Thursday, 5 November 2015

French Connection II

A little while ago, I wrote a review here of the classic 1971 movie The French Connection. The sequel, French Connection II, released in 1975, is a creditable effort, if lacking some of the magic of its predecessor. Of course, direct comparisons have to be qualified, as the second picture was entirely fictional, and had different writers and a different director (John Frankenheimer).

The story carries on from where The French Connection left off, Popeye Doyle travelling to France on the trail of the Charnier character, who it transpires had eluded capture. Naturally, there is more of a French or European flavour to this one, and I like the fact that bits of the dialogue are in the local lingo, adding a touch of authenticity. Much of the early part of the film deals with Doyle's difficulties in coming to terms with the French culture and addressing the language barrier.

As a matter of fact, Doyle's struggles in dealing with the French police, and in particular Barthelemy (Bernard Fresson), form a sizeable portion of the narrative. An uneasy relationship prevails, with Doyle's abrasive personality and pugnacious approach clashing with French methods. The more seedy parts of Marseille, and also the waterfront area, make for good settings. The chase scenes (on foot) are also impressive.

For me the heart of the film is Doyle's capture by the villains, and his subsequent agonies as he experiences drug withdrawal under the supervision of Barthelemy. Some of the scenes are quite harrowing and disturbing,  Doyle's ordeal being inter-cut with the frantic efforts of the French police to find him. Even more than the first film this one starkly illustrates the pitiless nature of the drug trade, and the extreme measures to which all parties are prepared to resort.

It seems to me that the nature of the storyline in this picture permits greater scope for Gene Hackman to display his acting range, especially the "cold turkey" sequences. There may be less grit and suspense here than in the original movie, but the "human" aspects largely make up for this, particularly the often bizarre and acrimonious exchanges between Doyle and Barthelemy.

The scenes which happen towards the close of the movie are spectacular, exciting and action-packed.I really enjoy this movie. All things considered, a worthy sequel.

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