The French Connection (1971) Blind Spot Review

Happy 88th Birthday To Gene Hackman!

I didn’t even realize it was Hackman’s birthday when I decided to review this today as my first Blind Spot movie of 2018. What are the odds?! (Umm… 1 in 365, I guess???). Anyway! Happy Birthday, Mr. Hackman! Here are my thoughts on finally seeing The French Connection for the first time…

The French Connection (1971)

Directed by William Friedkin

Based on The French Connection by Robin Moore

Starring: Gene Hackman, Fernando Rey, Roy Scheider, Tony Lo Bianco, Marcel Bozzuffi, Frédéric de Pasquale, Bill Hickman, Ann Rebbot, Harold Gary, Arlene Farber, Eddie Egan, André Ernotte, Sonny Grosso

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A pair of NYC cops in the Narcotics Bureau stumble onto a drug smuggling job with a French connection.

My Opinion:

I’ve actually already managed to watch 4 of my 2018 Blind Spot choices and I’m not all that impressed so far. Here’s my ranking (I’ll review 1 each month):

4. Atonement
3. Gleaming The Cube
2. The French Connection
1. Citizen Kane

Well, the top two are clearly leagues ahead of numbers 3 & 4. But I didn’t like The French Connection nearly as much as I thought I would considering that I do love a good, gritty, manly 70’s film (I’m a weird girl). It was okay. The famous car chase was pretty cool. But, man – Hackman’s Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle was hard to like. That’s quite a popular character – I knew that name before even seeing the movie. He’s a jerk. But I realize that’s kind of the whole point. I’ll come back to that in a bit…

This movie won the Best Picture Oscar. I didn’t realize that when I watched it. I’ve added it to my ranked list of Best Picture winners I’ve seen HERE (I put it as 26th). It beat Oscar nominees: A Clockwork Orange, Fiddler on the Roof (another Blind Spot choice! Not seen it yet), The Last Picture Show & Nicholas and Alexandra (Oh wow – I’ve never even heard of this). Hmm. Yes, it deserved to win over those I’ve seen although I do like the controversial A Clockwork Orange.

“Crime drama” will never be a favorite genre of mine but I do appreciate when one is really good. This one is very good but I’ve seen better in the genre. I watched The Untouchables, another crime drama, for this Blind Spot thing last year. That was fantastic! I think a big part of that was the fact that I really liked the characters. Well, the Ennio Morricone score helped too. Fantastic score with well-developed, likable characters always works for me. I can’t currently remember the music in The French Connection (think it was jazz?) and I can’t say the characters are exactly likable. These reasons will be why I didn’t connect (ha!) with it quite as much but it’s certainly worth watching if you haven’t seen it. I do understand why it’s so well regarded.


Gene Hackman & Roy Scheider, who play the NYC cops in The French Connection, are both very good (Hackman won the Best Actor Oscar & Scheider was nominated for Best Supporting Actor). Hackman’s Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle is an iconic character & he plays it well. I know this is based on a true story & these characters are (loosely?) based real-life people. I don’t know how true to life the characters are. The thing that some people (aka: millennials. I may get in trouble for that. 😉 ) might struggle with when watching this nowadays is Popeye’s womanizing, racist ways. He’s not easy to like but, as I said, that’s kind of the point. He’s determined to solve the drug smuggling crime in this film and it seems he will do whatever it takes, no matter who gets hurt. This specific job becomes an obsession for him and I do appreciate the strong characterization. However, it does make it hard to root for the supposed “good guys” in this film.

Overall, I did enjoy this film although it won’t become a personal favorite. I do approve of its many awards & its status as a classic. As for Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, he’s an iconic character. He’s flawed but he feels real. I’d rather watch a movie with strong characters like these, even when unlikable, than watch a movie whose characters have no depth.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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The Conversation (1974) Review

It’s the final day of Coppola Week at Cinema Parrot Disco & I’ll be finishing with Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation. I’ve also reviewed his movie The Outsiders and his daughter Sofia’s movies The Bling Ring & Marie Antoinette. Yesterday, I ranked their films in a list of My Top Ten Coppola Movies.

