Sunday, February 19, 2017

NO MAN'S ZONE: An Interview with Jon Jost

Jon Jost is a self-taught, no-budget filmmaker, who rose to prominence with the release of his terminal road movie ‘Last Chants for a Slow Dance’ in 1977 which was hailed as ‘powerful’ and ‘provocative’ by film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum and is featured in the bestselling omnibus ‘1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die’. Jost has since continued to direct films for more than four decades, exploring a wide range of American issues. His films have been presented at retrospectives around the world from New York City to Jerusalem and can be purchased through Vimeo or by contacting Jon directly at claraandjon@msn.com

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Frankie: While you also work in painting and photography, what attracted you to film as your primary outlet of self-expression?


  • Jon: I have no idea. As a young kid/child had no particular interest in film, nor did I on going to college (IIT, Chicago, 1960). I studied architecture and realized in short order that it was "a business" and I would never fit in. One year. Then I studied design/art, saw a few experimental films, and at the end of the Cuban missile crisis, during which with my friends I smoked lousy weed and drank equally lousy red wine and waited to be incinerated, I suddenly decided to buy a Bolex, go to Europe and make films. I spent a month looking at European and Japanese and old Hollywood classic films, some experimental, and went to Milano where in January-February 1963 made my first film. I have no idea why, and these days I sort of regret it, though I still make them.


Frankie: Have any specific filmmakers influenced your work? I personally see comparisons to the atmosphere of Wender’s road trilogy in ‘Last Chants…’, Godard’s editing in ‘Frame Up’ and Rohmer’s dialogue in ‘All the Vermeers…:
  • Jon: Wenders I do not like at all, and can't see any relationship of his work to Last Chants; Godard in early work - Speaking Directly and Angel City particularly. I guess in Frameup though I think the relationship is more about how to make films quickly and inexpensively, which has a limited range of aesthetic options. Rohmer, yes though only some of his films. In my own view, I'd include Robert Rossen with The Hustler, Bresson, Antonioni, Italian neo-realists, and if my memory worked perhaps a few others. I also like Tarkovsky, Bergman (Winter Light, Persona - in B&W, not color; ditto for Antonioni). And others I suppose. My biggest influence is the experience of making my own films and learning from that.

Frankie: I’ve often heard your films being discussed in relation to the pre-independent cinema movement ‘The New Talkies’ alongside other filmmakers such as Mark Rappaport and Yvonne Rainer. The films during this movement focused on ‘ideas, provocations and new ways of combining images, sounds, performance and fragments of fiction’ while dabbling in ‘oppositional, Marxist, feminist and queer politics of the 1960s and 70s, but also by the intellectual rise of semiotic and psychoanalytic theories’. Are you familiar with the movement and would you consider yourself a part of it?
  • Jon: I long ago lost track of the words used to categorize people such as myself: experimental, underground, independent, American Independent, etc. Way back when - 60's - 80's more or less - making films was technically a pain in the ass, and relatively speaking, costly. These two-things windowed out most people and back then those who made longer film were quite limited. And being of the same time, under the influence of the same things, there were commonalities intellectually, aesthetically, etc. I never thought myself part of a movement, and those who imagined one were outside, critics, academics, etc. They saw a movement. Filmmakers just did what they did in the time and circumstances they existed in. Rainer is in my view a rather bad filmmaker, but she had the leverage of being NYC based, and catching the "feminist" wave. Maybe she was a better dancer, I don't know (doubt it though). Mark Rappaport is a friend (now - way back then we just "knew" each other from festival passings-in-the-night). The period of the 60's to late 70's, and maybe into the early 80's was culturally explorative, experimental - in the arts, all of them, in social relations, etc. Those of us in the middle of that made work expressive of that reality. Then things turned conservative across the board, and only a stupid handful of us carried on with our interests, while culture swooned to $$$$ and making $$$$$, and has remained that way since.

Frankie: This question is for personal reference since she is a personal favorite and also considered part of ‘The New Talkies'. Are you a fan of Chantal Akerman?

  • Jon: I have seen a handful of her films, but not Rue whatever Bruxelles. I liked some of those I saw, don't recall titles, except for the D'Est, which I liked but not as much as others (Rosenbaum) did - it had no pace or sense of orchestration and could have cut off, as it did, just anywhere. The others I saw were minor things. I saw one of her last ones, shot in Israel and thought it was rather bad. The concept of "fan" is not something I concur with nor do I consider myself a "fan" of anyone or thing...

Frankie: That’s fascinating that you don’t consider you a fan of anything or anyone, could you please expand on that statement?

  • Jon: Hmmm... I am interested in many things. I like, admire, even love, some things. But being a "fan" seems to be something else, something which seems to dispense with mindfulness, with thinking. Being a fan is it seems a purely emotional thing, appealing to a very primal element inside of us, and it is something I am very sceptical about. I dislike being in mass groups (rock concerts, sports events, political rallies, etc.) in which this kind of appeal is dominant. Being a fan seems to delete being capable of being critical, of seeing the flaws, downsides, etc. of something. Not for me.

Frankie: In preparation for this interview, I read your ‘Electoral Post Mortems’ and was pondering the question. Do you think that independent cinema will revolt against the policies of the Trump presidency as the New Queer Cinema movement did against the Reagan presidency or will they be more pacified?
  • Jon: Is there a meaningful "independent cinema" in the USA today? I have my doubts. Most so-called "indie" work I know of is conventional in its aesthetics, even if it thinks its content is out there/weird/gay/trans etc. Most of it is sit-com of Euro minimalism, tired and old and for me boring as shit. I do imagine those of the liberal/left will indeed make counter-Trump things, but it will reflect their essentially narrow and conservative senses. And in turn probably will only have the effect of making them feel better about themselves without altering the social/political reality they imagine to effect.

Frankie: To conclude on a cliché note, what advice would you give to young independent filmmakers who are interested in self-releasing their own no-budget films?

  • Jon: I have no real advice to offer young filmmakers about releasing their work. The net provides an outlet, yes, but at the same time it does so for 5 million others, and those that succeed there operate on TV sitcom cat video levels, where, yes, you can make a million, but it has nothing at all to do with art, or with what I am interested in. It is simply feeding our ravenous consumption machine more shit to eat and spit out in 2 seconds.

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Afterword from Jon:
Sorry to seem so cynical, but after 73 years, facing the world today, it seems the only honest response. Making films is a very modest, almost meaningless activity in the face of the species problems. It is, in fact, one of those problems.

A Few Words on CRUISING

“Who’s here… I’m here… you’re here.”

Commitment is such a limiting push and pull of a system. Imagine restricting your naked intimacy to the one you love and care for and how slowly damaging that can ultimately end up being by the time you go the way of all flesh. Speaking from the brutal experience of parents undergoing multiple divorces, the idea of commitment never really stuck with me in a variety of ways. It is an overwrought statement but I’m certainly not sitting here and bashing the act of falling in love, though. Having these deep, sensual thoughts for a sole person is different than exposing your body and erotic sensibilities with the world around you. Love, in a basic sense, exists inherently and instinctively inside us as human beings. Commitment, though? Somewhat of a manufactured idea. Something that exists in a realm between the shared reality and the internal mind frame. A fantasy structured by Hollywood fairy tales and birthed by blatant traditionalism in religion and social culture. There is a beauty to the devoted monogamy but for me, the most impactful of confidential encounters came not with those I divided my life with but the ones I met fleetingly and shed my former self in. It is a menacing game but one I feel is as essential as it is liberating. 

Personally speaking, I have bunked with a man for over three years (half of it long-distance, mind you) and while I don’t regret a second of being with him and dispersing my time and energy to his wants and needs and desires, I carry on through my life sensing my own central insecurity of losing him for seeking my own carnal pleasure as well as not being able to soak in these external pleasures for myself. It is a selfish tightrope of emotional density and privilege that along with a crippling depression and mutilating bipolar disorder generates a rift between actuality and I. My fear of losing a drawn-out romance for the sake of being inexperienced. Pure and proper in the eyes of others, but unpracticed in my mentality nonetheless. All for the will of a normal social construct. It is undeniably simpler to let these sexual thoughts wither but it is also dangerous not to have them exist in the first place. While these impressions have come to define who I am as a person and has produced damage to the relationship I hold dear, it has also instigated awareness and tolerance for those who share similar wishes and at times, woes as I do. Most I know underplay the importance of sex in a relationship, but in truth, it is the tarnished foil that holds that affection together. Still, it could be not only what breaks people apart but also what can drive a person to go mad.

