Is Olivier Assayas our greatest living director? If we believed in such pronouncements here at Mid Century Cinema, we could see the argument in favor. But we don’t. More to the point, as we found ourselves screening his films repeatedly (and, like Kubrick films, they invariably get better with each viewing), and musing about this prospect, it seemed long past the time to discuss his work here.
News and Commentary
On April 22, 2017 Jack Nicholson turned eighty, and although he has been a big-time, world famous, larger-than-life movie star for over a third of a century, he holds a revered place at Mid Century Cinema for an earlier phase of his career. After ten years of struggle, at the end of which he was on the cusp of abandoning acting altogether, Nicholson put forth a body of work in the decade that followed which stands up to comparison with any ten year stretch by an actor in the history of cinema.
This week’s film was Sidney Lumet’s Network, a great movie that is so good and about so many things that one could talk about endlessly. But we have already talked about it a good bit, in a post from last year, and in a cranky review of a recent book about the movie. So with this post we will pull back for a longer shot, and consider Lumet as a seventies filmmaker.
This week’s movie was Elaine May’s Mikey and Nicky, a relatively little-known obscurity that should be included in any serious discussion of the great films of the 1970s. That this is generally not the case can be attributed to a number of factors. It was an enormously troubled production—May shot a lot of film (legend holds over a million feet, shedding cinematographers and shattering production schedules and budgets along the way), and she then edited obsessively and endlessly.
This week’s movie was Francis Ford Coppola’s New Hollywood landmark The Conversation, one of the three films produced under the auspices of The Director’s Company, a partnership formed by hot-off-celebrated-hits Coppola (The Godfather), William Friedkin (The French Connection), and Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show).
This week featured our first introduction to Robert Altman, one of the prominent figures in the New Hollywood pantheon. Over the final three decades of his career, Altman would release more than his share of great films—but there is nothing to compare with his remarkable stretch of nine films from 1969 to 1975, arguably the greatest sustained sprint of the New American Cinema.
This week’s screening for The Politics of the Seventies Film was The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), an achievement that represents everything the New Hollywood aspired to be: small scale, minor key, intensely personal, expressly cinematic, and ultimately indelible. “The King of Marvin Gardens is Monopoly minus the reassurance of toy money,” wrote David Thomson, an early champion of the film. “The movie conjures with the prospect of Hawaii, but delivers nothing more than an airmail blue shirt that will be stained with blood.”
Finally catching up with Alan J. Pakula’s 1981 paranoid thriller Rollover has us thinking, once again, about the magic of the movies. Another way of phrasing this question would be: “Why is Rollover so bad?” But here at Mid Century Cinema, we’re extremely wary of the good/bad thing. As we emphasized in our review of A. O.