I had not seen this 1971 movie since I was thirteen or so, and I was startled by how well I remembered the famous “subway scene.” This time around, it struck me much more as a portrait of the decline of New York City than as a plot-driven vehicle per se. “Popeye” (Gene Hackman) has no back story or love interest whatsoever, so I viewed this as a tale of how the dysfunctionality of New York simply was absorbing everything in its wake. It is perhaps the best movie to view to understand just how much NYC has improved, and if you click on the top link you can see they were not just filming in dumpster bin sites but rather in the heart of Manhattan.
It is striking how tacky, and indeed poor, the “rich people” appear to be when the movie is trying to make a point about income inequality. The critique of “the War on Drugs,” as it later became known, is ahead of its time. The shots of Marseille are lovely.
It is hard to believe they almost cast Jackie Gleason in the lead.