Top 50 of 1960s November 1, 2007Posted by clydefro in : Classic Films, 1960s , trackback
As the weather cools and the leaves fall, the Lists Project’s oversized, bespectacled head emerges once again. After working my way through the 1940s and 1950s, the decade of radical changes is now up. The 1960s marked a stinging decline in the quality of Hollywood films, but the international output blossomed beyond expectation, enjoying perhaps its strongest decade in cinema history. Unlike the previous two lists I contributed, I’m not terribly satisfied with the number of films I’ve seen in this period. There are many that remain unreleased and even some things available that I didn’t have time to view. I still had a really tough time whittling a full decade down to only fifty films. (I don’t know what happened in 1965, but nothing released that year made my top 50.) Any previous writing I’ve done about these films has been linked to, and I’ve tried to be as brief as possible in providing comments and justifications for each selection (though the intended couple of sentences often ballooned to a full paragraph or more).
1.) The Apartment (Wilder, 1960) - A very personal choice, not because of a kinship to the subject matter, but due to it being my favorite film by my favorite director. Billy Wilder’s beautiful and bittersweet triumph was always going to be number one and I’d imagine it always will be. I’m going to refrain from any more praise because hopefully I’ll be able to put together a more in-depth piece someday, but I adore The Apartment almost as much as C.C. Baxter adores Miss Kubelik. (Here’s that more detailed review I hinted at.)
2.) The Graduate (Nichols, 1967) - An amazing time capsule that somehow has aged very little. Simon and Garfunkel’s music feels a tad ’60s, but I think it still evokes the timeless confusion of love. The film is the youngest forty-year-old you’re likely to find. And it’s actually very funny, too. Benjamin Braddock’s familiar awkwardness is flawlessly captured by Dustin Hoffman and the idea of “arrested development” of the young American male was given its perfect representation in Mike Nichols’ film. They’ve been trying to loosely re-make The Graduate ever since the original, but nothing has really come close.
3.) Le Samouraï (Melville, 1967) - Melville’s most perfect character in all his films is Jef Costello. Played by Alain Delon, Costello is an emotionless assassin who lives a spartan existence. Trenchcoat and fedora perfectly in place, he follows a samurai’s code and maintains a lonely solitude comforted only by a pet bird. Like the bird, Jef is in a cage, but his is of his own creation and he must follow the rules that go along with his chosen profession if he wants to stay alive after an uncharacteristic misstep. This is the quintessential Melville film, arguably his best and definitely the one that most successfully exhibits the sparse, no-nonsense approach taken by the classic Melville protagonist. Its inspirations are numerous, notably This Gun for Hire and Murder by Contract, as are the films it inspired, namely The Killer and Ghost Dog.
4.) Persona (Bergman, 1966) - I’ve seen eight Bergman films from this decade and this one packs the biggest punch by far. It’s really the only unequivocal masterpiece of his I’ve found so far, but that’s good enough really. Telling a ridiculously involving story of two women, one an actress gone mute and the other a nurse, the Swedish master explores themes almost never approached by other filmmakers. The two women share a home and, eventually, much more. The implication that these two women somehow merge is both extraordinary and unnerving.
5.) Lawrence of Arabia (Lean, 1962) - Few movies make instant legends of previously little known actors, especially on the scale of Lawrence of Arabia and Peter O’Toole. Premiere magazine named his performance the greatest in movie history not too long ago and, notwithstanding personal preferences, it’s almost difficult to argue otherwise. I don’t usually go for “epics,” but I really can’t comprehend how someone can sit down to watch Lean’s film (assuming the screen they’re viewing is of reasonable size) and not be awestruck. The reason I don’t usually like epics is because they often seem to eschew normal film conventions for bombastic spectacle. That isn’t Lawrence of Arabia at all. It could have been split into two parts, released a couple of years apart, and both would be equally as good as the whole. And has the film ever been more timely than it is now?
