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The Connection
The Connection
Actors: Jackie McLean, Freddie Redd
Director: Shirley Clarke
Genres: Drama, Music Video & Concerts
NR     2004     1hr 50min


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Movie Details

Actors: Jackie McLean, Freddie Redd
Director: Shirley Clarke
Genres: Drama, Music Video & Concerts
Sub-Genres: Drama, Pop, Jazz
Studio: Jazz Movie Classics
Format: DVD - Enhanced
DVD Release Date: 09/07/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 50min
Screens: Enhanced
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
Edition: Import
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

I shall be the first....
S. Koropeckyj | The Bright Side of the Moon | 04/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This movie has not yet been reviewed, so I I call upon the muses to give me sufficiently adequate rhetoric to not only describe its excellence, but also give a brief analysis of it.

The movie itself is cheaply made. There is only one set, an apartment somewhere in New York, where an interracial group of druggies sit and wait for their drug dealer, 'The Connection'. They sit there and wait, while a documentary film maker attempts to document their lives and their collective addiction to heroin. They accuse him of exploitation and eventually convince him to stick the spike into his vein. The movie is purportedly put together by the assistant director, a school time friend of one of the junkies.

Everything in this movie is a lie. The film is based off of a play and the play is based off of a debate that at this time raged between different styles of documentary. Is the best way to film a documentary to film it as though the camera isn't there, or it is better to film the documentary without any pretences that it is a film and the people will act regardless? The director Shirley Clarke was a protagonist of the second position, she knew that people will act in front of the camera no matter how used they are to its presence.

As such, the performances are over the top. The junkies talk directly to the camera and engage in overlong monologues that barely touch the surface of heroin addicton. Shadows of the camera appear on walls and the junkies always try to talk to the director, who constantly appears on the screen to provide proper lighting for the junkies faces. His intended effect of having an invisible director is completely self-subversive as he joins the junkies in the act of taking heroin and indulging in that same euphoric apathy of the drug.

The movie works because it exists on so many levels. It probes the debate over documentary style. It draws some sort of picture of Bohemian lifestyles in the early 60s. It films jazz musicians grooving to the anticipation and effects of heroin. It works because it acknowledges that people are bad actors, but aspiring ones too. It works because there is no truth and only a lie, a vague dissimulation of real life. Something that looks like life, but very clearly is not. An imperceptive eye would maybe mistake this film for a real documentary, but that would be missing out on all of the fun."
Grim yet effective portrait of drug addiction
Ibochild | Los Angeles, CA USA | 05/03/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This film by maverick filmmaker Shirley Clarke (THE COOL WORLD) gets its power by its sheer simplicity. A group of jazz musicians await their drug "connection" inside a seedy New York City apartment while being filmed for a documentary. Set entirely in one room of the apartment, THE CONNECTION effectively creates a very claustrophobic feel. The viewer feels like someone awkwardly eavesdropping on the lives of people on the fringes of society. THE CONNECTION features many fine performances. Carl Lee (THE COOL WORLD) plays one of the few aggressive black men seen on screen during the early 1960's. He plays Cowboy, the "Connection" indicated by the title. He also has one of the film's best lines with: "Man, I believe anything that's illegal is illegal because it makes more money for more people that way."Roscoe Lee Browne (narrator of BABE: PIG IN THE CITY) makes his feature film debut in the role of J. J. Burden, the documentary cinematographer who also provides narration for the film. Warren Finnerty (EASY RIDER) gives a hyper performance as "Leach," the "host" of the gathering. Watching him, you'll swear that current indie favorite, Steve Buscemi (FARGO) is a reincarnation of him. Finnerty won an Obie award for his performance in the play. In its own way, THE CONNECTION rivals the recent commercial and critical favorite TRAFFIC in how it forces the viewer to examine his or her attitudes about illegal drug use. More importantly, it does this without the latter film's use of visual gimmickry or tricks. As an added bonus, check out Freddie Redd's jazz score. He performs it on camera along with Jackie McLean (sax), Larry Richie (drums) and Michael Mattos (bass). If you're looking for something gritty and raw in sharp contrast to 1960's Hollywood, you need to look no further."
Concentrate on the music
T. Bombara | San Francisco, CA United States | 11/25/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The movie itself is incredibly dated, but the music that is featured throughout is some of the best jazz of that era that you will ever see. This is Freddie Redd's group, but it's Jackie McLean's alto playing that steals the show. The film itself will remind you of one of Cassavetes early films, think Shadows, but it's the music that will make it priceless. Docked a star for the actual film that interrupts those great tunes."
Very intelligent cinema
Allan MacInnis | Vancouver | 03/09/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"As another reviewer notes, this film IS dated. It deals with the in-fighting among a group of junkies being filmed by a documentary filmmaker and his assistant, who are gradually drawn into the action themselves, until the moment where the aloof, arrogant filmmaker is compelled to pick up the needle himself... Based on a Living Theatre play, THE CONNECTION does a wonderful job turning this core material into the stuff of self-reflexive cinema, dispensing with any sense that it was written for another media. It's a critique of a position not much advocated these days anyhow -- the cinema verite supposition that film can objectively document reality -- and calls for artists to become committed, to assume responsibility for the role they play, for their own subjective biases, etc. That's a moral concern that puts it, for me, on the shelf more with DAVID HOLZMAN'S DIARY than SHADOWS (which that other reviewer compared it to), but let's ignore that for the time being. Suffice it to say that it's a concern OF THE TIME. No one asks questions nowadays about what film is or should be, or talks about the commitment of the artist, though, uh, perhaps they SHOULD. But yes, then -- the movie is dated. The other count on which the film can be said to be dated is the portrayal of junkies themselves -- the characters in this film behave more like they stepped out of a beat poet's imagination than a NYC slum, are far more articulate and introspective than most real junkies are likely to get, even artsy ones. All that said, I think this is a stunning movie, which, while speaking from a given time and perspective, manages to do some very thought-provoking things. It's a shame it's not more widely used in cinema courses and such; in terms of works that question cinema, and seek to challenge a too-easy acceptance of how the world is constructed by film, THE CONNECTION is as interesting as REAR WINDOW, PEEPING TOM, or any other classics of film-about-film, partially because it foregrounds it's theme much more explicitly (the junkies give the filmmaker ample criticism about his attitude). And YES, the jazz is good, but, in my book, it's secondary."