Friday, November 26, 2010

1971: The French Connection

Two New York City detectives are trying to uncover a narcotics smuggling ring.  This is made complicated by the fact that their superiors don't really take them seriously, and even more so when the bad guys do everything they can think of - which includes shooting at detectives - to avoid getting caught.

There isn't a whole lot of dialogue in this film; it's mostly the detectives observing people and then chasing them.  This works for the most part, especially with the intriguing camera movement and editing techniques that the filmmakers use.  However, some of the observing scenes drag on a bit too long, and I found my mind wandering several times, almost to the point where I lost track of the story completely.  When there is dialogue, it isn't really that great, so it's kind of nice that there isn't much of it.  The chase scenes are really intense and well done, and there are a few other very good scenes that make this film worth watching.  Gene Hackman plays his role very well.  Fernando Rey is really good, too, especially considering he's a Spaniard playing a Frenchman.  But by far my favorite thing about this film is the score.  The background music throughout the entire movie perfectly enhances the action on screen, and even makes some of the mediocre scenes far more interesting.  At some points, I think anyone listening to the music without even watching the screen would be able to tell what is going on, and I applaud Don Ellis for composing such a remarkable score.

As a whole, I didn't really like this film that much.  The aspects of filmmaking that I usually look for in a superb movie - story, dialogue, character development, etc - are about average at best.  But other aspects - the soundtrack, camera movement, and certain outstanding scenes - are done so incredibly well that I think this film deserves its reputation as a classic.  I'd say it also deserves to be called a Best Picture, though certainly in an unconventional sense.

Up next: The Godfather

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