The French Connection (1971)

Directed by William Friedkin
Written by Ernest Tidyman

The French Connection is one of those movies that you’ve always heard about, but never seen, so you almost don’t believe it really exists, or that it could be as good as people say and its accolades suggest. The one thing that everyone always seems to comment on, whether they think the movie is good or not or even if they don’t even comment on that aspect of the film, is the car chase scene. And I must admit that this tidbit has attracted me over the years because I love a good car chase and add on to that fact that Gene Hackman is a favorite of mine and I honestly cannot believe I hadn’t gotten around to this. A stand-up comedian did a bit once where he told the audience that “I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Gene Hackman passed away,” to which the audience gasped. Then he says, “Just kidding, but I just made you realize how much you love Gene Hackman.” And it’s true.

Here Hackman plays a New York City narcotics detective with his partner Buddy (Roy Scheider). The pair sniff out what they think is a big deal going down in the near future, but they struggle to come up with enough evidence to convince their boss, even after he jumps through some hoops for them. But soon enough they find the break they are looking for in the form of a French connection to the drug smugglers, which just might be the break they have been looking for after a while of working the streets and getting no results.

To start, the car chase was a bit of a letdown, but honestly I think that is most certainly a case of high expectations. When the scene was over I was unsure if that was what I was looking for or not, which is a bad sign. However, looking back I think it was a fun, cool chase, just not all it’s cracked up to be. The other positive was also seeing Gene Hackman on screen. So those were pretty much the two things I assumed I would like going in. The rest was somewhat unknown actually before sitting down with the Blu ray, which I remember caught some flak for being a poor transfer and I can generally attest to that. But with some quick research I learned that the film did quite well at the Oscars, winning 5 including Best Picture.

I found this very surprising, and it is not like me to try to bad mouth the Academy or try to compare movies, but that this beat out films like The Last Picture Show, Fiddler on the Roof and A Clockwork Orange is a little surprising, especially given my reaction to the film. Quite frankly I was bored by this. I understand I watched it when I was a little tired after just getting home from work, and I didn’t fall asleep or anything, but I was just never engaged by the film and I think that had a lot to do with the direction, which was ho-hum coupled with some strange editing choices which consisted of lingering and unnecessary shots, something I almost never notice. There just seemed to be no energy about the film and even the actors sometimes seemed bored, while at other times they simply exploded with intensity which seemed to come from nowhere. The mood consisted of very extreme swings.

Knowing that I am watching this because it was someone I know’s favorite movie doesn’t change my opinion on it at all, and I am sorry I did not like it better because I am always looking to love every movie I see and I am probably just as disappointed I didn’t. I am in no position to judge what should and shouldn’t constitute someone’s favorite films, though I can certainly try to influence that. But while I do not quite understand the love for this film as I found it slow, boring, and even poorly made in some cases, there are some positives I found in the film, and it has gotten plenty of attention over the years, so hey, I must be the one missing out. It happens. Not every film will be for everyone and I think this is a good example of that for me. My reaction was admittedly negative, yet it is still someone’s favorite film. That’s great because someone shares enough in their love of movies to have a favorite and that is good enough for me.

 

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

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