Friday, June 20, 2014

1967 in Film: My 10 Favourite Films from the Year I Was Born

Yes faithful readers and true believers, your not-so-humble narrator is turning 47 in less than two weeks. I know, I know, I don't look a day over 46. Anyway, born in the so-called Summer of Love (conceived in the Winter of Our Discontent, as the old joke goes) this seems to be as good a time as any to talk about the films of that long ago year, and give my faithful readers my choices for the ten best films of said year. Actually any time is a good time to concoct a movie list, or any list for that matter - the upcoming birthday celebration just gives it a wee bit more legitimacy. But there is more than mere list wish fulfillment going on here. In truth, this blog post is my contribution to the 1967 in Film Blogathon, a fun new blogging event co-hosted by the fine folks over at Rosebud Cinema and Silver Screenings. Glad to be a small part of the fun. Oh, and as is usually the case, Here are a few films that did not make the list but can serve as runners-up. These films are (in no particular order) Glauber Rocha's Terra em Transe; John Huston's Reflections in a Golden Eye; Melville's Le Samourai; D.A. Pennebaker's Don't Look Back; Richard Brooks' In Cold Blood, Robert Bresson's Mouchette, Luchino Visconti's The Stranger, The Jungle Book, my favourite Disney animated film; the cooler than cool Cool Hand Luke; and Vigot Sjoman's infamous I Am Curious (Yellow). So without further ado, here are my choices for the ten best films of 1967. Let's get to the countdown.

And awaaaaaaay we go...

Special Mention: Michael Snow's Wavelength

Experimental filmmaking icon Michael Snow's Wavelength consists of one shot (basically) that lasts for 45 minutes. As time goes on, the camera edges, ever-so-slowly from one end of what appears to be a mostly empty warehouse to a picture hanging on its far wall. Seriously, that is it. Sure, the colour will fluctuate and every once and a while someone will walk into and out of the shot, but basically that is all it is. I saw this film at MoMa a few years back and was oddly riveted to the screen for the entirety of the aforementioned 45 minutes. I could hear people grumble in the background behind me (I of course was front and center) and several get up and leave in what I must assume is frustration, but my eyes stayed glued to that strangely mesmerizing screen. Granted, this is not a film I will likely revisit on many occasions, which is why it does not make the list, but it is still a fascinating experimental work that needs to be made mention of.

10. The Fearless Vampire Killers

This Roman Polanski comedy-thriller's full title, a la Dr. Strangelove, is The Fearless Vampire Killers or: Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck - how can one go wrong with that.  Sardonic, with more than a touch of that classic Polanski humour (and featuring the director's wife Sharon Tate in one of her final roles before that brutal night in the summer of 1969), this film is a multi-layered romp of devilish delights. Starring the elfin director himself in one of the title roles (years before any tabloid headlines would creep their way into his world) this may be one of the un-scariest vampire movies ever made, but still it has a comic sense of dread that is palpable throughout its strangely partially-pantomimed two hours.

9. Wait Until Dark

I first saw this film in a film class I took in my senior year of high school. Dissecting the film piece by piece in class (I had never done such a thing before) one could see the many layers that were going on in Terence Young's superb psychological thriller. Still to this day, when I am watching the film and I see the demented Alan Arkin tormenting the seemingly helpless blind damsel-in-distress Audrey Hepburn, I feel a twinge of fear for the poor girl trapped in the dark, I can feel her terror as this brutal and unknown force terrorizes her, even though I know full well she's going to wind up the victor in the end - and Arkin will get his much-deserved comeuppance.

8. Point Blank

Let's face it, Lee Marvin was the epitome of cool in his day and that assessment is no different in John Boorman's gangster exercise in cool cinema, Point Blank (incidentally the first film to be shot on location on Alcatraz after the prison's 1963 closing). Marvin is tough as nails and love interest Angie Dickinson has never looked better. Throw in Keenan Wynn and a wonderful turn from Carroll O'Conner (the man could do more than Archie Bunker ya know) and Point Blank just gets cooler and cooler and tougher and tougher. How tough was Marvin you ask - so tough that when he and John Vernon were practicing a fight scene, Marvin hit Vernon so hard that Vernon fell to the floor crying. 'nuff said.

