The Connection appears to be one of those legendary "firsts" like Citizen Kane or Breathless, which not only excel filmically, but also set standards for other film work. In short, The Connection is important. There is no doubt that in many ways this will be a pace-setting film, from the points of view of form, impact, and method of production. (pp. 13-14)
The Connection [breaks] long-established movie axioms. For one thing, the camera plays a part in the film itself, and thus a new kind of audience identification is created, which borders on audience participation; the camera represents the viewer. This, in fact, is part of the intention of its appearance: the actors … are confronted by its peering presence, and begin to act for it, so that their reality is geared to the intrusion of the spectator. This is as close as film has ever come to providing the creative "feedback" which live performances often cause as a result of the interaction between actor and audience….
The importance of The Connection is not so much in the manner in which it was made or in its final quality. It is important primarily because it was made, and because it was made with a clear consciousness of audience participation. This is really a most important point, and one which ties in with the work of film-makers in Italy (Antonioni), Japan (Kurasawa), France (Godard), and Poland (Wajda), who are all working toward the establishment of a new, expressive cinematic syntax, the basic element of which is greater allowance for public intelligence and discrimination. All the films made by these people, and The Connection perhaps most of all, are antifilmic in the sense that they do not explain but present, and that only to the extent that nature presents itself to the artist to be moulded in his vision. (p. 14)
Gideon Bachmann, "Shirley Clarke," in Film Quarterly (copyright 1961 by The Regents of the University of California; reprinted by permission of the University of California Press), Vol. XIV, No. 3, Spring, 1961, pp. 13-14.