Precious Bodily Fluids

The French Connection: Both Engrossing and High-Grossing

In the dark, more or less

After guiding a lengthy unit in the subject of cinematic viewer engagement, everything is now visible only through that lens. The opening sequence of The French Connection could not be more textbook in this regard. The viewer is sutured (using the term loosely viz. spectator theory connotations) immediately to the nameless man on the streets of Marseilles who is following a mark. The sequence is shot so effectively that the audience feels as invisible as the voyeur on the screen think he is. Shots, reverse shots, pans, dollies, tracking shots, zooms, and all the rest are employed here in such a way as to make the man incognito, a chameleon tiptoeing across his domain until, we think, he nails his targets or at least reports valuable info to his contact. This doesn’t happen, of course, making the scene all the more noteworthy and effective. When the man is surprised and killed, the viewer, along with the man’s carcass, are left in the little tunnel as the real pro walks away unscathed. This is not only a superb sequence for what it is; it’s a capsule of the film as a whole. You may see it coming or not see it coming. Either way, it’s as well done as can be from a strictly technical perspective. In a way, what more is there to say about the whole film than what can be said about this first sequence?

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This entry was published on May 7, 2010 at 1:07 pm. It’s filed under 1970s Cinema, American film and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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