To reach something of a point, lying on this bed seeing the morbid liberated community in William Friedkin’s Cruising struck a massive cord with me. I’m aware, to go from waxing surface level expressions of sexual freedom and anti-matrimony propaganda to a Friedkin joint is a bit much, but bear with me. I almost passed away writing this personalized essay to you today. Not actively or even physically. Sure, I am being somewhat dramatic but most of my childhood was spent in a mental shelter. Discovering solace within the fabricated worlds and vibrant societies found in cinema and the games on my Super Nintendo. Much of my general awkwardness stemmed from not being able to connect with the neighborhood kids, but with the digital voices and waves of light on my television. The only thing truly connected was the controller to its port. Your own Carol Anne, if you will. It does not end there, though. Now comes the unpredictable circumstance of advancing from one country to another, adapting and progressing through a language and culture unknown to me. It’s similar to a video game, I thought. A society I must comprehend and a world I must explore and trek through to reach the “objective”. However, the reality is never that simple and I positively didn’t account for the boss at the end of the level. To go from one mindset in Kindergarten to another in grade school was almost traumatizing. The American children acted more content than I did. Their bringing up more peaceful, discipline less manic. I regretted every second I decided to hit the “PLAY” button. Being huddled under a hollow desk wiping tears with my Scooby Doo tee and begging for mother to rescue me while mumbling Spanish and the little English I knew is how I remember the first day of school. Probably the most notable detail I recall is the way my classmates stared at me; waiting for the cries to stop while internally cackling at my weakness. It only set in stone how the rest of my grade school years would transpire and it disturbs me to this day.

Now for the connective tissue to these personal memories. I mentioned watching the film Cruising above for a reason. Probably why you even clicked on this article; and I promised an answer. From its sinister opening moments, Friedkin understands that sex and pain are as universal as everything else around us. Both tangible properties maybe not just physically, but mentally as well. Shit, I would agree that discomfort and pleasure are closely linked. Somehow sharing likeness depending on the relationship between the aggressor and the receiver. Under the guise of a basic crime thriller, Friedkin builds that idea from scratch at a time when homosexuality and BDSM were misunderstood and stigmatized. However, if there is one thing he at least grasps, is how both straight masculinity and masculinity defined by LGBT attributes work into those taboo subjects and how beautifully they intertwine and dance together in a storyline like this. It is provocative for that period, personal, and downright chilling. The atmosphere he instills is comparable to Scorsese’s Taxi Driver in that it’s dominated by gritty smoke, darkened alleys and corridors, and shadowed nihilism. It is a film where sound and image work in tandem in expressing a liberated sexuality whether it be from the repressed standpoint of the club patrons forced to relinquish their desire till nightfall or the steady machismo of Al Pacino’s “protagonist” investigating and absorbing these behaviors and cravings. 

Following a cold opening depicting a brutal murder and subsequently, an assaultive encounter involving two transgender women, Steve Burns, a slightly problematic and rather deadpan NYPD officer is assigned to go undercover as a gay man to shadow a hidden society defined by punk music and leather to expose a murderer preying on its patrons. Due to Burns’ appearance matching those of the victims, he is thrown off the force, into the front lines, and is desperately seeking to be chosen by the killer to return to a life of heteronormativity. “Cruising”, both slang for the act of acquiring a hookup and also the probing presence of police forces in urban neighborhoods are utilized to fascinating degrees in the film through its use of punctuated sounds and bold imagery. The stretching of leather, moans of indulgence and the clang of keys and whips colliding are as emphasized as every stab wound and disemboweled gasp. For every act of violence pulling apart the sexual freedoms that gays inherit there is a mechanical beauty to the way they are brought together in secret. Bridging the violent nature of an aggressor towards the kind that willfully submits and vice versa. Both ends of this social spectrum fall on either or. Friedkin attempts to connect the forced sense of masculinity of the NYPD with the sensitive, reclusive, but unabashedly accepting LGBT community as displayed within the film. 

