Study Guide

The French Connection Music (Score)

Music (Score)

All That Jazz?

Composer/jazz musician Don Ellis was responsible for scoring the film, from the opening credits to the closing ones, with rumbling, slow percussion and low, mournful horns. Ellis began his career as a somewhat traditional jazz cat, playing for the famous Glenn Miller band.

But after traveling to Europe in the sixties, and discovering the progressive and avant-garde movements happening there, he began to compose and record independently, and his sounds became a bit more far-out.

The movie score, is, well, a little weird. The timing, marked by his background in ethnomusicology, is intricate and lurchy, making the score seem at times, as one critic writes "like a bad psychedelic experience [...] in a good way."

So what do you make of this strange, psychedelic score, when combined with such a harsh, tough story? We think it seems to make a compelling contrast, less underscoring or amplifying the story (as a traditional score would), than creating a sort of unstable atmosphere.

So even when Popeye and Cloudy are yawning in their car seats on yet another stakeout, the scene isn't ever boring. Instead it's haunting, tense, and even kind of funny. And that, friends, is the power of music.

Moon Shot

The shiny, glitzy optimism of the Supremes-like Three Degrees couldn't be more different from the mood of the film at large. So what gives?

It's a very different contrast than what happens between Don Ellis' score and grit of the script. Maybe it's a nod to the slick glamor of Hollywood, or maybe it's a reminder that through all of Popeye's hard work and tribulations, other people are having lots of easy fun.

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