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When I caught up with the restoration at the Music Box this past weekend, I understood what all the fuss was about. In the Academy ratio, Sorcerer's images have a certain breathing room at the top and bottom of the frame—without that breathing room, Friedkin's pessimistic vision feels especially potent. One of the most remarkable things about Sorcerer is that it feels just as claustrophobic as The Exorcist or Bug, despite taking place almost entirely outdoors. Friedkin is one of those filmmakers for whom the frame is first and foremost an enclosure—it often feels like the air is being sucked out of the shots.
In a theater, Sorcerer's offscreen sound effects are far more menacing than they sound at home, suggesting that the world outside the frame is even more dangerous than the one inside. The film's title, according to Friedkin, refers to the "evil wizard of fate," which can upturn our lives when we least expect. Thanks to the imaginative sound design (which garnered Sorcerer its only Oscar nomination), I felt as if that evil wizard was creeping up behind me.