Now let’s talk about The Conversation, which is one that doesn’t seem to get mentioned that much but is really quite good…

The Conversation (1974)

Directed & Written by Francis Ford Coppola

Starring: Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Michael Higgins, Cindy Williams, Frederic Forrest, Harrison Ford, Robert Duvall, Teri Garr

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A paranoid, secretive surveillance expert has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that a couple he is spying on will be murdered.

My Opinion:

First of all, let’s face it: I suck at writing “movie reviews”. 😉 I’ll remain spoiler free for anyone who hasn’t seen this movie but for those who have, you’re much better off reading this article HERE than my ramblings below. It’s Francis Ford Coppola being interviewed by fellow filmmaker Brian De Palma about the making of The Conversation. It’s a really interesting read considering it’s a conversation between two respected directors. Damn – Francis Ford Coppola doesn’t totally love Alfred Hitchcock movies, though!

I can see where Hitchcock comparisons were made in the above article as the plot of this movie certainly has a Hitchcock feel to it, which is probably why I enjoyed the story since I love Hitchcock’s films. As also pointed out in that article, its story is somewhat similar to the 1966 film Blow-Up but has a conversation being listened to over & over again that takes on new meaning instead of a photograph as in that film? Maybe – I did see Blow-Up a very long time ago but remember very little now. I should watch it again!

The Conversation is very good and I even prefer it to Apocalypse Now but I’ll admit that I also found it a little slow & dated. The opening scene was absolutely brilliant, in which Cindy “Shirley” Williams & the man in the above picture (not the stupid mime – the other guy) are being “listened to” & recorded by surveillance expert Gene Hackman as they walk around a loud & crowded Union Square in San Francisco.

One of the biggest strengths of this film is, surprisingly, Gene Hackman as the surveillance expert who has been hired to spy on this couple but becomes increasingly concerned with what he fears the outcome will be as a previous surveillance job resulted in people being murdered. I don’t mean to be rude about Hackman – it’s just that he’s one of these old male actors who has been around for years but I’ve never really “noticed” him all that much. He’s great in this role, though! His job has led him to be extremely secretive, paranoid, and obsessed with his own privacy. Or perhaps he was this way to begin with, which is how he ended up in a job which would result in him living a very lonely life? Either way, it means he’s unable to form any close relationships as he doesn’t trust anyone, which we see in the way he interacts with colleagues and especially with his lover (played by Teri Garr). Oh! Oh!! And I read that, basically, Hackman is playing this same character again in Enemy Of The State with Will Smith?? I mean, not the actual same character but one very similar. I wonder if that was intentional? I guess I need to watch that one again as well as Blow-Up! Anyway: Bravo to Hackman in this film.

You know who else is in this movie? Harrison Ford!!! It makes for a nice little American Graffiti connection with Cindy Williams. But he doesn’t have a huge role. Luckily. Because, um, his acting is a little dodgy… I mean, it was still very early in his career so who cares if his acting was a little “off” – the dude is Indiana Jones & Han Freaking Solo! Look at him – so damn handsome:

Summary:

I know I haven’t seen all of Francis Ford Coppola’s films but The Conversation is a very good piece of filmmaking that I suppose gets somewhat unfairly ignored as it came out in between The Godfather & The Godfather: Part II. It’s slow & subtle and not some “grand epic” like those but the mystery involving the couple Hackman is spying on had me intrigued and Hackman’s performance deserves special recognition. I forgot to mention during my review yet another movie this one reminded me of: the absolutely brilliant German film The Lives Of Others. The Conversation isn’t quite as good as that one nor as good as its Hitchcock comparisons but I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who likes a good “mystery thriller” with a great central performance. Don’t let my score slightly put you off as I rate mainly according to my own personal enjoyment & this one did drag a bit in the middle. If I was basing this only on worthiness, I’d give The Conversation a slightly higher rating. 

