ROME — William Friedkin, who will be feted by the 62nd Locarno Film Festival with its Honorary Pard for career achievement, is widely considered the epitome of an American auteur in Europe.
“He represents the best of American independent cinema, and by that I mean those who maintain their independence and their identity, even while working for the majors,” says fest topper Frederic Maire, who adds, “Friedkin revolutionized genre movies while working from the very core of the Hollywood studio system.”
The helmer, whose 18 feature films over four decades include classics such as multiple Oscar-winner “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist,” as well as cult films like “To Live and Die in L.A.,” also will be making the trek to the Swiss lakeside fest to hold a master class.
“To Live and Die in L.A.” will unspool in Locarno’s 8,500-seat Piazza Grande, which is Europe’s largest open-air venue.
Friedkin’s honor, marking Locarno’s 20th Golden Pard, aims to fill what Maire considers a bit of a gap, given that although Friedkin is widely celebrated in Italy and France, he has been a bit overlooked in Germany and Switzerland.
The fest has always tried to alternate honoring European or Asian helmers belonging to the more classic auteur tradition — such as Gaul’s Jacques Rivette and Portugal’s Manoel de Oliveira, or Taiwan’s Hou Hsiao-Hsien — with Americans working within more commercial constraints, such as Joe Dante.
Other previous career award recipients include Jean-Luc Godard, Bernardo Bertolucci and Ken Loach.
Friedkin, whose latest work is the horror film “Bug,” which screened in 2006 in Cannes, has lately taken to directing operas and is preparing Puccini’s “La Fanciulla del West” for the Paris Opera.