The magnificent Five Easy Pieces (1970) is an exemplar of everything the Seventies Film aspired to be. Directed by Bob Rafelson (who also co-wrote the story), the movie was a product of the legendary six-picture deal that BBS Productions (Bert Schneider, Bob Rafelson, and Steve Blauner) reached with Columbia Pictures—one that traded small budgets in exchange for no studio interference with the product. BBS, with Jack Nicholson as a virtual fourth par
News and Commentary
Week Three of the “Politics of the 70s Film” featured Medium Cool (1969), a labor of love from quadruple-threat Haskell Wexler (writer-director-cinematographer-camera operator). I have written at length about this outstanding film previously, and more recently a short piece about Wexler as well, and so I will not repeat those efforts here. But Medi
Here at Mid Century Cinema we continue to shadow my “Politics of the 70s Film” class this semester; film number two is Midnight Cowboy (Schlesinger, 1969).
I’m teaching “The Politics of the 70s Film” this semester, and Mid Century Cinema will follow along, with a few words about each movie screened for the class. First up is The Graduate (Mike Nichols, 1967), a film that, in style, substance, and attitude, crystallized many of the elements of the emerging New Hollywood.
Jacques Rivette, one of the great and singular directors of his time, died January 29 at the age of eighty-seven. He was one of five young movie-obsessed friends (along with Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer and François Truffaut) who met in the late 1940s, each drawn like apes to the monolith in 2001 to film screenings at the Cinémathèque Française. (How obsessed were they? Godard and Rivette once showed up for an early afternoon showing of Orson Welles’ Macbeth; Godard watched repeated screenings through ten o’clock; Rivette stayed on till midnight.)
The allied triumph in the Second World War is remembered – fondly and correctly – as one of the great and inspiring moments of modern history, and the quarter century that followed was a period of economic growth and prosperity almost unimaginable in the context of the miserable decades that preceded it. But all periods have their troubles, and the immediate post-war era had its own healthy portion: real fear that the peacetime economy might slip back into depression, emerging cold war anxieties, and the chilling social paralysis that went hand-in-hand with anti-communist hysteria.
Faye Dunaway, who can stake a fair claim to the title Lead Actress of the New Hollywood, turns seventy-five on January 14.
“We were taught that we should question all the established values, all the taboos, and that the one thing we must continually strive for was a sense of self and a sense of expanding our horizons.”
In a tough week for cinematographers, Vilmos Zsigmond, one of the legendary figures of the New Hollywood, died on January 3. At the age of eighty-five he was still going strong, coming off a very busy 2014 and associated with a number of upcoming projects.
The great cinematographer Haskell Wexler died on December 27, six weeks shy of his ninety-fourth birthday. Over the course of his long and extraordinary career, which straddled documentary and fiction films, Wexler was probably best known for his incisive photography on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Mike Nichols, 1966). Nominated for five academy awards, he won twice, for Woolf and for the Woody Guthrie biopic Bound for Glory (Hal Ashby, 1976). Other notable efforts included his work on America, America (Elia Kazan, 1963), In the Heat of the Nigh