6.) The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Leone, 1966) - I always hear people rave about how great Sergio Leone is and the quality of this film, yet I don’t consider myself one of those zealots. Still, put this DVD in and I can’t take my eyes off the screen. Three hours (in the newest cut) of incredible entertainment and near-perfect execution. When Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef spend what seems like an eternity staring each other down as the camera creeps further in, I can’t help but wonder if any other filmmaker could have gotten away with such a dynamic bit of bravado. Somehow, it works, as does most everything in the picture.
7.) The Manchurian Candidate (Frankenheimer, 1962) - Of all the re-watches, I think this got the biggest boost. It’s really an incredibly gripping political thriller, as well as technically brilliant. Frankenheimer’s film also holds up remarkably well. It’s a good decade ahead of its time, considering the paranoia conspiracy thriller subgenre that bloomed in the 70’s. Probably the most suspenseful film made in Hollywood this decade, and one of the scariest.
8.) The Face of Another (Teshigahara, 1966) - This is the film that started me on the journey of writing about what I was watching and it was also my introduction to the Masters of Cinema line. I still find it fascinating and haunting, painful even. Masks and identity, what makes us who we are, and how can we change ourselves are all topics approached, but never explained by Teshighara and writer Kôbô Abe. Certainly a face is only so important and the physical nature of appearance, again, defines our actions only to a limited extent. I didn’t get a chance to watch this again in compiling my list, and I struggled with exactly where to place the film, but it’s as philosophically powerful as anything I’ve seen from the ’60s.
9.) Army of Shadows (Melville, 1969) - I saw this last year for the first time at New York’s Film Forum and was entertained, but, as with nearly all of Melville’s films, felt somewhat deprived. More characterization, more action, more explanation. It’s not there, and it needn’t be either. Jean-Pierre Melville had an incredible foresight, intentional or not, to make films that demand multiple viewings in order to better understand his characters and their motivations. His heir apparent Michael Mann is currently doing the exact same thing in Hollywood. Army of Shadows develops additional power and resonates on each additional viewing in a way few films do.
10.) Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960) - The best pulling the rug out from underneath the audience in movie history, courtesy of Janet Leigh’s untimely and still-chilling demise. I’m not sure how to best think of Hitchcock’s film, as it’s basically two completely separate halves of a whole, but maybe there’s no need to, as the director fills the brisk running time with wrong turns, red herrings, and a $40,000 MacGuffin. Copied and ripped-off past the point of excess, Bernard Herrmann’s scoring of that scene has rightfully become perhaps the most famous combination of music and editing in film. The psychological wrap-up feels out of place, but it’s somewhat redeemed by setting up Anthony Perkins’ final scene.
11.) 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968) - As visually stunning as any film I can recall, and it’s easy enough to understand the legions of admirers Kubrick earned with his sci-fi masterpiece. I think maybe some of its flaws are forgiven due to how impressive the images are, but I can’t argue too much. Who would have thought a glowing red and yellow dot could look so sinister.
12.) 8 ½ (Fellini, 1963) - Phantasmagoric is the first word that comes to mind when thinking of Fellini’s incredible film about a director (played by Marcello Mastroianni, but really Fellini himself) who loses his inspiration and can’t come up with an idea for his next film, despite the pressures of sets already built and casting already taking place. The black and white cinematography by Gianni Di Venanzo is probably the best I know of - truly mind-blowing. The other thing that really gets under your skin is how true to life and unapologetic Fellini is. He had a long affair with Sandra Milo, who’s in the film as the mistress of Mastroianni’s director character. Nudity, language, and violence are easy devices to stir up discomfort, but the seemingly cruel truths in 8½ open up wounds with such unapologetic skill that it’s startling.
13.) Antoine and Colette (Truffaut, 1962) - I may have oversold Truffaut’s omnibus episode in the Antoine Doinel saga as possibly the best of the series, but it’s still nearly perfect. Who knows why the director took his character in another direction when he continued making films about him, but I’m glad to have this little slice. It’s a much more faithful follow-up to The 400 Blows than the films that would follow featuring the character. The tone is very similar to Truffaut’s debut and Antoine isn’t hardly the bumbling pseudo-intellectual he’d become. As an aside, I much prefer the more romanticized view of France that Truffaut gave the world than the cold fish politics of Godard.
