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Ok, I know this blog is supposed to be about foreign films but I wanted to discuss in this reflection about the major influence that Italian Neo-Realism and French New Wave had on American Cinema in the 1960s and 1970s.

American New Wave Cinema is considered the Hollywood Renaissance. As European art films began circulating in America, American directors (Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen, and William Friedkin) recognized and appreciated the neo-realism style of Fellini and the documentary style of Godard. What was produced was an era of artistically creative films that were grounded in filming on location, working with a low budget, and centering on non-main stream issues and themes.

A brilliant example of American New Wave Cinema is The French Connection. Filmed on location in the New York streets of the Lower East Side and the borough of Brooklyn, Friedkin (the director) exhibits a storyline captured in a gritty documentary style. Based on a true story, narcotic detectives, “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman) and “Cloudy” Russo (Roy Scheider) begin to unravel a smuggling heroin operation that starts in the French port city of Marseilles. The wealthy drug-lord Charnier (Fernando Rey) plans to bring his large supply of heroin across the Atlantic. As he arrives in the port of New York, “Popeye” and “Cloudy” are already aware of his arrival.

A few weeks before this, Popeye and Cloudy are at a bar when they observe Sal Boca and his wife Angie entertaining some Mafia members who are involved in narcotics. They begin to follow and observe the actions of the suspicious couple. By wire-tapping their modest luncheonette, the two detectives find out that a significant supply of heroin will soon be arriving on the streets of New York.

What follows after Charnier arrives are restless stake-outs, nail-biting car chases, and gripping on-foot tailing pursuits.

I cannot end this reflection without discussing the car chase scene.
Often hailed as one of the greatest car chase scenes in film history, viewers are taken on a riveting, intense ride along the streets of Brooklyn. After hijacking a civilian’s car, Popeye anxiously and earnestly follows the elevated train that one of Charnier’s partners has gotten on to. Swerving to miss pedestrians and recklessly accelerating the gas to catch up with the train, Popeye finally is able to trap the criminal as the train collides at a halting stop. Weakened and injured by the collision, the criminal staggers out only to be shot at point-blank by Popeye.

Here is a clip from the scene:

The French Connection reminds me of the 1969 political thriller Z. In my next reflection, I will discuss this French language film that captures a government organized scheme that is centered on assassinating a leftist political figure.

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