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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Connection [Blu-ray]


(Shirley Clarke, 1962)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Films Around the World

Video: Milestone Films



Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:42:58.297

Disc Size: 44,798,419,448 bytes

Feature Size: 30,602,570,880 bytes

Video Bitrate: 36.09 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: February 24th, 2015



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit



• English (SDH), None



• The Connection Home Movies (6:27)
A Conversation with Albert Brenner (4:40 )
Connecting with Freddie Redd (27:32)
The Connection-Behind The Scenes. (5:50)
The Connection trailer (1:36)
Carl and Max at the Chelsea (4:17)
Two 45rpm songs: Who Killed Cock Robin (2:10) and I’m in Love (1:55)
One of the bonus features listed on the box cover was a 29-minute radio interview. Due to the poor quality of the sound (and the fact that it didn't really pertain to THE CONNECTION), it was left off at the last minute. However! you can now listen to it for free on Milestone's Vimeo site HERE.





Description: THE CONNECTION is one of the most vital, fascinating films of the American independent world. Created by a woman director, Shirley Clarke, at a time when they were in very short supply, the film shattered stereotypes in just about every conceivable way. And yet, the film remained unseen for many years.

Shirley Clarke was a vital part of the burgeoning post-war American film movement. She was one of the first signers — and the only woman — of the New American Cinema manifesto in 1961. For her first feature film, she decided to take on a controversial play by Jack Gelber that was running off-Broadway. The Connection was a play within a play within a jazz concert. It portrayed 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, have entered their lives to study them and write a play about them. The brilliantly written Beat dialogue was blended with jazz music written by the great pianist Freddie Redd.

Clarke changed the character of the writer to Jim Dunn, a young, preppy filmmaker out to make a name for himself by documenting the "scene." As Clarke was best friends with the hot new indie directors, she added a level of humor by poking fun at the cinema vérité movement. She also chose to keep the play's one-set constriction, but she combined the French New Wave’s mobile camera with a whirling choreography of movement and jazz to create an exciting, kinetic film that was acclaimed at the Cannes International Film Festival as a masterpiece. Yet even knowing the avant garde nature of the play and her film, little could Clarke recognize the furor the film was about to create.

Although Hollywood had previously depicted drug addiction in the recent years, it was mostly of the good men gone bad scenario with tragic endings. THE CONNECTION, with the raw, graphic depiction of drug addicts that Gelber wrote for the stage, A hit at Cannes, it was promptly banned by government censor boards for indecent language and a struggle ensued to have it theatrically screened in the United States. After a two-year battle, the producers and director ultimately won in court and as important as it was judicially, it was sadly a case of too little too late as the film lost its timeliness and failed at the box office. But among filmmakers, it was highly influential. The film has been out of distribution since the early 1980s.

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. The release of THE CONNECTION is one of the cinema events of the year!



The Film:

Experimental director Shirley Clarke's first feature film is a no-compromise look at the dead-end world of drug addiction in Manhattan. Awaiting their next "connection", eight dopers sit in a bleak New York loft. The addicts agree to allow filmmaker William Redfield to shoot a documentary of their lifestyle--for a price. When their connection arrives, he suspects the filmmaker of being a narc and abruptly runs away. The film ends with Redfield agreeing to try some heroin himself in order to more thoroughly understand his "actors". While it appears totally improvised (especially a supposedly impromptu jam session with four musician junkies,) The Connection was adapted from a play by Jack Gelber. Roscoe Lee Browne appears in the cast in one of his earliest movie roles.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

The gimmicky premise of Jack Gelber's play - that those were real junkies up on the stage waiting for their fix, killing time by improvising jazz and making with street-jive monologues - probably makes more sense as a movie than it ever did in the theatre. Clarke films it as if it were documentary (so that when the cameraman himself takes a fix, the camera-work goes to pieces), and the Living Theatre actors are convincing enough to sustain this close a scrutiny. Some creaky business with a Salvation Army sister recalls the piece's stage origins, but the music and the sense of 'dead time' retain a 'beat' authenticity.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film Guide located HERE


Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The Connection was preserved from the original 35mm picture and soundtrack negatives which were edited by Shirley Clarke to the film's 103-minute release version and from a 35mm fine grain master positive. The preservation was completed in 2004. It looks very satisfying on Blu-ray from Milestone Films. This is dual-layered with a max'ed out bitrate and contrast looks pristine from the restored source. The black levels are impressive throughout and there is a smattering of grain texture visible with the high level of detail. There is occasional depth and I would think this is a very close approximation of how The Connection looked more than 1/2 a century ago. The Blu-ray provides a very worthy HD presentation. All good here.


















Audio :

Milestone use a linear PCM 2.0 channel mono track at 1536 kbps. The transfer is definitely keeping within the spirit of the film's realism. The wonderful Jazz music in The Connection is by Freddie Redd - the American hard-bop (subgenre of jazz that is an extension of bebop) pianist and composer. Moments are surprisingly crisp at times. There are optional English subtitles available and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.



Extras :

The Connection Home Movies are 16mm, 6.5 minute, footage courtesy of the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research. an interesting vintage inclusion. We also get a lot more - 5 minutes in a conversation with Albert Brenner - in charge of art direction in The Connection. Connecting with Freddie Redd spends almost a 1/2 hour with the pianist and composer reflecting on his work in The Connection. There is six minutes of The Connection-Behind The Scenes which features Jack Gelber and his son Jed, said to have been shot on the last day of filming. There is a trailer, Carl and Max at the Chelsea and two, audio-only, 45 rpm songs: Who Killed Cock Robin (2:10) and I’m in Love (1:55). NOTE: one of the bonus features listed on the box cover was a 29-minute radio interview. Due to the poor quality of the sound (and the fact that it didn't really pertain to The Connection), it was left off at the last minute. It is, however, available on Milestone's Vimeo site HERE.



Magnificent. Shirley Clarke's first feature effort is absolute brilliance. The Connection is a total gem - I feel privileged to have seen it looking and sounding so marvelous. The Milestone Blu-ray (and I love the cover!) is top-shelf. I was thankful to actually see this film at all and this 1080P will prove to be the best way to watch it in your home theater. Very strongly recommended! 

Gary Tooze

February 13th, 2015

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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Gary W. Tooze






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