14.) One, Two, Three (Wilder, 1961) - I can’t think of another film from the 1960s even close to being as funny as the unlikely match of James Cagney and Billy Wilder. This was Wilder’s third masterpiece in as many years (following Some Like It Hot and The Apartment), though this one is the least heralded. It’s set in Berlin, with Cagney a Coca-Cola executive stationed there and in charge of looking after his boss’s daughter. Everything here is sped up and zooms by at a pace more fitting of the screwball comedies of the 30’s and 40’s. You didn’t like that joke? Well here’s another one.
15.) My Life to Live (Vivre sa vie) (Godard, 1962) - Far and away my favorite of Godard’s films. Here, the French director dropped his usual frigid tendencies and made a devastating film about a young woman whose struggles lead to prostitution. There are a few artifacts left over from Breathless concerning gangsters, that probably don’t fit here, but it’s a masterpiece otherwise. As an emotional viewer, I often have trouble relating to Godard, but this film hints at what he could have done had he avoided narrative-unfriendly political babble.
16.) Point Blank (Boorman, 1967) - “You’re a very bad man Walker!” I can’t help but hear Carroll O’Connor spit those words. This should be Lee Marvin’s signature role, a mysterious man on a mission in a film filled with existential angst and fascinating questions that remain unanswered. I love the fact that Boorman’s movie can be viewed with equal enthusiasm both if you take it at face value by following the determined Walker’s quest for his money and if you dig deeper to see Marvin’s character as a dead man dreaming of an out-of-body revenge experience.
17.) High and Low (Kurosawa, 1963) - Somewhere in my brain I can remember loving Kurosawa’s knee-deep plunge into kidnapping, class, and frustration in post-war Japan, but more detailed reasons fail me. Once Criterion takes their overpriced aberration off the market in favor of an improved release I’ll be able to revisit it and, most likely, be reminded of why I held the film in such high regard.
18.) The Hustler (Rossen, 1961) - A film that transcends its setting. Greek tragedy and sports collide for something that adds to more than the sum of its parts. Paul Newman had a career legendary enough to make picking his best (or someone’s personal favorite) role a difficult task, but it’s really tough to argue with Fast Eddie Felson. The great way Newman could combine charm with being a heel (see also: Hud) is on full display here. The actor was surprisingly unafraid to play nontraditional hero types before it became popular. I’m inclined to think this is his best film period, helped considerably by the accomplishments of Robert Rossen and cinematographer Eugene Shuftan.
19.) The Pornographers (Imamura, 1966) - Shohei Imamura has been seriously disrespected in the English-speaking DVD world thus far. Even his few films released digitally have been given little supplemental material, including Criterion’s extras-free release of this film. Though some contextualizing would do a world of good, I’m content just to have the film officially available on DVD. It’s a great film, really. Not one usually mentioned or recommended (possibly because of the dearth of extras), but a key entry in the Japanese new wave nonetheless. Plotwise, it’s about a man who makes his living producing adult material as a service for pre-internet Japanese pervert clients. Certainly the film goes beyond that though, and the pornography angle is barely explored and never exploited. Imamura’s voyeuristic camera is perfectly situated to implicate the audience and gives us just enough information to keep things interesting.
20.) Harakiri (Kobayashi, 1962) - On the strength of the relatively few Kobayashi films available on DVD, I think this lesser-known Japanese director is very much underappreciated. This film stars the ever-dependable Tatsuya Nakadai as a samurai who wants to commit the title ritual of painful self-induced death by sword. The multi-layered structure of the film reveals his reasoning and what has lead him to pursue such a seemingly undesirable fate. Really a remarkable and engrossing film, as good as most any samurai film Kurosawa ever made.
