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.
News and Commentary
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
The great Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu was born on December 12 1903 and died on the very same day in 1963. One of Mid Century Cinema’s favorites, we celebrate twelve-twelve as Ozu day.
A milestone birthday celebration for Fritz Lang, who was born on December 5, 1890. Lang, a child of Vienna, would become one of the great directors of the thriving Weimar cinema that flowered in Germany during those tumultuous years between the end of the First World War and the Nazi seizure of power. Best known for the Sci-Fi dystopia Metropolis (1927), Lang also directed the silent classic Dr Mabuse: The Gambler (1922) and The Testament of Dr.
Finally, the fifth and last list of favorites—twenty-five films from the 1980s and 1990s. Again, and as always, it’s important to follow the Rules of the Game, but one reminder I will mention explicitly: only one director per list (and so any other films from that director which would have otherwise found a place on the list follow in italics). Wonderful films abound here—great films have always been made, and will always be made, even in the most dire of cultural settings.