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French Connection II (1975)

NOTE: French Connection II is only available in a DVD 2-pack with the first movie.

Commentaries on this disc:

Commentary 1: Director John Frankenheimer Rating:6.5/10 (2 votes) [graph]Login to vote or review
Reviewed by Gavin Millarrrrrrrrrr on October 9th, 2008:Find all reviews by Gavin Millarrrrrrrrrr
This track starts well with Frankenheimer admitting he felt intimidated even attempting to follow William Friedkin's classic original and how it was the location (he'd lived in France) that finally persuaded him to take the job.
He has much to say about wanting to stay faithful to Friedkin and maintain the quasi-documentary feel of the original, stealing shots with multiple hidden cameras and capturing the dialogue live (despite proclaiming Marseilles the noisiest place he's ever been). With this in mind, it's a genuine surprise to learn that all the interiors (apart from the bar scene - a late edition) were filmed in a Paris film studio on beautifully realised sets.
Naturally he has much praise for his star, declaring Hackman the only actor he never called "cut" on for fear of missing something unrepeatable. The other cast members aren't ignored and we learn that Fernando Rey, being Spanish rather than French, had to have all his French dialogue dubbed by another actor; while Frankenheimer's joy at getting to work with Cathleen Nesbitt is still evident, not least in the reverential silence he maintains while she is on screen.
When we reach the beach volleyball scenes he reveals this originally lead into a follow-up scene that he was dismayed to find Fox had removed (as part of 8 minutes of cuts) after the initial screenings, despite the favourable critical reception and without his knowledge - sadly he wasn't able to locate the cut footage to include it on this release.
Unfortunately, despite such a promising start, the silences get longer and more frequent and what comments he does make in the middle third are mostly admiring remarks about Hackman's performance here and as an actor in general. It does rally a bit towards the end with tales of dealings with the Corsican mafia and mention of a different ending (or rather an additional scene, which he eventually deemed unnecessary) but it's not nearly enough to undo the damage.
As a film, Frankenhiemer's FRENCH CONNECTION II stands comparison with Friedkin's original, but the same can't be said of their respective commentaries.
Reviewed by Uniblab on July 9th, 2009:Find all reviews by Uniblab
Frankenheimer is, from the very beginning, cohesive and outspoken, never falling into the narration spree that plagued William Friedkin's commentary for the first movie. He's able to keep the mix of technical trivia, anecdotes and reminiscences quite balanced - he actually says he saw the movie the day (or the morning) before he recorded the commentary - and it's particularly interesting, and funny, to listen to him more than once introducing comments about the camerawork on the movie by saying "...now for those of you who may be interested in these kind of things..."; and also the fact that he refers the listeners to producer Robert Rosen's commentary about the "Mickey Mantle sucks" issue.
One annoying aspect of the track was a weird ancedote Frankenheimer tells about the filmmakers not only having accepted the help of real drug dealers from Marseilles as "production designers" (!), but also having agreed to change a specific technical aspect of the plot in order not to spoil the drug dealer's actual logistic scheme (?!). Frankenhimer even refuses to mention the original story element that was so realistic.
Overall, a quite interesting and satisfying commentary.
Commentary 2: Actor Gene Hackman and producer Robert Rosen Rating:6.7/10 (3 votes) [graph]Login to vote or review
Reviewed by Gavin Millarrrrrrrrrr on October 9th, 2008:Find all reviews by Gavin Millarrrrrrrrrr
Both Rosen and Hackman (recorded separately) admit to initial differences and difficulties with Frankenheimer, but ultimately both declare themselves very proud of the film.
Rosen enjoys the fact that, like his character, Hackman was a fish out of water in France (with the language barrier adding to the tension between the two leads), while Hackman admits he was initially reluctant to reprise the role, feeling too long had passed since the first film but in retrospect is glad he did, and he declares the withdrawal scene "one of my most important as an actor".
Sadly, Hackman's comments are few and far between (but always worth hearing) leaving Rosen to contribute the most, and he has many stories about the production (including a few that seem to contradict what Frankenheimer says on the other track), from his dealings (and drinking) with cinematographer Claude Renoir, to filming in the seedier parts of Marseilles, and major rewrites late in the production.
And he's full of praise for Frankenhiemer's filming methods, as he is for the French crew and the French people (and their cuisine) in general. (And he was clearly as enamoured of working with Cathleen Nesbitt as Frankenheimer.)
However, the track IS marred by several prolonged silences (one lasting a full 10 minutes!), but it's still good to hear Hackman talk about one of his finest performances, including wryly pointing out that he wasn't drunk in the scene at the end of the withdrawal section: "I just used my knowledge of liquor"! (And the last line of this drunken monologue also leads into another amusing (drinking) story from Rosen).
So not a classic track but still worth sticking with through those silences.
Reviewed by Uniblab on July 10th, 2009:Find all reviews by Uniblab
Producer Rosen is more articulate and easygoing than Frankenheimer, which makes this commentary the best one on the DVD. His account of the "Mickey Mantle Sucks!" saga alone is worth listening to the track, but he also has a lot of other anecdotes and stories, such as why he was reluctant about working with cinematographer Claude Renoir (grandson of the famous painter and nephew of the famous director) and the great role uncredited screenwriter Pete Hamill had on the movie. Curiously, as hinted by Gavin Millar above, his account at least once contradicts what Frankenheimer said on his commentary about the role of real Marseilles drug dealers on the building of the laboratory set.
Gene Hackman's comments, while quite good by themselves, end up being part of this track's problem. It's been edited along Rosen's commentary, sometimes confounding the listener because of some similarity between their voices, sometimes showing one of them repeat what the other just said. As always, an unspoiled full-length commentary by Hackman would have been great, since he's quite insightful talking about his acting in the movie, and also tells interesting reminiscences and even some funny jokes, such as about a red can that seems to never run out of gasoline.
As also said by Gavin above, the editing jury-rig also ends up being rather weird: on the second half of the track, the overedited mixture of voices gives place to a couple of 5-minute silent gaps.
A good commentary, that could have been great if not for such defects.
Reviewed by musíl65 on June 9th, 2011:Find all reviews by musíl65
This is a nice one. The main part is spoken by Rosen. You get a lot of information about working in France with a French crew. Hackman adds a few point about his acting and the meaning of this movie for his career. There are gaps in this track but it worth to stay on the track.

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