Shirley Clarke

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Raymond Durgnat

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 445

At first I thought [The Connection] was pretending to watch its own gestation so that we should feel like we're in the actual pad, man. But this pseudo-Pirandellism is self-defeating. The screen is a place of the mind and the spectator is present "in" any film from the moment he starts caring what will happen next. All aesthetic hoopdedoo meant to convince us we are not in a cinema only reminds us we are; and the equivalent of a play which admits it is a play in a theatre, is a film which admits it is a film in a cinema, that is, either a filmed interview, or (in this case) a film about an intelligent director making the honest film which we see. A film about another film creates no more illusion of reality than a film about a stageshow, and only cramps and flattens the inner subject. This film's unusually pedantic pretence of "actuality" only focuses our attention on the quality of pretence—the long takes, the beautiful compositions-in-depth, the clever stage management (all unhip virtues) and too many clangers, e.g. the jazzmen go straight from absolute silence to really groovy stuff without so much as tuning-up, while the cameraman for some mysterious and therefore obtrusive motive never cuts however often the director yells "Cut".

So possibly The Connection is also about the disconnection between "them" and "us"—you're either an addict or an outsider and never the twain shall meet; all you can get is teasing glimpses. But the film cheapens this issue of non-communication because Dunn is a hopelessly petulant 'stooge', a young male Aunt Sally representing the earnestness of modern Art. As all the non-junkies are as eccentric as the junkies one guesses this is really a farce, that is, a compassionate anti-tragedy about both the addicts and the others. This hipster's in-joke doesn't really facilitate our connection….

It is truest when the people as people prevail over their function as rebellious 'props'. We catch the peculiar combination of lethargy and impatience of waiting for a fix, and (by a rigidly non-subjective, exterior attitude) a sense of the childlike yet grotesquely desperate abandon as the junkies get 'high'. Some of the group shots evoke an inertia compared to which Hamm and Clov are Keystone Cops, and a loneliness by comparison to which the finale of The Chairs is community hymn-singing….

The Connection needles but we don't get high. Still, it usefully widens the loopholes in our ignorance, and so is worth seeing. In the bigger leagues it is a small success.

Raymond Durgnat, "'The Connection'" (© copyright Raymond Durgnat 1962; reprinted with permission), in Films and Filming, Vol. 8, No. 4, January, 1962, p. 31.

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