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Shaft and French Connection 1971
#1
SPOILER ALERT -THIS THREAD ASSUMES FULL KNOWLEDGE OF THE PLOTS OF THE TWO FILMS DISCUSSED:

The original Shaft and French Connection movies were playing on satellite recently.

I haven't seen either movie for years, and watching them was a curious and challenging experience.

Both films were released in 1971.

The change in production techniques is immediately striking. Certain technical elements had dated so far that they disrupted the essential suspension of disbelief: never ending, accidentally jerky, zoom shots (abandoned even in documentary years ago); scenes that didn't advance the storyline and should have been dropped in the cutting room or hacked way back to serve an atmospheric rather than narrative purpose; really dysfunctional timing in some of the edits and delivery of lines by actors. Etc etc.

Against that, both films still exhibited raw power. And, eventually, this enabled my belief to be suspended and the films to suck me in.

Shaft is more dated. It's blaxploitation roots (indeed arguably its creation of the genre) are both a boon and a curse.

Starting with Isaac Hayes' soundtrack:

Who's the black private dick
That's a sex machine to all the chicks?
SHAFT!
Ya damn right!

"Shaft" sing the backing singers - Shaft Shaft.

Now, forty-odd years later, the storyline of Shaft feels fairly conventional. Its power resides in its shoving of stereotypes quite literally down the throat of the viewer: an intelligent black man who lives a materially successful life on his own terms, sexually attractive to white women who complain that he's "great in the sack but shitty outside", whilst having a long term relatonship with a black woman, and - crucially - this "black private dick" is both smarter and more dynamic than the American-Italian detective who tries to use him as a bridge into black culture.

Shaft felt like a 2-hour continuation of the Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympic Games.

Fuck you, we're human beings, we will break the shackles, the chains, and live life our own way....

John Shaft is as much anti-hero as hero, a street hustler whose only loyalty is to himself. But still a potent, charismatic, figure who challenges bourgeois, (or as we say now MSM), assumptions.

The core strength of French Connection also lies in the reality it lays bare.

With the metallic, discordant, clanging over the opening titles, French Connection dumps you straight into its street life, with the deeply flawed Doyle and Russo hustling bars and dealers. These cops are not heroes, they're as much hustlers as the prey they chase.

Fundamentally, it's a work of nihilism. Every character in the film is fucked up. And the system is fucked up too. So, naturally, during the film's climax, rather than shooting the "bad guy", Doyle shoots a fellow cop, Mulderig, who thinks Doyle is a Grade-A asshole.

Artistic techniques change and evolve (not always for the better).

Ultimately, both films survive and transcend their 1970s technical constraints.

Both give the finger to lazy, numb, consensus reality, and their power resides in this.

And Gene Hackman is an amazing actor. He is "Popeye" Doyle, and he is brilliant.
"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war
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#2
I can't say I was ever that crazy about either film. A much better Gene Hackman film from the period is THE CONVERSATION, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Following the life of a professional surveillance man, the equipment used is obviously dated but the film's message is even more relevant today.

Director William Friedkin knows how to deliver thrills and chills in FRENCH CONNECTION, but as with THE EXORCIST and SORCERER, there's not as much going on beneath the surface. SORCERER is a pale remake of THE WAGES OF FEAR. And THE EXORCIST would only scare a conservative Christian brought up to believe that the most evil thing on earth is foul language and blasphemous sexual talk.

I'd love to see someone remake THE EXORCIST where the possessed girl carries on a philosophical talk with the priests: "So, who do you think is responsible for more death, suffering and mayhem? The devil, or the Catholic Church?"
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#3
I own one Blaxploitation movie.It's about a black cia agent who gets fed up with the agency abuse and decides to train a guerrilla army to fight back.I imagine the agency didn't much like this movie at all,and probably tried to supress it at the time..I see that the whole movie is on Youtube now.

Trailer:

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Buckminster Fuller
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#4
Hackman is a brilliant actor - from his gritty cynicism in Mississippi Burning through to his role as Sgt. Johnny Gallagher in the excellent film The Package, he is pure quality.
The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.
Carl Jung - Aion (1951). CW 9, Part II: P.14
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#5
Keith Millea Wrote:I own one Blaxploitation movie.It's about a black cia agent who gets fed up with the agency abuse and decides to train a guerilla army to fight back.I imagine the agency didn't much like this movie at all,and probably tried to supress it at the time..I see that the whole movie is on Youtube now.

Keith - that's great.

I see the film was released in 1973 - perfect timing for the false flag Cinque and the Symbionese Liberation Army.

The book was published in 1969, written by Sam Greenlee, of whom wiki tells us:


Quote:Sam Greenlee (born July 13, 1930) is an African-American writer, best known for his controversial novel The Spook Who Sat by the Door, first published in London by Allison & Busby in March 1969, and was chosen as The Sunday Times Book of the Year.[1] The novel was subsequently made into the 1973 movie of the same name, directed by Ivan Dixon and co-produced and written by Greenlee.[2]

