I’ve been doing a New Hollywood marathon over at Row Three for a little while now, but hadn’t thought to crosspost over here when I post a new entry up. Okay, let’s be honest, I’ve only done three entries aside from the initial announcement, but still. I watch faster than I write. Anyway, the 1970s is one of my weakest points in film history, so I’m reading through Peter Biskind’s book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex and Drugs and Rock & Roll Generation Saved Hollywood and watching the films along with it. I came up with a list of thirty or so films that I hadn’t seen (plus a couple I have but need to rewatch) that exemplify the era, and am working my way through the list chronologically. That full list is here on Row Three. I also invited the other R3 contributors to add reviews as they saw fit, so not all the reviews in the marathon are going to be by me, but most of them probably will be.
Here’s an excerpt from that post that lays out the importance of this era and why I, as a film buff and wanna-be critic, want and need to become more familiar with it:
One thing that has fascinated me as I worked on creating this master list is how varied the films are â€“ drama, comedy, action, satire, war, crime, romance, horror, western, science fiction, concert film and period piece are all among the genres represented. What they have in common: 1) a willingness to push the boundaries of what cinema was allowed to do and to explore themes of sexuality, antiheroism, and isolation that were previously taboo, 2) a sense of brashness and raw vitality brought by the eager young filmmakers wresting the reins from entrenched studios, 3) a tendency to focus on character and script rather than plot, and 4) a knowledge of and appreciation for cinema itself, from the masters of Golden Age Hollywood to the imports coming from Europe and Japan.
This quote from Biskindâ€™s introduction I think sums it up nicely:
[The 1970s were] the last time Hollywood produced a body of risky, high-quality work â€” work that was character-, rather than plot-driven, that defied traditional narrative conventions, that challenged the tyranny of technical correctness, that broke the taboos of language and behavior, that dared to end unhappily. [â€¦] In a culture inured even to the shock of the new, in which todayâ€™s news is tomorrowâ€™s history to be forgotten entirely or recycled in some unimaginably debased form, â€™70s movies retain their power to unsettle; time has not dulled their edge, and they are as provocative now as they were the day they were released. [â€¦] The thirteen years between Bonnie & Clyde in 1967 and Heavenâ€™s Gate in 1980 marked the last time it was really exciting to make movies in Hollywood, the last time people could be consistently proud of the pictures they made, the last time the community as a whole encouraged good work, the last time there was an audience that could sustain it.
And it wasnâ€™t only the landmark movies that made the late â€™60s and â€™70s unique. This was a time when film culture permeated American life in a way that it never had before and never has since. In the words of Susan Sontag, â€œIt was at this specific moment in the 100-year history of cinema that going to the movies, thinking about movies, talking about movies became a passion among university students and other young people. You fell in love not just with actors but with cinema itself.â€ Film was no less than a secular religion.
Throughout the rest of today, I’ll add excerpts over here from what I’ve already posted, then try to keep up with pointing out new articles as I post them on Row Three.
Some of the films that will be covered in the marathon are:
- Bonnie & Clyde (1967)
- The Graduate (1967)
- Midnight Cowboy (1969)
- Easy Rider (1969)
- Woodstock (1970)
- Five Easy Pieces (1970)
- McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)
- The Last Picture Show (1971)
- Badlands (1973)
- The Exorcist (1973)
- The Godfather Part 2 (1974)
- Nashville (1975)
- Taxi Driver (1976)
- Apocalypse Now (1979)
- Raging Bull (1980)
Click here to see the full list, with brief descriptions and images of each film.