7. Two for the Road

The best of Stanley Donan's solo directorial work (Singin' in the Rain, co-directed with Gene Kelly, being the best overall) this quite acerbic non-linear tale of a marriage both coming together and falling apart is a revelation of dark comedy blended with giddy tragedy. Shooting back and forth from present to past to future to past again and back (a trait that could be quite disorienting to a casual moviegoer), this way-ahead-of-its-time motion picture stars Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn in what may be both actor's best performance. Hepburn, usually more fairy tale-esque in her acting, opens up a whole new side of her ability here and proves to the world (or at least the handful of people who have seen this woefully forgotten film) that yes Virginia, she can act. I must like her. After all, she stars in 20% of this list.

6. Week-end

This was actually the first Godard I had ever seen (yes, even before Breathless) and I was immediately taken in by the Nouvelle Vague auteur's use of colour as well as his way of using the camera to as full effect as possible - and then taking it further. Many consider this to be the director's final film of his so-called early days (I mean if you are going to call it a New Wave, it has to end sometime lest it become an Old Wave again) and thus it is a dividing point between Godard's early ultra-cinematic pieces and his later more essayaic pieces. It is this more visually cinematic earlier period which I like the best and Week-end was a great introduction to it indeed.  Brash, bold and without reservations, Week-end is Godard at his visual apex.

5. Belle de Jour

Sexy, stunning and scary as hell. These adjectives can be used to describe either star Catherine Deneuve, the film itself or in a strange kinda way, the entire oeuvre of director Luis Bunuel. The story of a young wife who takes up the art of prostitution one day, Belle de Jour is more than meets the eye. Taking on, as Bunuel is apt to do, the morality of society, pitting the bourgeois against the proletariat but never in the way one would expect a semi-surrealist, anarchist auteur to do, the film has been hailed as both a brilliant masterpiece and panned as a pretentious bore. Why can't it be both in a way? Probably a bit beyond my rather naive grasp when I first saw the film (around eighteen but still quite innocent in mind) it has however grown deeply into my psyche.  And then you have Deneuve - ooh la la indeed.

4. Playtime

Ever since seeing M. Hulot's Holiday, Jacques Tati's lovable bumbling M. Hulot has always held a soft spot in my cinematic heart. With each subsequent adventure, Tati places his intrepid hero and alter-ego into an ever-increasing modernist nightmare of dangerous gadgets and disgruntled gadflies.The pinnacle of this almost dystopian comic effect (played out in the most giddy undystopian way of course) is the film Playtime. Hulot, let loose on a modern society way ahead of his own old-fashioned comprehension, is a hoot, as they say, to watch. And the gags - the ones that have come to verily define Tati's hapless alter-ego over the course of half a dozen films - are as sharp-witted as any dialogue anyone would attempt in such a film. And it all comes off as a genius-level screwball comedy of pantomime.

3. The Graduate

A cinematic sign of it's deeply disenfranchised times, Mike Nichols brilliant paean to teenage disillusionment, and the film that made stars out of both Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross (one's stardom has held up a bit better), is a deadpan comedic look at the youth in America not only at the quite turbulent time of the film's setting, but I believe the youth of all geneartions that have come after it. Sort of the granddaddy of the Mumblecore generation of today in a way (but don't hold that against it), The Graduate has passed the so-called test of time, and is still loved by the even more disillusioned (and quite a bit more jaded and cynical, and a lot less innocent) youth of the post-9/11 world we live in today. Plus, how can ya beat that soundtrack!?

2. The Young Girls of Rochefort

Granted, strictly speaking, Jacques Demy's Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a more beautiful picture than The Young Girls of Rochefort, but the latter film is definitely a lot more fun. Watching sisters (on screen and off) Catherine Deneuve and Francoise Dorleac sing and dance around the quite Demy-esque colourful small provincial town, is the musical highlight of the year. Campy and visually audacious, and filled to the veritable rim with brilliant and beautiful musical numbers, Demy's film is a Musical lover's dream come to bright, brilliant light. Sure, the film is sometimes maligned, when compared to other films of the fringe new wave auteur, calling it immature and somewhat cheesy, but dammit, that's kinda what I love about the damn thing. That and Gene Kelly as the handsome American in town. Oh, and Mlle Deneuve joins Miss Hepburn as the star of 20% of my countdown. But enough of this, let's get to the number one motion picture.

