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33 Things We Learned From ‘The French Connection’ Commentary

From 2012, we share everything we got out of the DVD commentary for William Friedkin’s Best Picture winner.
French Connection Commentary
Twentieth Century Fox
By  · Published on August 10th, 2012

Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, Kate Erbland recklessly chases a train through Brooklyn for William Friedkin’s The French Connection commentary track.

William Friedkin hasn’t always made odd films about strange characters who end up doing horrible things. He used to direct movies about little girls getting taken over by the Devil and edgy cops who crack down on drug rings. That latter part, The French Connection, is what we’re looking at this week, as it’s time to go back and listen to what the Killer Joe director had to say over one of his greatest films, a true classic with one of the greatest actors ever giving what is arguably — not very arguably, though — his finest performance.

But we’re more interested in what the director of that film has to say about that actor, that greatest performance, and that damn car chase. Friedkin is known for giving great commentary, able to hold his own on a track with ample amounts of information, personal insight, and views on the art of filmmaking and the business of movies as a whole.

Needless to say, we’re expecting a lot here, and Friedkin rarely ever disappoints. So strap in and check out all the wonderful things we learned listening to this commentary for The French Connection.

The French Connection (1971)

Commentators: William Friedkin (director)

Best in Commentary

“That’s really the theme of the film, the thin line between policeman and criminal. The cop who has the badge is basically an obsessive, brutalizing racist, and the narcotics smuggler is a gourmet, he dresses well, he loves his wife, he’s in every way imaginable a charming human being.”

“When I met them and actually went out with them on some of the narcotics busts they had pulled off, I could see that they were not only the two most effective cops in New York, but that they were having a lot of fun doing this.” -Friedkin about Egan and Grosso.

“What I wanted to do was a modern version of Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty.”

Final Thoughts

A lot of times, a director or actor going through step-by-step analysis of what’s going on in the film is a hindrance to enjoying a commentary. However, in certain cases like the one we have here, listening to a gifted and veteran director talk about his film in any capacity is a gift. Friedkin is fine with doing play-by-play for much of The French Connection commentary, because there’s so much else he has to offer. Particularly in the chase sequence, the director is very quick to point out anecdotes or explain out they did it. In this case, how they did it is quite remarkable.

But Friedkin talks so fast, relays so much information, and does such a fine job comparing the film’s characters to their real-life counterparts that listening to him explain the play-by-play is almost like hearing him tell us how the events actually played out. It’s a fascinating listen with one of the industry’s most talented directors, and you get the impression he’s very proud, and deservedly so, of this early work. You also get the impression he really wanted to crash those elevated trains.

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