The Connection (1961)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
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Experimental director Shirley Clarke's first feature film is a no-compromise look at the dead-end world of drug addiction in Manhattan. Awaiting their next "connection", eight dopers sit in a bleak New York loft. The addicts agree to allow filmmaker William Redfield to shoot a documentary of their lifestyle--for a price. When their connection arrives, he suspects the filmmaker of being a narc and abruptly runs away. The film ends with Redfield agreeing to try some heroin himself in order to more thoroughly understand his "actors". While it appears totally improvised (especially a supposedly impromptu jam session with four musician junkies), The Connection was adapted from a play by Jack Gelber. Roscoe Lee Browne appears in the cast in one of his earliest movie roles. … More
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as Sister Salvation
as J.J. Burden
as Alto Sax
as Francesca Vanini
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Critic Reviews for The Connection
[Clarke] gets at the inner truth of addicts - that they're pining for transcendence in the void.
The film retains the same beatnik wit that the play effectively distilled, as well as a few scary shocks.
There is little about it to warrant the clamorous interest of the average moviegoer or to distinguish it as a significant piece of cinematic art.
Some creaky business with a Salvation Army sister recalls the piece's stage origins, but the music and the sense of 'dead time' retain a 'beat' authenticity.
Audience Reviews for The Connection
As a fifty year old movie about a group of junkies waiting less than patiently for their next hit, "The Connection" surprisingly does not feel dated in the least, especially once you get acclimated to some of the acting. In fact, Solly(Jerome Raphael) wonders aloud why heroin is illegal in the first place.
Actually, the movie's diverse cast is not the only thing that puts it ahead of its time. The story is framed as a documentary filmed by a two-man crew.(This is adapted from a stage play where I imagine the setup was quite different.) Jim Dunn(William Redfield), the director and possibly the squarest peg in squaresville, has only been allowed into Leach's(Warren Finnerty) apartment due to his cameraman J.J.(Roscoe Lee Browne) gaining an introduction through his pal Jackie(Jackie McLean). Jim's intent is for the addicts to tell their own stories which the cameras only make harder for them to do, fearing what the police could do with the footage.
Depending on who you talk to, Leach, who is being severely bothered by a boil on his neck, is gay. There are naked photos of both men and women scattered around the apartment. He promises to invite women to the party but the one that does show up is the last one you would ever expect. It's tempting to only view the apartment as a squat, dingy as it is, but considering how populated it is by musicians, it is definitely more like a musicians' union, with only Solly and Leach lacking any musical inclination.(Were there that many jazz musicians hooked on drugs or was that just a stereotype?) Ernie(Garry Goodrow) does not play but that's only because he pawned his instrument. All of which lends a jazzy flavor to the soundtrack. The only problem is the movie eventually loses its way but that's junkies for you.
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