1. Bonnie and Clyde

One of the first films I ever saw (around sixteen, in a high school film class) that made me think perhaps that this thing called cinema had more to it than what one saw on the shiny surface. Brilliant and subversive (and unbeknownst to my still uneducated cinematic mind at the time, one of the most important films that would end up revolutionize American cinema) there was something about this film that got me all quivery inside. Perhaps it was Faye Dunaway and her sexy, brazen comehitherness. Perhaps it was Warren Beatty and his rebellious anti-hero image. Maybe it was the ultra violence like none I had seen before. Whatever the case, the film has haunted me from the beginning of my relationship with it, as much as it does today. Not only the best film of 1967, but one of the greatest films ever made. So there.

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

15 comments:

  1. Great list! There are a couple here that I am yet to see, and now I sure do know what I'll be watching over the next few weeks! Thank you for participating!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh dear – I've only seen three movies on this list. I have a lot of movie watching to do!

    I was really intrigued by the first film on your list, "Wavelength". That sounds VERY experimental... although people must love that sort of thing because today we have channels that loop a fireplace 24/7.

    Thanks for including this Top Ten list in the blogathon – and Happy Pre-Birthday!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Superb list! Playtime is a movie that gets better and better with each viewing!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey everybody, thanx for stopping by. Always glad to hear from everyone out there in cyberworld. Cinema has always been my first love, so I have seen more than the average amount of films...and I love babbling/rambling on about them. So there ya have it. Happy to be part of all the blogathonning fun. Hope you'll come back and visit after the blogathon is over too. Thanx again. See ya 'round the web.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The gals (Audrey and Catherine) rule!

    Love your inclusion of "Play Time". The last time I saw it it was in a theatre. What a treat!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great list! I'm not sure I would ever have been able to cut it down to just 10. I've never actually seen The Young Girls of Rochefort or Umbrellas of Cherbourg (the shame!) so I must check them out. So happy you included Two For the Road - couldn't agree more with your assessment of Audrey's performance!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Audrey and Catherine DO rule!!

    And yes, I did have a hard time narrowing it down to just ten. Cool Hand Luke and In Cold Blood just missed out.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I am behind:) There are some I have not seen and would like to. One of my favourites is "Two for the Road". I found Audrey Hepburn very much a woman and not her usual elfin self. Maybe the loss of her marriage and a nice quiet affair with Albert Finney had something to do with that. I love that shot from "Playtime" and it reminds me of an art piece with a modern man's face. hidden by an apple. Is that George Chakiris in the shot? Bonnie and Clyde was amazing and loved many shots (no pun intended) and scenes even the one with Gene Wilder

    ReplyDelete
  9. B - Two For the Road really surprised me. First, I did not expect such deepness in a Stanley Donen film. Secondly, even though I have always loved Miss Hepburn, her depth surprised me as well. Oh, and yeah, that is George Chakiris in Young Girls of Rochefort. Thanx for stopping by.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Belle de Jour and The Graduate are two of my favorite films. I think I would also include I Am Curious (Yellow) to make a 1967 top 3. Thanks for giving us another fun list, sweetie.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I thoroughly enjoyed this commentary. Two for the Road sounds wonderful, and The Young Girls of Rochefort sounds like the kind of glorious silliness I wouldn't want to miss.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanx everyone for stopping by. The commentary is greatly appreciated. Being someone who loves to blather on about the things he loves, it's always great to go on and on about that thing called cinema. Actually, this list on the films of 1967 is just the beginning. I would like to do other years on this here blog as well. Not in any particular order, mind you, but still, to begin gathering up year after year. I will be participating in a 1984-themed blogathon in August, where I will do a list of my favourite films from that year. And there will be more on the way as well. Hope ya'll stick around and check 'em all out - as well as the other things I decide to blather on about. Thanx again for stopping by.

    That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Ah...the Catherine Deneuve problem in microcosm. I've long theorized that if you leave Catherine Deneuve's presence to its own devices in a movie, she'll wreck the film with her inhuman beauty. Nothing can stand before it. There are basically two solutions: first is the Demy solution, which is to submit to her in abject adoration. The other is the Bunuel solution, which is to defile her. I love The Young Girls of Rochefort, but I probably prefer Bunuel's solution and film.

    ReplyDelete
  14. What a cool list! I'm glad you mentioned Terra em Transe in the runner-ups.
    I wouldn't describe Deneuve as "scary". Not even in Belle de Jour. The film is odd, as every Buñuel piece, but it really deserves to be in the Top 5 of the year.
    Don't forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)
    Greetings!
    http://criticaretro.blogspot.com.br/2014/06/o-fabuloso-dr-dolittle-doctor-dolittle.html

    ReplyDelete