21.) Belle de Jour (Buñuel, 1967) - Still shocking look at an upper middle-class woman’s decision to stray from her marriage into a voluntary life of prostitution. The sexual psychology of the married woman is on display for everyone to squirm in their seats and remind themselves it’s only a movie. Catherine Deneuve is at her icy best, managing to look beautiful beyond words while displaying looks of disappointment, confusion, and satisfaction throughout the film. In some ways, I think this is Buñuel’s most perfect film because he refrains from his sometimes preachy episodes and focuses completely on Deneuve’s Séverine, a totally enigmatic and fascinating character whose actions defy expectation.
22.) La Dolce Vita (Fellini, 1960) - The great separation point in Fellini’s career, the one that perfectly bridges what would come before and after. It’s a little messy and probably too long, but that’s fitting, I think. From the opening statue of Jesus dangling from a helicopter and through Anita Ekberg’s famous Trevi Fountain bath, this is a true icon of film and a real signal of international cinema’s prominence in the decade. Fellini also became the first person in Oscar history to receive a Best Director nomination for a film not in the English language, a feat he repeated two years later with 8½.
23.) A Man Vanishes (Imamura, 1967) - Shohei Imamura’s fascinating look at the documentary genre, initially told in a straightforward narrative about a Japanese businessman who suddenly disappeared and the phenomenon surrounding similar vanishings. When the director reveals his own man behind the curtain to the audience and, seemingly, the subjects, it’s a moment to rival most anything in cinema history. Once the line between fiction and nonfiction is blurred, it’s nearly impossible to completely sharpen it again.
24.) The Naked Kiss (Fuller, 1964) - Pulpy bordering on ridiculous, but nevertheless brilliant in its own way. The opening scene alone, with a prostitute’s wig being removed and exposing her bald head as she slaps and scratches her pimp, all while the camera is putting the audience in a first-person catbird seat, is both intensely accomplished and daringly insane. Sam Fuller’s films are cinematic adrenaline injected right into the viewer’s vein. This is one of his best and most audacious, about the hooker who moves to suburbia to start a new life, but can’t escape her past.
25.) Au hasard Balthazar (Bresson, 1966) - Robert Bresson’s moving and characteristically downbeat look at the parallel suffering and sacrifice of a young woman and a donkey. The subtext and possible interpretations, for me, are more interesting than the film itself. A discussion as to what Bresson intended, in regards to Christian symbolism and such, is almost without limit and, in reality, without answer. I find little comfort in Balthazar’s plight, regardless of what he represents.
26.) Seconds (Frankenheimer, 1966) - One of the great, underseen American films of the decade. Like The Face of Another, its Japanese cousin released in the same year, Seconds is unafraid to explore questions of identity and the impact of the physical appearance on our psychological makeup. It’s a fearless, highly provocative film and a career highlight for Rock Hudson.
27.) Woman in the Dunes (Teshigahara, 1964) - By far Teshighara’s most famous film, even yielding an Oscar nomination for the director (the first for a Japanese film). Incidentally, have you ever looked at what the Academy nominated in the Director and Screenplay categories in the 1960s? I want that membership back. Back on point, this is a fairly uncompromising film about a teacher who becomes trapped in a dune with a female accomplice who’s just happy to have some company. Nearly limited possibilities for interpretation, with the line “[a]re you shoveling to survive, or surviving to shovel?” cutting just about as deep as one can imagine.
28.) Charade (Donen, 1963) - I think the “best Hitchcock film not directed by Hitchcock” label this movie often gets is probably apt. It’s one of my favorite films where you can start watching it at any point and immediately become engrossed enough to want to continue until the end. Also, a great reminder of older Hollywood films - big stars, light entertainment, mystery, romance. Just an incredibly charming movie, and Cary Grant’s last great role. Plus I’m always a sucker for European locations.
29.) L’avventura (Antonioni, 1960) - Either fittingly or ironically, depending on one’s viewpoint, I feel a little alienated by Antonioni’s films. This, his breakthrough and the first of a trilogy exploring themes of isolation and alienation, feels dauntingly highbrow and requires an enormous amount of work on the viewer’s part. No wonder the film was booed when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Still, there’s something there, a method to the madness or a bottom to the hollow well. I’ve only sniffed it, but I trust I have more to explore.
30.) Yojimbo (Kurosawa, 1961) - Maybe Toshiro Mifune’s definitive screen performance. It’s a mannered and superficial contribution to a fairly simple film, but wow if it doesn’t make all the difference. Combined with Masaru Satô’s perfect score (one of the most stirring and perfect I can think of), Mifune absolutely makes the film. Its story of a wayward ronin who helps a town fight warring gangs is fairly standard and not terribly exciting, but the two elements of music and lead performance are truly special. If I had to pick any one Kurosawa-Mifune collaboration to watch at any given moment, I think I’d pick Yojimbo. Regardless of the mood, it’s great fun and obviously has a lot in common with the Leone-Eastwood pictures.
31.) In the Heat of the Night (Jewison, 1967) - I guess this film isn’t terribly respected, along with its frequently dismissed director. Why though? Its treatment of race remains revolutionary, as well as engrossing. It’s not Steiger’s best performance by a long shot, but he’s still highly impressive. Sidney Poitier, in a year for the ages, solidified his legacy with the slap heard ’round the world, one that still resonates. Oh and it’s also a pretty darn good mystery procedural. I hope I never become so cynical as to not be able to enjoy this film.
32.) Billy Liar (Schlesinger, 1963) - I discovered this film not too long ago and was quite moved by everything in it, especially Tom Courtenay’s performance as Billy. As someone who (still) hasn’t developed much of a relationship with British film, this one hit hard and left a huge imprint in the process. It may sound borderline crazy, but I think this is the best non-Archers, non-Reed film I’ve ever encountered from the UK. I wrack my brain for another character similar to Billy, but I just can’t think of one.
33.) The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Ford, 1962) - A great late-career peak by Ford, teaming James Stewart and John Wayne as men of honor who share a secret that allows one to take opportunistic advantage of the actions of the other. Meanwhile, Lee Marvin has fun as the title character. The whole “print the legend” analysis has been done, but it’s maybe as good as any single idea in Ford’s film career. An entire period of American life lionized and for what exactly? False lies and newspaper sales? Truthfully, I’m not sure I enjoy any of Ford’s films more and I find the “message” here to be his most persuasive.
34.) Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Kubrick, 1964) - Like 2001, I only saw this for the first time last week. Not surprisingly, I loved Sterling Hayden as General Ripper. I hate to call Kubrick soulless, but he really sort of is and that’s always my biggest problem with his films. No evil is ever overcome and Kubrick’s world is never one you’d want to live in. Being a Peter Sellers fan, I was a little disappointed with all three of his roles here. He’s kind of underused somehow, only really coming to life as the British “exchange” Captain Mandrake. Still, the film has made its imprint on history and I only wish I hadn’t seen some of the better gags earlier. I enjoyed it (especially George C. Scott’s performance), but a slight disappointment nonetheless.
35.) Jules and Jim (Truffaut, 1962) - I have to admit that I mostly put this film here on the basis of the famous race. Sure it’s a great film otherwise, an atypical Truffaut picture and highly enjoyable without a doubt. It’s the more stylized parts that really put it over the top for me, though. Even if I don’t really fall for style over substance as a rule, when a director as accomplished as Truffaut decides to show what he’s made of, I take notice. A couple of years later, Godard ran his characters through an art museum. Coincidence? Maybe. Regardless, Jules and Jim feels a little dated now, sprinkled with views I don’t agree with and characters I find difficulty reconciling.
36.) The Fire Within (Le Feu follet) (Malle, 1963) - One of the things I love about Louis Malle’s films is that they often portray sick, damaged individuals with an enormously warm eye. Malle was not so much a devil’s advocate as a director interested in showing that there are two sides to every coin and situation. This is one of his very best, a dark downer of a movie about a man whose alcoholic days of youth have left him suicidal and deeply unhappy. Maurice Ronet’s eyes perfectly capture the lightly-buried sadness of the character.
