You still picking your feet in Poughkeepsie
The 1971 Oscar Best Picture Winner, The French Connection, was not only based on a book but it was also based on a true story. Taking a look at a narcotics smuggling operation in New York and the detectives that are obsessed with stopping it, the French Connection was an outstanding film.
Throughout the film, three main parties surface as the important players. The first and most important group is the detectives working the case, Detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Detective Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider). The case is not originally given to the two main characters but they go out of their way to investigate and involve themselves. On the other side of the case is the main narcotics smugglers, the man bringing the drugs over from France, Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey) and the men he is in contact with in America, Sal Boca (Tony Lo Bianco) and Weinstock (Harold Gary). The final player is a federal agent named Mulderig (Bill Hickman) who is assigned to the case. Using a naive actor Henri Devereaux (Frederic de Pasquale) and a car he is transporting to the United States, Charnier smuggles the drugs into the country. The film follows a mental game of chess between Charnier and Doyle as Charnier tries to successfully complete his drug deal with Doyle doing everything he can to catch him.
In an effort to avoid simply retelling the plot of a film, this paragraph marks the start of my attempt to analyze each film I watch. During the 1970’s, as the French Connection came out, the cinema world saw a revival in cop-films, with the French Connection in the lead. With quick, rough transitions, the film plays out by juxtaposing two extremely different worlds. The films starts with its largest comparison, showing with the gritty, tight streets of New York only to jump to the clean and spacious city of Marseilles. As the main focus of the film moves to just New York the film splits the city in half, juxtaposing the rich Manhattan with Brooklyn, an area flush with junkies and street cops. It is the continued juxtaposition that fuels the film, showing two different worlds collide and interact.
Beyond the careful construction and comparison of different worlds while showing how the police fit into each one, the film also has its own well-known chase scene. While Charnier’s man attempts to escape Doyle on an elevated train, Doyle speeds through the streets under the train, trying to keep up to catch the man as he gets off the train. The chase mirrors the feel of the film, long and drawn out with a quick, to the point ending. The long chase, which should have yielded big rewards, is certainly not a failure but does not payout like it should. This idea can sum up the entire film from the beginning all the way up to its famously pessimistic ending.
Taking home the 1971 Oscar for Best Picture over A Clockwork Orange, Fiddler on the Roof, the Last Picture Show and Nicholas and Alexandra, The French Connection also won four more awards. Gene Hackman took home a well-deserved Best Actor Oscar with William Friedkin winning for Best Director and Ernest Tidyman taking best screenplay. The film also won for Best Editing. I truly believe that this film deserved to win Best Picture and give it a 9 out of 10. It is gritty and at times depressing but it is also an outstanding film.