With Dennis Doros and Amy Heller
SUNDANCE 6 | THUR NOV 8 | 9:15 PM | Q&A
Director: Shirley Clarke
Cinematographer: Arthur J. Ornitz
Screenwriter: Jack Gelber
Editor: Shirley Clarke
Composer: Freddie Redd
Cast: Warren Finnerty, Garry Goodrow, Jerome Raphael
Running time: 110 min.
Shirley Clarke’s groundbreaking film The Connection is one of the most important and fascinating films of the American independent feature film movement. Created by a woman director, at a time when they were in very short supply, Shirley Clarke’s film shattered stereotypes in just about every conceivable way — and yet the film remained unseen for many years.
Clarke’s first feature, The Connection, is based on the controversial play by Jack Gelber, performed by The Living Theatre. A play within a play within a jazz concert, it portrays a group of drug addicts, some of them jazz musicians, waiting in a New York loft apartment for their drug connection. A producer and a writer, meanwhile, enter their lives to study them and write a play about them. Clarke changed the character of Jim Dunn from stage producer to a young, preppy filmmaker out to make a name for himself by documenting the “scene.” With this character, Clarke added a level of humor by poking fun at the new cinéma vérité movement.
A hit at Cannes, the film was promptly banned by government censor boards for indecent language, and a struggle ensued to have it theatrically screened in the United States. Receiving its theatrical run an untimely two years later, it failed at the box office. The film, however, remains an essential work among filmmakers today.
Arthur Ornitz’s black-and-white cinematography sparkles on the screen, and the performances of Freddie Redd and saxophone legend Jackie McLean sound impeccable in the new UCLA restoration.