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How ‘The French Connection’ Brings Out The Best In ‘The Connection’

How 'The French Connection' Brings Out The Best In 'The Connection'

[Editor’s Note: This post is presented in partnership with 
Time Warner Cable Movies On Demand in support of Indie Film Month. Today’s pick, “The Connection,” is available now On Demand. Need help finding a movie to watch? Let TWC find the best fit for your mood here.]

READ MORE: Exclusive: Jean Dujardin’s Methods Aren’t Quite Legal In Clip From Crime Drama ‘The Connection’

Magistrate Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin) — the “French cowboy,” as he’s known around
Marseilles, France — enacted illegal surveillance
techniques and filed false arrest reports in his obsessive pursuit to link
kingpin Tany Zampa (Gilles Lellouche) to the famous French Connection drug
trade. Now standing in Zampa’s nightclub, he doesn’t
know he also lost his wife and kids (though only for a brief time). As he
stares down his target through a mirrored door, the blaring disco lights cast a
pitch-black shadow across the left side of his face, further mirroring the
blurred line he crossed in his descent. 

This is the story of “The Connection” from
director Cedric Jimenez.

While the film stands on its own, you don’t
have to dig deep to find its — for lack of a better term — connection to
the unofficial companion film, “The
French Connection,” William
Friedkin’s 1971 classic. Much
like Michel and Zampa, these films are two sides of the same coin. One tackles
the notorious drug smuggling operation from the American perspective in the ‘60s,
while the other depicts the scene in the ‘70s
in France. While vastly different, they bring out the best in each other when
forced to rub elbows. 

If “The Connection” is “good cop,” then “The French
Connection” is “bad cop’ — and
the same goes for the films’ chosen leads. Though a recovering gambler clearly
substituting his addiction with Zampa, Michel is a boy scout, trying to clean
up the town. Gene Hackman’s Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle,
on the other hand, has the same motivation, but chooses to tackle it by any
means necessary. By the time Popeye is ready to bring in his man, the French
drug trafficker Alain Chamier, he has almost completely become the thing he
fights. All this makes no difference to “French Connection” virgins,
but the rest will see Michel fated to follow the same course. 

This symbolic duality bleeds over into the physical world in the
representation of New York City and Marseilles. As Zampa’s contact remarks,
everyone in NY is a druggie, and they are surrounded by the equally harsh edges
that define Popeye, such as the darkened alleys, crumbling sidewalks and the
banged up cars used to smuggle drugs, as we saw in “The French
Connection.” Michel, however, is immersed in a higher lifestyle; he
rarely walks out of the house without a suit, the lighting is brighter, and the
landscape is more elegant.

Even when he’s forced to cross this line by
traveling to America, the differences in locales are subtle because both have
the same color palette. This can be attributed to the actual film; clearly
enthralled by “The French Connection,” Jimenez
embraced its format by filming his own work with 35mm. The resultant similarities
in the pastel colors and textures reinforces this on-going theme between the
blurred line between what’s right and what must be done.

Then there are the less philosophical but fun call-outs between
these two films: Both begin with an assassination, both sets of detectives play
board/card games while wiretapping their targets, Zampa’s club scene mimics
that of Baco’s in color and tone, Zampa (who also wears the same style
jacket as Alain in coming to New York) gives Michel a slight hand wave in the
same manner Alain does when he eludes Popeye on the subway, and the ending of
both films utilize Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang, Bang,” made
more famous by its use in “Kill Bill.” Are
these just fun little Easter eggs, or are they the physical frame of the mirror
put in place between “The French Connection” and “The Connection,” good
and evil, good cop and bad cop, Michel and Zampa, Michel and Popeye?

The two films may not exist in the same cinematic universe, but
perhaps a parallel one. “The Connection” traded
in the word “French” for an additional 30 minutes of story,
so watching both nearly two-hour works back-to-back is not recommended. We wouldn’t
do it for “The Hobbit,” we won’t do it for “The
Connection.” Think of them instead as two halves of the same special, “The Connection” airing as part two the following
evening. This way there’s enough time in between to freshen
your palette and appreciating both as separate entities, while still being able
to recognize their secret brotherhood. 

READ MORE: Review: ‘The Connection’ With Jean Dujardin Feels Like A Cover Version Of Classic American Crime Films Of The 1970s

Indiewire has partnered with Time Warner Cable Movies On Demand for September’s Indie Film Month. Enjoy exceptionally creative and uniquely entertaining new Indie releases (“Love & Mercy,” “The Overnight,” “Time Out of Mind,” “Cop Car” and more) all month long on Time Warner Cable Movies On Demand. Go HERE daily for movie reviews, interviews, and exclusive footage of the suggested TWC movie of the day and catch the best Indie titles on TWC Movies On Demand.

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