My Rating: 7/10

Since I couldn’t help but think of Laverne & Shirley anytime Cindy Williams was on the screen, here’s one of the many excellent clips from my beloved Wayne’s World. Zang! 😉

Unforgiven (1992) IMDB Top 250 Review

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Unforgiven (1992)

IMDB Rank: 93 out of 250

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Starring:
Clint Eastwood
Gene Hackman
Morgan Freeman
Richard Harris
Frances Fisher

Running time: 131 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film portrays William Munny, an aging outlaw and killer who takes on one more job years after he had turned to farming. A dark Western that deals frankly with the uglier aspects of violence and how easily complicated truths are distorted into simplistic myths about the Old West.

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My Opinion:

I always thought this was a cool Metallica video…

Hey – It’s me! Finally doing another IMDB Top 250 review myself. And I’m here with another WESTERN! Ugh. The two things I’d been dreading most from the Top 250: War movies & Westerns. Well, the war movies have turned out to be really good (The Bridge On The River Kwai & The Great Escape being my favorites). I’ve only reviewed two Westerns so far and…. they were pretty damn good as well! (Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid and especially Once Upon A Time In The West, which I liked quite a bit and will keep comparing to Unforgiven throughout this review). So, is Unforgiven as good as these? Umm… No. It’s okay but I’m not sure if it should quite be up there with the classics.

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I’ll repeat, though, that this has never been a genre I’ve been into so I wasn’t as likely to enjoy it as much as some would. This is one that Eric of The IPC loves and he begged me to let him review it here but, unfortunately, I have to work through the Top 250 that I’ve never seen and review them myself. For a more positive review, you can read his HERE. (Plus he MAY be reviewing a Western classic on his site tomorrow that I enjoyed far more than Unforgiven). 😉

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I think what didn’t work for me here is that Unforgiven felt too “modern”. I have very little experience with Westerns but what I HAVE seen have all been from the 80’s or later (Back To The Future III & City Slickers are awesome! Lol). After seeing one Leone film, I’m thinking that spaghetti Westerns may be more my style & I’m actually looking forward to seeing more of them. Maybe I’ll prefer a young Clint Eastwood in something like The Good, The Bad & The Ugly? Once Upon A Time In The West just felt & looked so grand and epic (and, my god, that amazing SCORE…). I didn’t get that sort of feeling from Unforgiven although I’m sure the filmmaking was just as impressive (I won’t pretend to know anything about filmmaking). I don’t know. I admit that my mind wandered during both these Westerns (and I may have gotten bored and tweeted for a while) but Once Upon A Time In The West is the one that’s stuck with me more whereas I’m already struggling to remember much about Unforgiven and it’s only been a month since I watched it. Hmm.

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I’ll say that Clint Eastwood gives a good performance and I of course loved Morgan Freeman as always – I’d watch him in anything. Gene Hackman’s bad guy, though certainly a huge asshole, felt a little too one-dimensional to me. I’m also still a little confused as to what the point of the character played by Richard Harris was – it seemed an unnecessary role. As for everyone else, I don’t think any characters really stood out except for maybe Frances Fisher as a fairly feisty prostitute who wants the men who’ve hurt a fellow prostitute to pay for what they’ve done. Ah yes – prostitutes. Must be a Western! Seriously, is that all women were back then?!

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I was hoping to feel something more for the characters than I did. I did enjoy Eastwood & Freeman but didn’t QUITE feel a strong connection between them. As for the story, I found it a lot more simple than I was expecting. It’s pretty straight forward but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – I’ll admit I’m still not 100% sure what the hell was going on in Once Upon A Time In The West. However, certain images and scenes from that one have really stuck with me and I can’t say the same of Unforgiven.

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Summary:

I didn’t mean to sound so negative in this review. Unforgiven is a good movie. Odds are, I’ll never LOVE a Western – they just aren’t my thing. I do have a lot of respect for Clint Eastwood as a director and actor, however, and he’s done a good job with both here. I enjoyed his scenes with Freeman and thought the ending was good. If you’re a fan of Westerns but for some reason haven’t seen this one, I’d recommend it. My ratings, as always, are based mostly on my personal feelings about the movie. If I were to rate this on worthiness alone, it would be higher.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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