#47: The French Connection
I imagine a lot of great scenarios like that, because I’m the Pope of Film. Let’s just say that it is part of the gig.
The Plot in Brief: New York police detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) and his partner Buddy Russo (Roy Scheider) learn of a dealer’s drug connection after a routine arrest. They also suspect local diner owner Sal Boca (Tony Lo Bianco) of having mob connections. They learn that a large shipment of heroin is due in New York, arriving hidden in the Lincoln Continental of a famous French television star. After the two detectives intercept the shipment, the mysterious Charnier (Fernando Rey) travels to America to see what has gone wrong with his smuggling plan. He and Doyle play a game of “cat and mouse” on the New York subway. Charnier hires hitman Nicoli (Marcel Bozzuffi) to kill Doyle, but Doyle has other ideas about that. Will Popeye Doyle succeed in bringing the elusive Charnier to justice?
In a Film Studies class in high school, our beloved teacher rented The French Connection on 16mm and we ran the car chase again and again on a projector, backwards and forwards, at various speeds, and frame by frame, analyzing it for an entire week until it gave up its secrets. Much of the relentless drive of the sequence is due to cinematographer Owen Roizman under-cranking the camera to speed up the action and give the impression of a higher speed chase. The scene is a film class in itself—in cinematography, in acting, in stunt work, and most especially the art of editing that combines all the other aspects into a cohesive (and thrilling) whole.
The French Connection’s Three Miracles: The aforementioned car chase, one of the best ever filmed; the performances of the leads, who we never catch “acting”; and the grimmer-than-grim, “it’s the Seventies, baby” final minute.
"In nomine Patrici, et Scorsese, qui mecum est Jai Beaie, Amen."