If that's not a drop I'll open up a charge for you at Bloomingdale's.

If that’s not a drop I’ll open up a charge for you at Bloomingdale’s.

 

Two days before Christmas, I chased a Toronto streetcar as fast as I could run for two and a half city blocks. That day I learned two things. One – I am brutally out of shape if I cannot run for more than two and a half blocks before my heart seems ready to leap out of my chest. Two – losing something isn’t the worst thing in the world; what’s worse is losing it when you can still see the loss.

The reason I was chasing this streetcar was because I knew my cellphone had been left on it. I might have not felt as frustrated discovering later in the day that the phone was gone. In that moment though, the stress was at a fever pitch because my screw-up hadn’t fully taken effect yet.

My point is, when something is getting away from you, seeing it go brings upon a special level of frustration and stress that you don’t get with it just being gone. For a moment you feel like you can still change the course of things…still have your way…but the universe knows better and is just toying with you.

That is what has always made this shot from THE FRENCH CONNECTION so tangible to me. It’s not that Popeye Doyle has lost his man…that the Frenchman has given him the slip. It’s that he still seems attainable – he’s right there behind those sliding doors and that thin piece of plexiglass. The train is just creeping away, not rocketing at a pace that cannot be matched. He’s in that moment between going and gone, but he knows that in just seconds it’ll be the latter…

…so he waves.

He spikes the ball – taking Doyle’s moment of loss and reminding him that even though it seems like it isn’t permanent, it absolutely is. The train may be in sight, might even be reachable, but Doyle is about to lose – and the Frenchman is showing him that he has won.

Just like that crawling streetcar that I chased, or a concert ticket floating on the water under a sewer grate, there’s a civility to the mocking in this shot. It’s as if fate has shrugged and said “Whaddayagonnado?”, instead of thumbing its nose at us and flipping the bird.

The weird thing though is that seeing the dominoes fall like this is even more frustrating. Had the slip been instant – had Doyle turned around and just lost sight of him, shock would have taken over and the loss would be easier to swallow. However, because it seems, even for a moment or two that something can be done about it, real angst takes over and Doyle goes through the seven stages of grief all in one quick succession.

We always say that we want the bad things to be quick and painless. Nobody wants it to be drawn-out and excruciating.

We especially don’t want it to wave at us as it happens…

 

Three more from THE FRENCH CONNECTION for the road…

 

popeye

getaway

heroin

 

This series of posts is inspired by the “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” series at The Film Experience. Do check out all of the awesome entires in their series so far