is a pretty solid reason for none of them to mount another “Wages” remake. Read more.
Sam Adams, The Dissolve
The brute struggle against implacable fate finds its most literal, and most thrilling, expression in the sequence where Scheider and Rabal maneuver their truck across an unravelling rope bridge stretched over a swollen river—a miniature masterpiece of escalating tension and practical special effects whose only rival may be the locomotive gag in Buster Keaton’s “The General”… Friedkin likens it to the impossible steamship portage in Werner Herzog’s “Fitzcarraldo,” and though the two directors’ oeuvres don’t much overlap, it’s a fair comparison in terms of the level of obsession and the impressiveness of the result. Read more.