Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
November 26
October 8, 1971
The French Connection opens

The night The French Connection opened in the fall of 1971, the director William Friedkin was on the phone with 20th Century-Fox hearing the good news. The gritty crime film he made for $1.8 million was going to be a hit. The movie ultimately made $26.3 million domestically and went on be nominated for eight Oscars, winning five, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (Gene Hackman). Having previously made a play-based film, Friedkin was worried about being pigeonholed as an art director, and wanted to establish himself as a old-time movie maker. Based on a non-fiction book by Robin Moore, The French Connection covered the real-world heroin trade between Marseilles and New York, with Gene Hackman and Roy Schneider playing two NYC detectives. But the film is less remembered for its plot as for its gritty, neo-realist look at New York City cops. Hackman’s “Popeye” Doyle was a far cry from the heroic cops of traditional police procedurals. (Interestingly, Friedkin had wanted Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, and Jimmy Breslin before Hackman for the role.) In addition, the free-wheeling hand-held camera style (that would be a mainstay for film and television decades later) and frenzied cutting created a raw energy that caught many viewers off guard. In the New York Times, Roger Greenspun commented on the film’s frantic energy, writing, “It moves at magnificent speed, and exhausts itself in movement.” For its famous train chase, where a detective follows an elevated train through the streets below, Friedkin later confided he edited the sequence to Santana's "Black Magic Woman," so while the music is not there, the rhythm is.


More Flashbacks
Casablanca November 26, 1942
Casablanca released

In New York City, stars, including Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, gathered for the premiere of Casablanca.

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November 26, 1993
Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould released

Few knew what to expect from a film called Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould when it opened in New York.

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November 26, 1993
A Life in Fragments

In the same month and year that Jane Campion’s The Piano was released, going on be nominated for 8 Oscars and winning three, a little known filmmaker from Toronto, François Girard, released Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, a bio-pic of sorts about the man that many consider to be one of the world’s greatest pianist. Taking its structure from Bach’s Goldberg Variations, the film mixes short pieces of documentary, animation, narrative (with Colm Feore playing Gould), and performance to throw light on this complex artist. Girard commented that “as Gould was such a complex character, the biggest problem was to find a way to look at his work and deal with his visions. The film is built of fragments, each one trying to capture an aspect of Gould.” The film also helped break open the biopic genre to all sorts of experimentation and transformation, as well as becoming iconic for innovative cinema. In 1996, for example, The Simpsons released their own tribute "22 Short Films About Springfield."

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