37.) Mamma Roma (Pasolini, 1962) - Another early entry in my index here, and a powerful, heartbreaking film. Both director Pier Paolo Pasolini and his star Anna Magnani were displeased with the final result, but I think time has proven them wrong. It plays like Pasolini’s own spin on neorealism and Magnani is a force as the title character, a woman trying (and mostly failing) to move on from prostitution and be a mother to her teenage son. Magnani is on a completely different stage than the other actors, yet I think it works. Whether you find her performance cloying or sympathetic will probably determine how much you like the film.
38.) Pitfall (Teshigahara, 1962) - I wrote before that Teshigahara’s debut was “an unparalleled combination of the political, procedural, supernatural, and existential.” That’s still pretty much the best description I can come up with. Once you turn your mind off from worrying about the outward “murder mystery” story and give full attention to the images and sounds of the movie, it’s an intoxicating experience. If I had to pick only one box set Criterion has released (for whatever reason), their package of the three Teshigahara-Abe films on my list would win hands down.
39.) Bullitt (Yates, 1968) - Boo anyone who tries to say this movie is just a car chase. It’s Steve McQueen’s best role, best performance, and maybe even best film. His San Francisco detective Frank Bullitt is the perfect McQueen stoic hero. The film has a whole lot to say about corruption (police and political) and the futility of good cops fighting against a crooked system. The car chase is pretty great too. Regardless, I can’t understand the frequent complaints that this film isn’t really that good or that it’s too dated, etc. McQueen’s character faces a devastating ethical dilemma and must deal with the revelation that his entire career is at odds with corrupt and powerful men. The actor was so good at holding back when other performers liked to go too far, into a ridiculous land of over-emoting.
40.) The Silence (Bergman, 1962) - An earlier cousin to Persona, Bergman here explores some of the same themes he would in the later film while also looking at other favorite ideas like impending, anonymous war and various questions of life. This was the last of his trilogy and perhaps the most mysterious and least straightforward. Two sisters visit an unidentified country and inhabit a hotel room. One is ill, coughing up blood, and the other is a sensual and difficult mother of a young boy, who’s also along for the trip. Few answers are given, and I find myself enjoying films like this quite a bit, where the viewer is told very little and is met by strange occurrences left and right. Sometimes these kind of movies can be hollow, all style and no substance, but Bergman really was a genius in this territory and could seemingly crank out films bursting with human truth at will.
41.) The Professionals (Brooks, 1966) - I’ll acknowledge a bias here. I saw this film for the first time in a gorgeous print during a Lee Marvin retrospective a few months ago. How we’re introduced to certain movies surely affects our opinions, but reflection has caused me to believe this is a great one all the same. It mines some of the same “death of the Old West” territory that The Wild Bunch would three years later, except without the excessive bloodshed and slow motion. You can’t really ask for a better duo than Lee Marvin and Burt Lancaster, or a more a beautiful vision than Claudia Cardinale. It’s funny, has great action, and a cast as good as anyone can reasonably expect. A truly essential Western in a decade where the quality of the genre took a hit.
42.) The Wild Bunch (Peckinpah, 1969) - I feel like I should apologize for placing this film so far down my list, but I’ll just say that I appreciate it and that I’m in awe of William Holden’s performance. Otherwise, I think it’s fallen into a little awkward transition period (one it blasted the way for, to be sure) for the genre and now looks rather dated. A great film certainly, but one that has had its relevance chipped away at over time (no tomato throwing please).
43.) Divorce Italian Style (Germi, 1964) - In the two films directed by Pietro Germi that I’ve seen (Seduced and Abandoned being the other), I’ve noticed how distinctly Italian his work seems. Maybe that’s my ignorance and a play on stereotypes (though I’d like to think not), but other celebrated Italian filmmakers made more universally-themed movies while Germi was aggressively needling the tradition and policies of his native country. This film has my favorite Marcello Mastroianni performance, an infectious bit of comic acting, and may be even funnier in retrospect than while you’re watching it. Mastroianni’s character is married to a hag of a woman and he instead wants to be with the much younger and prettier Stefania Sandrelli, even though they’re cousins. The solution, since Italians could not divorce, is “accidental” death for the wife, and brilliant skewering of Italian law by Germi.
