While the Living Theater’s production of Jack Gelber’s play made the audience squirm, Shirley Clarke’s film version of THE CONNECTION practically put them on trial, at least according to reports following the premiere. The film shows a group of drug-addict musicians waiting for their “connection” in a New York apartment while a two-man documentary team films the proceedings. The drug dealer arrives in the company of a female street preacher. By the time the filmmaker, whose bible is Kracauer’s Theory of Film, demands that the dealer stop looking at him and reaches for his camera as if it were a weapon, the power relations have shifted irrevocably. The film team and the protagonists grapple with questions of ethics and society as well as the relationship between reality and fiction in a dizzying choreography of different states: clear-headedness, intoxication, and withdrawal. The camera – sometimes hand-held, sometimes stationary – becomes the main character, appearing to possess not just a body and mind but a conscience as well.
THE CONNECTION dissects cinema itself and has entered into the annals of film history as both a milestone of cinema vérité and a jazz musical.