Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 No. 3. 15th March 1972
The French Connection
This stylish thriller has topical and 'shocking' connotations with its heavy emphasis on the illicit 'drug' world. The film is also supposed to gain something by the publicity proclaiming it a True Story. However, the sensational subject does not give the film an undue advantage, and it is neither more nor less interesting because of its real-life origins. Basically a thriller, and adhering to many of the conventions of the genre, it is unusual primarily because of its excellence.
First a couple of comments which may not be brick bats as much as reflections on a developing trend. In common with some other recent films, The French Connection has a certain obtuseness in the manner in which the narrative unfolds. Bluntly - unless the viewer is abnormally sharp or blessed with precognition, it may take half an hour or more before he gets a firm grip on what, is actually happening on the screen. (Get Harper is an even more extreme example) This elliptical style of presentation may have its point in films where the singular purpose is to mystify the audience, but in others where the plot is as important as the pyrotechnics, the method may turn out to be self-defeating. The other point concerns the dialogue. Where this is mod, blurred, confused, hesitant, intermingled, it may be necessary in some cases to provide sub-titles for 'foreign' audiences.
The joys of this film are in its relentless pace and bravura acting; topped off with some very tasty lashings of violence. These factors mould perfectly, and with the location settings, lend a nitty-gritty realism to the proceedings. I don't think I have ever seen New York looking so seamy, except perhaps in Midnight Cowboy. Certainly the scenes in the lower tenement areas contrast with the drawing room settings of the criminal conferences. Such 'human diversions' as there are (Popeye's unlikely seduction comes to mind) do not detract from the mementum, as they are of sufficient intrinsic interest to preempt the reaction 'get on with it' (accompanied by a stifled yawn).
The machinations of the plot must be convincing in themselves, and no plea can be entered on their behalf that the incidents portrayed actually took place. In this respect I have one or two quibbles. The reconstruction of the car, for example, grated a trifle, with all due respect to the N.Y.P.D. And I am still chary about accept
Sunday B***** Sunday
In the golden age of Hollywood all a director needed was a possessive insecure wife, a shifty and uncertain husband, and a lusty but conventional mistress, and by working out the contradictions in the characters, he could spin out a good B grade movie. But as the ads for Sunday B***** Sunday have it, that's adolescent stuff Adult movie directors (John Schlesinger) take possessive, insecure divorcee's (Glenda Jackson), artistic and uncertain bisexuals (Murray Head) and conventional homosexual Doctors (Peter Finch), and with the added complexity coupled with excellent unobtrusive acting creates a more well out of the B grade class. But all good things must come to an end, and that's what Sunday B***** Sunday fails to do. The movie builds up until Rob, the artist finally leaves for America leaving Alex, (the divorcee) and Daniel, the doctor, to wallow their way through about 15 minutes of chance meetings and self-analysis, culminating in Daniel philosophising to the camera, before the Director remembers to slip in the credits. And that's the end that remains. There is no sympathy for the characters, no sense of frustration with their problems, not even a feeling of being let down by Rob's natural, yet unsatisfying retreat from the situation. - just boredom.
If you don't enjoy going to sleep this film could be the answering at face value the proposition that wild foot chases can take place openly in the streets without a flicker of reaction from those loitering in the vicinity, even though I am led to believe that this is actually the case. The car chase on the other hand is so exciting that the 'suspension of disbelief is total. The denouement at the station with the quarry battered and the pursuer exhausted is entirely convincing, in contrast to the usual (and convenient) conclusion where one or more of the vehicles, involved ends up in the drink.
Director William Friedkin has managed his latest offering extremely well. Only occasionally is there a hint of instability in his control of actor and camera, the odd uneasy moment when the shots seem casual, almost offhand, but these are generally carried along by the vitality of the action. Gene Hackman as Popeye gives a fine performance, with perhaps just a trace of burlesque now and then. Oddly enough, the lapse into blatant mugging does not seem out of place in the context of the character. His compatriot Roy Scheider is the strong, silent type with momentary flashes of extroversion, the perfect foil to Hackman's agitated antics. The rest of the cast is as excellent, with the French actors wearing their trans-Atlantic transposition particularly well. A catalogue of good and bad points does not, however, seem relevant when one is actually watching the film, which is an unpretentious, gripping, and very satisfying piece of work.