8 July 2006 | Ham_and_Egger
Staged, grungy, bleak, experimental, and despite it all quite entertaining.
A remarkably tense and anxious little film about a group of junky musicians "waiting for their man" in a New York flophouse loft. They're joined by a documentary film crew (just a director and a cameraman) whose goal seems to be some sort of cinéma vérité about the life of junky musicians who wait in flophouse lofts.
After a few introductions, and comical "act natural" type instructions from the documentary director, the characters take turns addressing the camera. They nervously rant, philosophize, and insult each other, interrupted occasionally by improvised jazz from several legitimate musicians in the cast (most notably pianist Freddie Redd and tenor sax player Jackie McLean). The anxiety they feel as they wait for their fix is brilliantly conveyed by both the actors and the director (this time I mean the real director, Shirley Clarke, not the actor portraying the documentary director, got it?)
Much of this conveyed anxiety comes from the fact that the film is a strange and slightly unsettling mix of stark realism and stage acting (it is a filmed version of a play from the New York theater scene of the day). This is an unusual film and it honestly takes some getting used to, though probably less now taking into account the glut of nauseatingly self-conscious "mockumentaries" and hyper-stylized "reality shows" we are plagued with today.
The Connection is something different, matching edgy subject matter with edgy film-making the producers were working very much without a net. Consequently some might think it ends in disaster, I think it's a highly interesting experiment that's well worth watching.