44.) Le Trou (Becker, 1960) - Writing these descriptions can be a little frustrating, like realizing I have Jacques Becker’s final film placed so low and not seeing any way to move it up higher. Anyone who’s enjoyed this intensely suspenseful and engrossing look at the methodical planning and execution of a prison escape will understand my dilemma. From the supreme focus on process to the meticulous use of sound, this is a highly accomplished work that’s both great entertainment and near-perfect artistic achievement. I was maybe halfway through the movie before I realized that I was hoping a bunch of violent criminals broke out of prison.
45.) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Hill, 1969) - For sheer audience-pleasing fun, it’s difficult to rival Paul Newman and Robert Redford as the titular notorious outlaws (but, apparently, reasonably good guys). As a fan of both actors, I love this movie. It’s not a perfect (or accurate, for that matter) western, but there’s little reason to judge every film by the same standards. Sometimes great entertainment is good enough. I think The Sting is even better, but this film is certainly enjoyable in its own right and another reminder of what star power and a screenwriter who knows what he’s doing can accomplish.
46.) My Night at Maud’s (Rohmer 1969) - I understand some people don’t like overly talky films, where the characters do little more than converse with one another and the action and plot are minimal. That’s an undeserved prejudice though, and Rohmer’s third of his Moral Tales is a superb example of how dialogue-heavy films can be quite interesting and far from boring. Jean-Louis Trintignant (star of The Conformist) plays a man who stares down his morals (stupidly, one might say) and spends a chatty, but platonic night with the title character. Trintignant’s character comes across poorly in my overly judgmental eyes, but I enjoy the film just the same.
47.) A Hard Day’s Night (Lester, 1964) - Really, just supreme fun and probably the best rock and roll movie ever made. A big part of why I enjoy this film so much is probably because it looks at The Beatles right as they became a phenomenon. They seem like they’re having the time of their lives, and they probably were. So many other pop bands got their own features in the ’60s, but most are just pale imitations of this model. Subtle satire, a direct link to music videos, and such a clean old man.
48.) Faces (Cassavetes, 1968) - I can’t say I particularly like this film, but that speaks more to the characters than to the quality. I think the Cassavetes films from the 1970s are better, but they’re not hardly as raw or grotesque as Faces. The fact that it looks so disgustingly grimy probably doesn’t help me enjoy the film, but it certainly puts you in an appropriate mood. It’s an incredibly important film, but not something I want to dip my toes in with any frequency.
49.) Il Posto (Olmi, 1961) - This is a very, very sweet film about a young man beginning his corporate career in the city and the awkward romance he finds. Almost impossible to actively dislike, Olmi’s film was semi-autobiographical and rings especially true as a result. The Italian director does a nice job of avoiding too much sentimentality and setting a near-perfect tone throughout. I hesitate to use words like “sleeper,” but that’s probably what this movie is. People who watch it tend to rave and recommend this and Olmi’s other Criterion release I Fidanzati over and over.
50.) Advise & Consent (Preminger, 1962) - Otto Preminger might have exploded in a cloud of pleasure and contempt had he made it to see the American political process this decade. Pleasure because of the almost limitless possibilities he’d have artistically and contempt due to the sinking truth of the matter. Forty-five years ago, this was the director’s response, an Altman-like bag of multiple storylines and characters that all feels pessimistic and too true. It’s not a perfect film, but Preminger’s provocative effort is still as good as anything that’s been made about its subject.
No I’m Not Crazy (Five gold-plated films with heavy reputations that I’ve seen, but chose not to include): Breathless (Godard, 1960), L’eclisse (Antonioni, 1962), Contempt (Godard, 1963), Playtime (Tati, 1967), Once Upon a Time in the West (Leone, 1968)
Last five I reluctantly had to leave off: Midnight Cowboy (Schlesinger, 1969), Petulia (Lester, 1968), Band of Outsiders (Godard, 1964), Eyes Without a Face (Franju, 1960), Ivan’s Childhood (Tarkovsky, 1962)