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4 March 2017: The Connection


The Connection
Shirley Clarke
1961 | 103 min | B/W | Digital

"Jack Gelber’s off-Broadway play performed by New York’s infamously bohemian company, the Living Theatre, was a beat sensation with its jagged and broken fourth wall. The unconventional play-within-a-play claimed to feature actual drug addicts and jazz musicians playing themselves as they wait for their dealer to arrive while the production’s director and screenwriter comment and bicker off-stage. Using practically the same mixed-race cast, Clarke recreated the seedy unpredictability of the experience within the very new device of cinema verité: a white, bourgeois hipster director attempts to make a document of reality by prodding the antsy junkies into outrageous behavior and pithy insights. The jazz quartet scores the film spasmodically while they, too, wait; thus, the camera and the sound are active, unsettled characters affecting the action. Clarke naturalistically depicts their squalid, absurd reality while unveiling the obvious manipulation of that reality. Mired in censorship issues upon its release, Clarke’s funny take on Otherness, exploitation, conformity, truth and judgment was somewhat subsumed by the sensationalism – obscuring the more subtle edges she describes of the contradictory integration and tension within many aspects of urban American life in the Fifties." – Harvard Film Archive 

Part of our retrospective on Shirley Clarke, generously supported by Milestone Films: