Back Add a Comment Share:
Facebook Button

Feature


Marseille magistrate Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin) is on a relentless crusade to dismantle the most notorious drug smuggling operation in history: the French Connection. In his crosshairs is the charismatic and wealthy kingpin, Gatean ‘Tany’ Zampa (Gilles Lellouche), who runs the largest underground heroin trade into the States. Though the fearless and tenacious Michel, aided by a task force of elite cops, will stop at nothing––including boldly orchestrated drug raids, devastating arrests, and exacting interrogations––to ensure the crime ring's demise, Zampa's "La French" always seems one step ahead. As La French mounts its retaliation, Michel will be forced to make the most difficult decision of his life: to continue waging his war or ensure his family's safety before it's too late. (From Drafthouse’s official synopsis)

 Connection, The
Cédric Jimenez’ The Connection (aka: La French) is the latest entry in an ongoing modern French crime cinema renaissance that has largely passed me by. As I’ve desperately played catch-up with the foundational genre work of nouvelle vague pioneers Jean-Pierre Melville, Jules Dassin, and Jean-Luc Godard, I’ve missed out on a cavilcade of critically-lauded movies, such as Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet (2009), Jean-François Richet’s Mesrine movies (2008), and Fred Cavayé’s Point Blank (2010). I’m sure there are many others I’ve neglected. The Connection seems like a good place for me to re-enter the fray, because it was adapts the real-life events that inspired William Freidkin’s nouvelle vague-influenced The French Connection (1971). The events of the actual ‘French Connection’ also found their way into Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972) and Sidney Lumet’s Prince of the City (1980).

The Connection is shot to evoke the matter-of-fact style of the ‘70s crime films it pays homage to and is excitedly cut to evoke the energy of Martin Scorsese’s breathless post- Goodfellas formula. The audience is thrown into the deep end of the opulent lives of superstar cops and criminals and left to catch up via expositional discussions that take place in and out of context of the plot. The narrative is expressed via mood, dialogue, and a collection of incredibly Scorsese-esque montages. When it’s firing on all of its stylistic cylinders, it’s difficult to resist the vigorous audacity of these electrifying collages – especially when they’re set to the hippest music of the era. However, solid performances and immensely exciting montages can’t quite hide the fact that The Connection is a pretty standard-issue retelling of an oft-told story. Every time the movie pauses for the good guys to investigate evidence, the bad guys to intimidate their underlings, or to hammer home the fact that good guys and bad guys actually have quite a bit in common, the film veers into disappointingly generic territory. I understand that it is based on a true story, but Jimenez and co-writer Audrey Diwan are certainly taking liberties with the material.

 Connection, The
As the movie enters its second hour, there is a distinct lack of propulsion and, even though events are supposedly spiraling out of the control of both the protagonist and his enemy, the momentum never kicks into overdrive. There are intriguing slices of life between plot points (most of them brief moments with family members) and a couple of incredibly suspenseful moments, but there’s generally nothing unique about its plot, characters, or set-pieces. And all of this familiarity is stretched beyond the two-hour mark without ever really establishing a good reason for the length. The inefficiency is especially weird, because Jimenez takes every chance he can to compress information throughout the film via the aforementioned montages and the overlapping of dialogue and action from different scenes. The ‘70s chic works well for the action sequences, but most of these aren’t chopped up within the context of another pop-music-infused, info-dump.

 Connection, The

Video


The Connection was shot on traditional 35mm film (a fact that was proudly lauded by Drafthouse when they began screening it in America) and is presented here in 2.40:1, 1080p video. Jimenez and cinematographer Laurent Tangy definitely aim for a natural, chemically created look. There’s little obvious digital grading or colour timing. With the exception of a few scenes that take place within the walls of neon-lit clubs where brilliant reds fill the frame, most of the palette is dictated by the environments. This includes some nice, warm skin tones, soft blue skies, and subtly green vegetation – all of which are nicely flecked with punchy little highlight colours that don’t bleed. The high-contrast blacks, diffused backlights, and mostly understated colour qualities all remind me Spielberg &  Jan u s z   Kaminski’s more recent 35mm movies, specifically of Munich, which makes sense, since both are true crime stories set in the same basic era. Drafhouse’s disc does seem a tiny bit over-compressed; however, this doesn’t appear in edge haloes or jaggies, but do create some slightly blocky background grain.

 Connection, The

Audio


The Connection includes a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track in its original French. The sound design mostly matches the expectations set by the naturalistic photography. Environmental ambience tends to be light, but is constantly present and keeps the stereo & surround channels aflutter. The dialogue tracks, which take precedence in most cases, are centered and crisp. Guillaume Roussel’s score is augmented by a number of pop songs from the era, as well as modern pieces that fit the mood. The music exists both as score and sometimes as on-screen source sound. The mixing follows suit, leading to both full-force frontal assaults and more delicate, multi-channel momentum.

Extras


  • The Making of The Connection (51:10, HD) – A relatively extensive production featurette that includes cast & crew interviews as well as raw behind-the-scenes footage. The subject matter is a little scattershot, but there’s plenty of good info.
  • Seven deleted/extended scenes (6:50, HD)
  • Trailer


 Connection, The

Overall


The Connection is a well-made, but disappointingly typical crime drama. Strong performances and delightfully manic montage sequences are tempered by a predictable narrative that extends about 20 minutes longer than needed. The Blu-ray presentation is very nice, including a dynamic, film-based transfer, strong musically-driven DTS-HD MA sound, and a decent collection of extras.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


Links: