Movie Musings: The French Connection and Realism

Posted: May 13, 2015 by Blaine Grimes in Movie Musings, Uncategorized
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MPW-77406I was recently afforded the opportunity to introduce William Friedkin’s The French Connection at my local Alamo Drafthouse theater, and I’d like to share a little of what I said that evening about how the film strives for a certain sense of realism.

Friedkin describes his shooting style for The French Connection as ‘induced documentary.’ This basically means that he used various cinematic techniques to imbue the film with a sense of gritty realism that wasn’t prevalent in police procedurals up to that point in time. He accomplished this stylistic feat in a number of ways. First, he used a lot of handheld camera work in The French Connection to make you feel like you are on the streets with Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Russo (Roy Scheider). Additionally, Friedkin “often had actors rehearse scenes without the crew being present; thus, a cameraman would not know exactly where the actors would be while shooting and would have to adjust and improvise like a television news crew covering an unpredictable live event.” [1] Listen to Friedkin describe the process in his own words in the video below.

 

By using these formal elements to bring a documentary style to The French Connection, Friedkin, in essence, paved the way for our modern predilection for gritty dramas and “found footage” films. Without this 1971 classic, cinema wouldn’t be the same.

Now I want to hear from you. What are some of your favorite movies that strive for a similar sort of realism? Why do you think these films are so popular right now? Sound off in the comments below!


  1. From The French Connection Filmmakers Signature Series, William Friedkin Blu-Ray insert.  ↩
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