Life and work

Born in Chicago, Greenlee attended the University of Wisconsin (BS, political science, 1952) and the University of Chicago (1954-7). He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. He served in the military (1952-4), earning the rank of first lieutenant, and subsequently worked for the United States Information Agency, serving in Iraq (in 1958 he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for bravery during the Baghdad revolution), Pakistan, Indonesia, and Greece between 1957 and 1965.[3] Leaving the US foreign service after eight years, he stayed on in Greece. He undertook further study (1963-4) at the University of Thessaloniki, and lived for three years on the island of Mykonos, where he began to write his first novel. That was eventually published in 1969 as The Spook Who sat by the Door, the story of a black man who is recruited as a CIA agent and having mastered the skills of a spy then uses them to lead a black guerrilla movement in the US.[4][5] In 2011, an independent documentary film entitled Infiltrating Hollywood: The Rise and Fall of the Spook Who Sat by the Door was filmed by Christine Acham and Clifford Ward, about the making and reception of the Spook film.[6]

Other works by Greenlee include Baghdad Blues, a 1976 novel based on his experiences traveling in Iraq in the 1950s, Blues for an African Princess, a 1971 collection of poems, and Ammunition (poetry, 1975). In 1990 Greenlee was the Illinois poet laureate. He also wrote the screenplay for a film short called Lisa Trotter (2010), a story adapted from Aristophanes' Lysistrata.[7]
Bibliography

Novels

The Spook Who Sat by the Door, London: Allison & Busby, 1969.
Baghdad Blues, New York: Bantam, 1976.

Poetry

Blues for an African Princess, Chicago: Third World Press, 1971.
Ammunition!: Poetry and Other Raps (introduction Andrew Salkey), London: Bogle-L'Ouverture, 1975.
Be-Bop Man/Be-Bop Woman, 1968-1993: Poetry and Other Raps, Cambrea Heights, NY: Natiki, 1995.

References

^ Chris Routledge, "Sam Greenlee Biography - Novel Became Cult Favorite, Enjoyed Brief Revival, Selected writings"
^ IMDb (Internet Movie Database).
^ Contemporary African American Novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook, ed. Emmanuel S. Nelson, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999.
^ Rosaling Cummings, "Local Lit: the relaxed rage of Sam Greenlee", Chicago Reader, April 14, 1994.
^ DeWayne Wickham, "Sam Greenlee's Book Is Still Making a Statement", ChickenBones: A Journal for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes.
^ "Infiltrating Hollywood: The Rise and Fall of the Spook Who Sat by the Door", IMDb.
^ Lisa Trotter page at IMDb.

This certainly deserves further research.

If nothing else, we know that the spooks are extremely, ahem, opportunistic.....
"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war
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#6
I watched The French Connection today. Nihlistic. Yes. But then that whole part of the sub-culture is. All shades of grey. No white hats and black hats. I don't know if it was just my copy or if it was made that way but I quite liked the colour it was done in. Muted, washed out and dull like. Not crisp and bright and shiny at all. It spoke well.

I tried to down load Shaft but, ahem, will make sure next time there are no minors in the room when I go searching....it was quite alarming....So it will have to wait as my memory is too long gone to be of much use there.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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#7
Magda Hassan Wrote:I tried to down load Shaft but, ahem, will make sure next time there are no minors in the room when I go searching....it was quite alarming....So it will have to wait as my memory is too long gone to be of much use there.

:pointlaugh::pointlaugh:
The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.
Carl Jung - Aion (1951). CW 9, Part II: P.14
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#8
Magda Hassan Wrote:I tried to down load Shaft but, ahem, will make sure next time there are no minors in the room when I go searching....it was quite alarming....So it will have to wait as my memory is too long gone to be of much use there.

We can't have that Magda.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, is the intro to Shaft.







It's a little slow, but its grammar and purpose are clear.

The streets.

Steam-driven pan past the movie theatres showing films about sex and violence.

Camera finding this black guy striding out of the subway into the streets, his big brown leather coat and manner establishing him as an independent dude, in control and confident in his environment.

The exchange with the street hustler reveals that he's some sort of cop but a fair-minded one.

Time for Isaac Hayes' soundtrack:

Who's the black private dick
That's a sex machine to all the chicks?
SHAFT!
Ya damn right!

"Shaft" sing the backing singers - Shaft Shaft.

You dig it?

Then, guess what, he walks into a shop to get his shoes shined.......

:dancingman:
"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war
Reply
#9
Magda Hassan Wrote:I watched The French Connection today. Nihlistic. Yes. But then that whole part of the sub-culture is. All shades of grey. No white hats and black hats. I don't know if it was just my copy or if it was made that way but I quite liked the colour it was done in. Muted, washed out and dull like. Not crisp and bright and shiny at all. It spoke well.

The French Connection is nihilstic.

It has the colour of the grimy streets, where everyone's hustling for something, and everything is for sale.

From the opening bars of discordant metallic music against black screen, everything is dangerous, flawed, compromised.

The only elegance is Frog One, Fernando Rey, gliding through hotel lobbies, even giving Popeye Doyle the slip on the subway of his own town.

Frog One, elegance and charm personified, is a big time heroin dealer, the French Connection.

The movie is anti-heroic. The little guys die brutally. Frog One escapes. Doyle shoots and kills a cop. Again. And then shrugs his shoulders and resumes the pursuit.

He is still obsessed.

He knows the war is meaningless and can never be won, but he loves the action of the chase, the thrill of busting flesh.


"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war
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#10
Jan Klimkowski Wrote:The only elegance is Frog One, Fernando Rey, gliding through hotel lobbies, even giving Popeye Doyle the slip on the subway of his own town.

Frog One, elegance and charm personified, is a big time heroin dealer, the French Connection.
Yes indeed. But he still has to hang with scammers and losers and scramble for his life through a derelict factory. Didn't look so elegant then. Interesting that he was the one who did get away though. Presumably.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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