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'Exorcist' director Friedkin to get lifetime award in Venice

Director William Friedkin gestures during a red carpet for his film "Killer Joe" at the 68th Venice Film Festival September 8, 2011. REUTERS
Director William Friedkin gestures during a red carpet for his film "Killer Joe" at the 68th Venice Film Festival September 8, 2011. REUTERS

(Reuters) - William Friedkin, the U.S. film director who scared up a fright with "The Exorcist" and set pulses racing with thriller "The French Connection" in the 1970s, will get a lifetime achievement award from the Venice Film Festival, organizers said on Thursday.

Friedkin, 77, will also present a restored version of his initially poorly received but now acclaimed 1977 film "Sorcerer" at the August 28-September 7 festival in the Italian city.

Venice film festival director Alberto Barbera said that Friedkin had made major contributions to U.S. cinema "the revolutionary impact of which has not always been recognized."

"Friedkin exploded the rules of documentary filmmaking in several works for television that were seminal for their dry, harsh and unpredictable point of view, and later revolutionized the popular genres of the crime film and the horror film, basically inventing the modern blockbuster with 'The French Connection'," Barbera said in a statement.

"The French Connection," a drug smuggling drama starring Gene Hackman, won five Oscars in 1972 including Best Picture and Best Director.

Friedkin has gone on to make more than 30 films, documentaries and TV series, moving between smaller independent films and big studio movies. His most recent movie "Killer Joe" screened in competition at the Venice festival in 2011.

"Venice, especially during the Film Festival, is a spiritual home to me," Friedkin said in a statement. "The Golden Lion (for Lifetime Achievement) is something I never expected but am proud to accept with gratitude and love."

(Reporting By Jill Serjeant in Los Angeles; Editing by Xavier Briand)

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