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"A business that turns snow into gold"... The Connection a la francaise
"The Connection" (2014 release from France and Belgium; 135 min. original title "La French") is an action crime drama, "loosely based on real events" we are reminded at the beginning of the movie. Those real events are the role the southern French city of Marseille played in supplying (some might say: overwhelming) the US with hard drugs in the 1970s. As the movie opens, it says "Marseille, 1975", and as we follow a motor scooter, the biker all of the sudden stops, and shoots someone in cold blood in a nearby car. We then get to know Pierre Michel, a magistrate who is just being transferred from Juvenile to Organized Crime. Michel throws himself with gusto into the mob-fighting, and along the way bruises with his colleagues at work too. At this point we're about 15 min. into the movie, but to tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: first, when a movie puts up a disclaimer that says "loosely based" on real events, you can bet your last dollar that the movie departs significantly from what really happened. How is it that "The French Connection", surrounding similar facts from the US perspective, was made in 1971, yet this movie plays out from 1975 into the early 80s? If you set aside historical concerns, this movie does quite well, actually. The story is solid and takes its time to play out. No, there isn't a singular scene as memorable as the car/elevated train chase as in "The French Connection", but there is enough tension in "The Connection" that it kept me interested from start to finish. Second, a major plus is the historical accuracy in the decors and scenery. Right away from the opening scene on the motor scooter, I was marveling at all the 1970s French cars (Renault, Simca, Citroen, you name, they're all there, and plentiful), which I loved growing up in Belgium during that era. Likewise with attention to clothing and such. Third, the movie is technically a French-Belgian co-production, and the Belgian investors required some scenes shot in Belgium. The Krypton night club scenes were shot in Antwerp, Belgium (my original home town), and the prison scenes were shot in Charleroi, Belgium. Fourth, Jean Dujardin has a meaty character and role here, and he gives a fine performance as Magistrate Michel. Last but certainly not least, there is a very nice collection of songs in the movie from that era, both French (Serge Gainsbourg, Mike Brant, Sheila, etc.) and English (Blondie, Velvet Underground, Venus Ganga, Kim Wilde, etc.). It's available on Amazon France.
"The Connection" opened last weekend at my local art house theater here in Cincinnati, and I finally had a chance to see it. The early evening screening where I saw this at was attended so-so, and that's a shame. I found "The Connection" always entertaining, never boring and at times outright riveting. If you are in the mood for a quality foreign movie, or perhaps just curious how "la French" (as the term 'French Connection' was referred to in France) is portrayed by this French interpretation of it, you cannot go wrong with this movie. "The Connection" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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