Study Guide

The French Connection Point of View

Point of View

Playing Both Sides

The Thin Line

A few years ago, Friedkin wrote that "the best cops are the ones who can think like criminals; and there is a thin line between the policeman and the criminal that street cops cross every day." Thinking that about that slim little line helps out a lot when you're thinking about how The French Connection story is told.

While Popeye makes unethical decisions, like beating up perps and fudging the rules, Charnier tells Nicoli not to kill our hero. That can make for both a fascinating protagonist-antagonist confusion, and a storytelling technique that's able to follow both camps. As a result, there's none of the implied alliance we get in stories with clearer heroes and villains—we don't really know whether we should be rooting for the cops or the criminals.

And sometimes, because both cops and criminals get equal opportunities, we don't always know everything. For example, when Charnier and his buddies are whispering to each other in a hotel lobby or restaurant, we have to sit out with Popeye and his squad watching them from around corners and through plate glass windows. We don't know what they're saying—we only know that outside is cold, and inside is warm and full of awesome food.

Some of the story is kept from us, and we want to know why. Do you have any ideas? Why would Friedkin decide to keep that mystery, just when we've gotten used to feeling like we know it all?

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