The French Connection
Philip D’Antoni produced this film in 1971 with William Friedkin as the director. Popeye Doyle is the character’s name of the police officer that leads the NYPD in tracking down a suspected drug smuggler. Alain Charnier is the rich drug lord that the police officers are after. The drugs, heroin, are to be shipped from Marseilles in France into New York through a car belonging to Charnier’s friend. Popeye, therefore, enlists the help of informants in order to ambush the drug traffickers. The criminals are waylaid, but they offer quite a resistance, which results in the police chasing them and a shootout ensues. There is a significant impact of editing and cinematography on the various characters in the film, particularly Popeye Doyle and Alain Charnier.
The camera angles used in the film are remarkably varied. In some scenes, there are wide shots like those of streets. In addition, there are close ups that give the viewer a glimpse of most of the details within the scene, though most of them are somehow shaky (Browning 78). The color of the shots is yellowish and rugged, but this makes the film believable since it was produced a long time ago. The car scenes are also quite clear. Additionally, the actor’s faces are not brightly lit and this portrays them as being human. Therefore, the mood set is that of real people in actual life situations. For example, there is a scene where Charnier’s chemist arrives to inspect a package of heroin. Afterwards, he assures them that it is pure and will fetch $32 million in the market. The buyer hesitates and Charnier immediately realizes that they were under surveillance from Doyle and other police officers. Instead of panicking, Charnier quickly solicits for a sniper to kill Doyle. The lighting in that scene is not exaggerated. Whereas Doyle is depicted as being heartless and cruel throughout the movie, Charnier is shown to be so calm and composed (Armstrong, Charity, Hughes and Winter 185).
The producer edits realistically, with few cuts used and the shots prolonged. The editing is visible during action scenes like the car chase below the railroad tracks. In the scene, Doyle drives his car recklessly as he chases an elevated train where one gangster has taken cover. The criminal had been firing shots at the police officers, so they decide to pursue him. Innocent pedestrians and bystanders are forced to scamper for safety as many parked cars are destroyed by Doyle’s fast moving car. His aim is to arrive at the next train stop before it does so that he can confront the criminal. This car chase is truly memorable and forms a legendary part of thrillers since then. Furthermore, to enhance the visual effects, the director uses simple and soft music in the background especially during dialogues. In other scenes, the sound comes from the actual activities happening in the film, and this increases the realism theme of the movie. Notably, classy bass music is employed during fight scenes and car chases. This adds to the tension and drama in the overall plot (Mintz and Roberts 262).
The transition of the scenes is somehow slow as compared to the current standards. Notably, there appears to be fifteen-minute intervals in which there is a complete lack of dialogue among the characters. For instance, after the car chase below the elevated train, Doyle decides to mount a stakeout for the car that contains the drugs. A considerable amount of time is spent without conversations. After a while, the vehicle arrives. In a swift move, it is impounded by the police officers. They painstakingly dismantle it one piece at a time and discover the drugs hidden in the car’s body. Consequently, they reassemble it and deliver it to their informant who transports it to Charnier. Such transitions consume a lot of time of the film.
The design of the film is equally contemporary, and it has a 1970’s feel to it (William’s 244). From the rundown apartment blocks of New York at that time to the mode of dressing, nothing that signifies modernity can be seen. When Doyle and his partner storm a bar in the opening scene, the setting is very antique. The clothes that the patrons wear also show this theme. Nevertheless, the wealthy Charnier and his wife are shown driving around the town in expensive cars and having meals in high-end restaurants. This contrasts the different lifestyles that the two men live. Consequently, it shows Doyle as the good man who will do anything including using force to stop crimes thereby becoming the bad person. Likewise, it shows that although Charnier is the bad one due to his criminal activities, he is reluctant to use force. In the end, Doyle triumphs because his actions are laden with good intentions.
The motion effects serve to prolong the suspense of the film (Kachmar 34). The alternating fast and slow shots avoid any kind of monotony of the scenes to the viewer. Not only do these effects show the gritty nature of the movie, but they also put the acting abilities of these characters into sharp focus. Toughness is a constant feature, and in a way, this has come to be the signature theme of action-packed movies ever since. Taking a cue from the film, once the police informant delivers the drugs to Charnier, he inspects the heroin and replaces the bags with money. They then begin their return journey but abruptly bump into a roadblock. Sensing danger, they try to escape, but the police officers, under the command of Doyle, pursue them. What follows is a high-speed and drama filled chase as each side tries to overpower the other using weapons. Both men seem to be courageous, and they do their best to outwit one another. On arriving at the factory where the transaction took place, Charnier escapes into a warehouse with Doyle closely in tow.
After watching the movie, one gets the feeling that it is attention grabbing, and the characters in the film perform believable actions. Moreover, the locations used when shooting the movie were real instead of the traditional style by most moviemakers of using special sets. Similarly, Doyle and Charnier contrast so well in their approaches to achieving their goals and this makes the film all the more worthwhile. Although this movie was produced in the 1970’s, the cinematography and editing is undoubtedly of high quality.
Armstrong, Richard, Tom Charity, Lloyd Hughes, and Jessica Winter. The Rough Guide to Film. London: Rough Guides, 2007. Print.
Browning, Mark. Wes Anderson: Why His Movies Matter. Santa Barbara, Calif: Praeger, 2011. Print.
Kachmar, Diane. Roy Scheider: A Film Biography. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland, 2002. Print
Mintz, Steven, and Randy Roberts. Hollywood’s America: Twentieth-century America Through Film. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Print.
Williams, Linda. The Erotic Thriller in Contemporary Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005. Print.