In its final moments, Cruising reveals its true hand and play at the audience. In a film that subverts expectations in ways that many LGBT narratives do not, we reach a point where we lose track of how and why this seemingly prejudiced violence has been begetting. Over the course of the runtime, we follow Pacino’s investigation as he slyly observes the community around him, absorbing common traits and behaviors in order to truly fuse himself into the crowd. The otherworldly nature of the BDSM nightclub makes him stick out like a sore thumb. Only in instances such as the freewheeling dance sequence in the middle of the film does he feel as independent and unconstricted as those surrounding him. Is he discovering a newfound tolerance of a group eradicated of their reputation? The line between his preferred sexuality and the one he adopts in his probing quickly fades. The intimacy linking he and his girlfriend becomes strained and the stress and tension soon grows unbearable. A sort of “give + take” connection is generated in the moments between Paul Sorvino’s Captain Edelson and the valiant underdog where the exchange of information turns into carnal devotion, and escape is rendered not just unfeasible, but unjustifiable. It comes to be obvious that such a drastic shift in both environment and spirit is too excessive for Steve, and that it only feeds into a proto-masculine mindset and a deep-seated insecurity of eviscerating the attributes that made him a genuine man in the eyes of his co-workers, boss, and girlfriend. Steve Burns fears for his life but also in a manner is afraid of losing his own sense of pride.

Eventually, viewers accept a hasty if convenient conclusion in that we find a damaged homosexual with fleetingly haunted hallucinations of his demanding deceased father and move forward with that. The “killer” seems to be motivated by his own fear of disappointment to the point of being driven by his late father to butcher those like him. It is a simple copy paste solution for a murder mystery that it almost feels too neat. Friedkin, obviously, has more up his sleeve. This tragic red herring of an answer to the multiple murders doesn’t even sit right with the film itself. The final confrontation between Burns’ and the “murderer” is rapt with deceptive shadows and sorrowful silence that it almost begs for an alternative. Not surprising considering that the film had been tampered with by United Artists and had been reworked not only in the editing room but also in the script-writing process. Around forty minutes of the film had been cut, removing extended sequences of graphic sexual content and “mysterious twists and turns which the film no longer takes" as Friedkin stated in an interview with Venice magazine. The rebuttal for this meddling is something even more perverse and malevolent and Friedkin’s way of receiving one last laugh in the closing minutes. It bears the suggestion that the film now works on a different level than how the rest of it played out. A cyclical one. A possessed one. Can an insecurity manifest itself into something more demonic? Will a stilted view on masculinity birth something evil? Something hungering for blood rather than the usual obligation towards sex? Friedkin proposes the concept that to adopt the personality of a murderer you must have lived through the trauma yourself. Through the symbolic layering of clothes and materialistic accessory, we embrace the mind and body of a killer. What we were once is not what can become again unless triggered by memory and self-doubt. It is a damn shame we won’t see the complete cut and version of Cruising as Friedkin originally intended but the finished product contains enough evidence to advocate for this petrifying revelation. All through the perspective of the tinted shades of a clueless woman. Naive to the bodily and psychological changes her boyfriend undergoes to appropriate a deadly persona. Sometimes the truth is born out of a lie and understanding such is viewing it through the eyes they once called their own.

The ambiguity and openness of Cruising offers a multitude of ideas to ponder on in ways that surprised and baffled me. So much so I would hate to spoil or put a specific highlight on some of the more distinct details as I did in the last few paragraphs. Speaking in general terms, I wish for others to see what I saw both aesthetically and thematically and even chime in on the aspects they agree with or vehemently detest. I wrote this as a way to bring personal connection to an otherwise gaunt and spiritually hollow film. Not to take away its many surface-level pleasures, but a story like this required as much emotional input as I could. And for that, it certainly functioned as a claustrophobic and unsettling work. I am certainly not the one to go to when it comes to dissecting Friedkin’s oeuvre as a whole but films like this inspire me to explore more of the voice outside of his canonized classics. In a vibrant career where most of the late triumphs were muted and the immediate successes rare, it’s refreshing to see his more under-appreciated works bask in the spotlight now.

You could say that the immediate reaction to Cruising was less than stellar in that at the time a film like this that posed challenging themes on sexual identity in the LGBT spectrum was only set up to fail. The summer before its release, the production was hit with multiple protests by members of the New York gay community who believed the film to have a homophobic political message and that it reinforced stereotypes. Subsequently, local LGBT community banded together to disrupt filming and gay-owned businesses barred the filmmakers from their premises. Some even attempted to interfere with shooting by pointing mirrors from rooftops to ruin the lighting for scenes, blasting whistles and air horns nearby, and playing loud music to distort the sound. It reached a point where over one thousand protesters marched the streets of East Village demanding the city to withdraw the support towards the film. As a result of these interruptions, the movie's audio was massively overdubbed in order to remove the disturbances occurring off-camera. In part, these protests led to the critical and box-office failure of Cruising with an intake of only about $19.7 million. 

