French New York

The French ConnectionLately I’ve been on a New York-on-film kick, inspired by James Sanders’ “Celluloid Skyline,” a hefty survey of Gotham’s cinematic history. Last week I watched “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three,” which may not hold up as a thrill ride, but it has a certain documentarian charm. Then yesterday I rented “The French Connection.” The last time I watched it I think I was twelve and it had been clumsily butchered up for the Saturday afternoon matinee on Channel 20. Its gritty details went right over my head but I remembered being floored by its brutal, epic sweep. That same feeling hit me with an exponential force this time, crystallized by the pristine DVD print, the ferocity of Gene Hackman’s performance, the gorgeously uncompromising cinematography, and William Friedkin’s pitch-perfect storytelling.