The French Connection
A breakthrough police procedural thriller, more for its grimy handheld realism and breakneck urban chase scenes than for anything to do with Ernest Tidyman’s original screenplay (Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider largely improvised their good cop/bad cop routines, including the infamous “Did you ever pick your feet in Poughkeepsie?”). With his porkpie hat, cheap suit and bad attitude, Hackman’s Popeye Doyle would have been an unthinkable hero (or anti-hero) ten or even five years before – and even the director wasn’t sure he could pull it off.
This is the film that won Best Picture against such competition as A Clockwork Orange and The Last Picture Show, Klute and McCabe & Mrs Miller. As for the titular French connection, “Frog 1”, he was played by Spanish actor Fernando Rey due to a miscommunication.
William Friedkin takes his mark from Don Siegel and Costa-Gavras, belligerent action portraits in quick, hard, racy strokes. Grain is the texture of choice, the brickier and danker the better, the snapshot of the city runs from Brooklyn Bridge traffic jams to Madison Avenue in the metallic grip of winter. The central joke is the extended flirtation between Hackman’s blue-collar flatfoot and Rey’s debonair lawbreaker, complete with awkward dinner date (the camera zooms from the visitor’s lordly restaurant banquet to the copper shivering outside with foul pizza and coffee) and underground two-step at the Grand Central Station subway, capped with a smile and a wave.
Fernando F Croce, CinePassion
If you start counting ’movie moments’ in The French Connection, you’ll have to stop by about number 8 – it’s simply impossible to keep up.
A thrilling, economical procedural, William Friedkin’s 1971 smash hit The French Connection has one thing on its mind: Immediacy. Every single element of this film has the goal of keeping the audience in the moment and on the edge of their proverbial seat. Friedkin’s docu-style realism, Owen Roizman’s washed-out grey photography, Don Ellis’ contemplative yet jaunty jazz score, Gerald Greenberg’s quick-fire efficient-as-all-hell editing — everything is in service of the thrill. It features some of the finest Hollywood filmmaking of its time and a great, committed performance from Gene Hackman as hothead detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle.
Vikram Murthi, Indiewire
The French Connection is as amoral as its hero, as violent, as obsessed and as frightening.
Gene Hackman, Fernando Rey, Roy Scheider, Tony Lo Bianco, Marcel Bozzuffi
English and French with English Subtitles
Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Gene Hackman), Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Academy Awards 1972
Gerald B. Greenberg