Even in the months following the release, the film was pervaded with controversy. However, now the trouble had crossed over into bloodshed. Two hate crimes, in particular, had found a connection to Cruising. One in influence and the other in mere “coincidence”. The former was an eyewitness account by Ron Nyswaner, an Academy Award winning screenwriter, who claims that he and boyfriend had evaded being attacked by a group of college men on the justification of the content in Cruising. The latter was a multiple casualty shooting located in a bar displayed prominently in the film. A man wandered in with a submachine gun and murdered two patrons and wounded a dozen others. Friedkin had declined to comment on both incidents.

Regardless of how it was received or the consequences that came with the release, Cruising to this day remains a provocative entry in Friedkin’s overall career on a sheer thematic level alone. Does it posit as an instigating pot-boiler towards the LGBT community or as Friedkin insists is there more to the narrative than that? What’s fascinating about this film is the complete lack of a true answer. Due to its mangled edits and reconstructions throughout the production, it is simple to take the film as either one or other without any real stake in director’s intent. You could ignore the symbolic value and examine it face value, eliminating any real context from Friedkin’s oeuvre. However, in that current social climate, could you blame such a harsh reaction in a time when the surreal threat of AIDS was only ascending? If I’m to look at Cruising in an objective manner, there are certainly several aspects I’d have liked to seen elaborated on such as the erotic relationship between Steve and Nancy along with how these interactions develop over the course of the investigation. This would truly drive home how soaking in an alien environment would manipulate a toxic mindset. For better? For worse? It’d have provided a simmering blend of empathy and caution towards Pacino’s character that the film doesn’t “quite” have. I cannot say it’s completely bankrupt of it but it’s nonetheless a minor qualm that set the film back for me. An extended cut in all likelihood would have truly fleshed out the inconsistencies and irregularities in this character and the plot progression as a whole. 

Ultimately, Cruising can be seen as Friedkin’s half-baked Psycho. Both corrupted tales of sexual repression and loss of identity in enclosed spaces. Whereas Norman’s ghosts haunt him at the Bates Motel, this murderer’s vice can be found at the local gay bar stalking its patrons. These specters could be next to you or they could even be you; however, they exist and do not want to be ignored. The most disconcerting facet of this film are the concealed dangers that rest beneath the surface. Sexual liberation chained by the unseen. An underground community forced to dig further down to achieve safety. The hidden become fearful of the hidden. Who is the actual murderer and can they ever be stopped? Indeed, Friedkin did direct The Exorcist, but Cruising may, in fact, be the ideal possession film.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.: Symbolic Suicide and Law Versus Order



The greatest juxtaposition of all happens in the last half hour. When Richard Chance (William Petersen) and his partner are engaged in a car chase, a large Los Angeles highway is engulfed in chaos. Big Rigs with cargo sliding off the axis, cars side-braking only to be hit by other cars, while our heroes dive out of the way in time to drive on the wrong side of the road away to safety. As they ride away we hear the radio declare: "There's a minor tie-up on the north Long Beach right near Henry Ford. A couple cars tangled there. Shouldn't take too long to get this to the shoulder. It's a very simple affair, no injuries involved. It shouldn't cost more than a few minutes". Immediately after the Air Traffic Control lady Stacey Binn signs off, we're given an image of chaotically misaligned cars and people jumping out looking ready to fight each other including one gentleman who took to stand on top of his car with a shotgun. 

To Live and Die in L.A. is a film full of little juxtapositions like this, some major and others minor, and they're even woven into not just the title of the film itself (life vs. death) but into it's contrasted color presentation, with red representing the danger lying within the placid criminal Erik Masters and green, as used in Hitchcock's Vertigo, for Richard Chance's outward and at times seemingly homoerotic desire for Masters. All of these juxtapositions aim to reveal something about the rift between Detective Chance and his object of desire Erik Masters (Willem Dafoe), a counterfeiter who killed Chance's snooping partner. William Friedkin, as Michael Mann would later do in 1995's Heat, posits two characters on opposite sides of the law whose juxtaposition reveals the corrupting nature of the city. While Heat plays up to Mann's quieter tendencies, To Live and Die in L.A. is undoubtedly a film for the cocaine '80s, placing one irony (anarchy of law) against another (solemnness of brutality).

