One of the more fascinating aspects of the movies is their ability to reach across time and space and continue cinematic conversations that started long ago. Moviegoers will be able to peek in on that conversation next week at The Boedecker Theater where both 1971’s The French Connection and 2015’s The Connection will share the screen.

Playing June 21, The French Connection adapts the nonfiction book by Robin Moore into a kinetic powerhouse of a film. Directed by one of the decade’s hottest directors, William Friedkin, The French Connection stars Gene Hackman as Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle and Roy Scheider as his partner, Buddy “Cloudy” Russo. Their target: a $32 million shipment of heroin from Marseilles and the French kingpin responsible, Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey).

Chocked full of players both stateside and foreign, The French Connection never pauses to explain or clarify, favoring relentless energy over exposition. A storytelling tool so effective, the entire movie can be cinematically—and iconically—boiled down to the image of Doyle’s commandeered ’71 Pontiac LeMans versus an elevated train running through the heart of Brooklyn.

Doyle is a cop who plays with a loose set of morals and pure energy. Forty-four years later, the conversation continues with another cop relentlessly pursuing the Marseilles-New York heroin racket, only this time he’s not from the mean streets of New York but the picturesque south of France.

Playing June 24-27, The Connection, directed by Cédric Jimenez, revisits familiar territory and presents the flipside of the record, filling in the who, what, where, when, and how of the drug trade while positioning the familiar cat-and-mouse game at the heart of the story.

Stationed in Marseilles, police magistrate Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin) is slowly working his way through addicts and dealers up the food chain to drug kingpin, Gaëtan “Tany” Zampa (Gilles Lellouche) in an attempt to shut down a multimillion dollar heroin export business. Michel himself is a recovering addict (gambling was his vice), and like a shooter on a hot streak, he is willing to take this pursuit to the bitter end.

The Connection. Image courtesy Drafthouse Films.

And the bitter end is precisely where these two are headed. Michel is playing with fire, and Tany has ruled long past his expiration date. Both know exactly where this road ends, yet they are willing to run headfirst into the brick wall together and play their roles of cop and criminal to a T while the world around them pleads for sanity. These are not men; they are something simultaneously more and less. They answer to a higher calling yet succumb to their addictions like common drunks.

Stylistically, The French Connection was a revolutionary break forward, whereas The Connection is a throwback. The two movies meet in the middle, overlapping just enough to connect the dots without disrupting their individual continuity. It’s a fun trick, but more than that, it’s a reminder that just because the movie is over, the conversation isn’t finished.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The French Connection (1971)
Directed by William Friedkin
Screenplay by Ernest Tidyman
Based on the book by Robin Moore
Produced by Philip D’Antoni
Starring: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey, Tony Lo Bianco, Marcel Bozzuffi
20th Century Fox, Rated R, Running time 104 minutes, Premiered Oct. 7, 1971

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Connection / La French (2014)
Directed by Cédric Jimenez
Screenplay by Audrey Diwan, Cédric Jimenez
Produced by Alain Goldman
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Gilles Lellouche, Céline Sallette, Mélanie Doutey, Benoît Magimel, Bruno Todeschini
Drafthouse Films, Rated R, Running time 135 minutes, Premiered Sept. 10, 2014 at the Toronto International Film Festival

The above essay first appeared in the pages of Boulder Weekly Vol. 22, No. 46, “A tale of two cities.”