French Connection (1971) – I gotta say, I can think of several other gritty/ irreverent buddy cop movies that are far more interesting. There was absolutely nothing in the way of interesting characters, and as Chooch said, they’re like cardboard cut outs. I agreed and commented that I cared more about a random kid in the background of a sniper shooting than about Gene Hackman’s character that was the target of said sniper. I had no emotional investment in any of the characters, which is a big no-no for my enjoyment of a story in any form.
One stinker was a scene with Roy Scheider and Gene Hackman showed them playing cards and laughing while listening to a surveillance tape, and it seemed like a forced and unrealistic moment of camaraderie. The movie has the sound effects (screeching tires, subway train noise, gunshots) cranked up pretty loud, possibly to make it more gritty and life-like, but in my opinion it’s gone too far and hurts the film. And at one point, I had to crank the volume way down because the music being played during an action scene was so jarring and annoying that I literally almost left the room. The attempt to amp up the suspense and tension just irked me to no end and took me out of the movie completely.
I turned to our old friend Wikipedia to try and suss out what the big deal is, and it tells me that “The French Connection was a scheme through which heroin was smuggled from Turkey to France and then to the United States, culminating in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when it provided the vast majority of the illicit heroin used in the United States.”
So okay, another “based on a true story” film, I get it. Also, “In 2005, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’.” Apparently, it was ground breaking and portrayed a drug war as it was still going on. Forty years ago.
Also, it was the first R-rated film to win an Oscar since the MPAA rating system was put in place, and was nominated for 8 Oscars, winning 5:
- Academy Award for Best Picture – Phillip D’Antoni
- Best Director – William Friedkin
- Best Actor – Gene Hackman
- Best Adapted Screenplay
- Film Editing
Other movies that were nominated for the Oscar that year were: A Clockwork Orange, Fiddler on the Roof, Nicholas and Alexandra and The Last Picture Show. I’ve never watched Fiddler… or Nicholas… but my favorite of the other three is easily A Clockwork Orange. I don’t hesitate to say that I would have preferred either it or The Last Picture Show to win. In fact, as little as I enjoyed The Last Picture Show, it definitely ranks higher on my list than French Connection.
And the car chase scene? The one everyone talks about that is supposed to be worth the time invested for that one scene? I didn’t realize it had already happened. I thought it was at the very end of the movie. And while that was a fantastic scene, especially the car racing along directly below the train in one shot, it was not worth all that time. The movie was exactly what I thought it was when i avoided it for all these years.
Meanwhile, I cannot wait to listen to Christiana and Mike discuss this film to see what I’ve missed. Their discussions on the previous seven films have, without exception, been able to reveal interesting details on the films that enriched my enjoyment of them.
But I have to say that while I’m counting on not having the full experience by not living in the times that the movie was released in, I still fully expect movies on this list to hold up to the test of time. This movie was released forty years ago, and while I love Hackman and respect his career I do not understand why this movie remains on the list. I’m grateful for the slew of amazing and ground-breaking films in recent years to hopefully correct this.
Happily, Goodfellas is up next. And I loves me some Goodfellas!