Friedkin frames his characters through their interactions with their environments, and through their actions against the landscape. Consider Erik Masters, he is first introduced after the title sequence where he takes a somewhat abstract self-portrait and nails it to a wall outside, proceeding to light the portrait on fire and watch it burn in front of him. This is immediately followed with Richard Chance looking reflective and solemn while preparing to jump from a bridge in what at first looks like a suicide attempt. Friedkin shows him jump from the bridge but now a rope is visible and when he reaches the end of it, he swings back and forth screaming excitedly and in joy. This is later revealed to have been a dare by his fellow colleagues. These two scenes reveal something about the nature of these characters on a very base level, that one is brooding and another is reckless, but there's something beyond the surface going on with these interactions. It has to be read as a proverbial suicide, one by self-immolation, and another by a large and sudden fall. It's these interactions, not the murder of Hart, that serve as the inciting incident for the plot. For Erik Masters, he is surrendering his own image in order for him to eventually read himself in the image of others, as part of an interconnected network of criminals and counterfeiters as well as with his social interactions, to live for others. For Richard Chance, he is surrendering physical and emotional control and allowing his base emotions to dominate his path throughout the rest of the feature. All of his motivations are essentially controlled by an overwhelming desire to catch and perhaps even kill Erik Masters for killing his partner.

Erik Masters watches the art go up in flames.

The double suicide is necessary. It has to take place for the film to work like it does. These individuals have to surrender their moral agency in order to show how the landscape has molded them to become what they are in the present. Erik Masters, Friedkin states, was a character he wanted to capture as being a sort of lion in a cage. Only suggesting the nature of his violence in subtle facial cues and strained vocal patterns from Dafoe, and never actually revealing it until he's ready. Masters is shown as a professional navigator of the surly underworld spaces, constantly adapting and shaping between lumbering machismo and ambassadorial tact. From his grunt Carl Cody to his lawyer Max Waxman trying to bust him out. Masters mirrors the people he interacts with as a consistent tool to gain the upper hand in any conversation, and its no wonder that Friedkin constantly shows us Masters behind glass and reflected through mirrors, where his true nature can't actually be known except as an image constructed to resemble what he wants people to see. And watching him try to read and react to Richard Chance when they finally meet is a site to behold. Masters is overlooking a railing on the roof when Chance calls out to him, and he looks behind his back wistfully to see Chance and his partner. He goes over to meet him, laughs at his jokes, and then takes him to the gym as they interrogate each other, constantly eyeing each other as they work out, and engaging in a minor confrontation of will.

But this isn't the only molding that takes place because while Masters voluntarily molds himself to match to his environment, Chance's violent hurricane of masculine, aggressive energy manages to shape those around him. A secondary arc before the climax that has a center-stage conclusion in the films final shot, Vukovich's transformation from an orderly young cop to Chance's heir to the anarchic throne, taking over the position as the one to squeeze information out of the abused Bianca Torres. Masters and Chance represent the end-result of urban corruption and how they operate in their everyday lives, but Vukovich is key to the film's thesis because his arc is actually traced from beginning to end. As Chance coerces him to break the law more and more to enforce the law, he begins to abandon his hard-coded system of ethics about how law enforcement can and should operate. If we look at Chance as someone who has, by the act of symbolic suicide, surrendered his agency and became part of the Los Angeles landscape, then his act of corrupting Vukovich is really an extension of the nature of the city. And by doing so, Vukovich is absorbed into not only Chance's character but into the city itself as another one of its constructs. When Vukovich takes over as the new Richard Chance, he really completes his own form of suicide by surrendering both his principles and his identity to the hellish landscape.

And in a way, Los Angeles is Hell. It's not merely the consistent use of fire as a symbol and motif but the very real separation from God, the most basic definition of hell. If the most divine and heavenly aspect of a person is the right to self-determination, then God is conspicuously missing in To Live and Die in L.A. Even the title suggests the immovable certainty of the characters fate, as one event destined to follow another. If the arcs and movements of Friedkin's 1985 masterpiece demonstrate anything, it's the director's sheer contempt and cynicism.