watched The French Connection
for the first time this week, and it was every bit as good as its reputation. OK, you already know how good it is, but what makes it stick out more than forty years later, other than fine performances by Gene Hackman and some of his supporting cast?
1) It's subtle, at times, for an action movie, no more so than when Hackman's "Popeye" Doyle engages in an arguably foolhardy action in the film's climactic scene. Any number of inferior TV and movie successors would have hit us over the head with the conflict of it all: a colleague trying to talk Doyle out of what he is about to do, or reaction shots of the colleagues shaking their heads after Doyle does it anyway, or both. Director William Friedkin just lets Hackman do his thing--a crowded scene, and then a fast cut to Hackman alone. It's a breathtaking moment, my favorite of the movie.
| At Bouchercon 2013 in Albany, I point out the|
name of another New York city, whose
prominence in American popular culture
may have peaked with The French Connection.
What was the last classic movie you got around to seeing only years after everyone else had seen it already? How did it compare with its reputation?
© Peter Rozovsky 2014
2) The absence of hub-bub and police sirens as Doyle chases the sniper who had tried to kill him. (Doyle got down from the building's roof too quickly to have been able to follow the shooter so closely, a minor continuity problem that ought to hamper no one's enjoyment of the movie.) Quiet--I mean, regular, realistic quiet, not breathing or the sound of running feet, obtrusively over-amplified against a background of silence--can work a hell of a lot better than noise.
3) How much of that quiet was Friedkin's choice, and how much was due to the absence of cellphones in 1971? In 2014, Doyle would probably have called in police reinforcements before or during the chase of the sniper, which might have meant sirens and hub-bub.
Labels: Bouchercon 2013, Gene Hackman, movies, The French Connection, William Friedkin