Thursday, October 20, 2011

1970 ... What a Year!

We're entering another decade and I still have 40 more of these until Cinewise's end-of-year countdown. Obviously my plan hasn't worked out - I was hoping to do one of these per week until the Top 20 of 2011 ... oh well. I like a bit of a challenge and I can't wait to power my way through 40 more of these in the remaining couple of months and change.

Right, where were we? Or, more precisely, when were we? 1970. Saying goodbye to the decade that no one remembers, we're entering a decade that everyone remembers ... fondly. This decade also marks another 'golden age' for cinema as the Hollywood auteurs that we worship still to this day have crashlanded into our lives. I'm talking about Spielberg, Scorsese, Coppola, Lucas, De Palma, Bogdanovich, Ashby, Altman, Malick, Cimino, Beatty ... at least 2 of these names must have stirred something in the nether parts of your body already (which 2 will depend entirely on each reader).

So, without further ado, let's put our rollerskates on and see what this year (and this decade) offered us. Of course, first let's brush up on the interesting happenings around the world:
  • Heavy metal is well and truly born.
  • Teenagers in the UK vote for the first time, which explains a lot of things.
  • Norway finds oil in the North Sea, which proves that democracy works better when there's less people and more money.
  • The unending cycle of important events in Malaysia continues.
What about the silver screen? Was television finally getting the better of cinema? Hells no! 1970 was full of classics. Here's a sample:
  • Five Easy Pieces, in which chickens are not held.
  • Patton, in which George C. Scott is insanely good.
  • El Topo, in which things happen.
  • Woodstock, in which love, not war, is made.
OK, admittedly this list isn't as stellar as what we have seen before, but as a transition year it was quite solid. Yet, let's not forget why we're here in the first place. The Top 3 Films of 1970 according to the Bru:

3- Ryan's Daughter (dir: David Lean; wri: Robert Bolt)

Pauline Kael hated this so much that David Lean stopped making films for years. I think the previous sentence tells you how much things have changed in the 1970s: David Lean was as big as directors came in the decade prior (maybe only second to Hitchcock). But he wasn't as big as a film critic of 1970. Let that sink in. Meanwhile, let me eleborate why I love this much-derided Lean film. As far as details go, Lean outdoes himself here - he shows a town so real that its non-existence feels like an aberration. Robert Mitchum's Shaughnessy is so vulnerable and oblivious that he is borderline pathetic. Sarah Miles is ethereally beautiful and her silent yearning for love and passion is heartbreaking. Then there's the music and the incredible cinematography. Pauline Kael has a special place in movie history, but she was way off the mark on this one. A truly underrated classic.

2- The Butcher (wri & dir: Claude Chabrol)

The late great Claude Chabrol was full of surprises and in this, possibly his most famous film, he comes up with a trashy thriller that is irresistable. The look and the feel of the film bear no resemblance to the theme (there's a serial killer out there!), but somehow it works. Chabrol may have been cosidered 'second-tier' behind his contemporaries Truffaut and Godard (and he was definitely less subtle), but his films have always been more human and more ... how should I put it ... fun. Unfortunately I couldn't find a video with subtitles.

1- MASH (dir: Robert Altman; wri: Ring Lardner Jr.)

What can you say? It is too damn funny. Too damn chaotic, Too damn maverick. MASH is all of that ... and then some. It is a collection of one hilarious and iconic sequence after another. Even the silly football scene is good. In Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould and Tom Skerritt it has a trio of insanely good comedic actors. Has there been a creepier and funnier scene in film than tha 'fake funeral' scene? I don't think so. This is perhaps Robert Altman's best film. And one of the best war films ever made. Essential stuff.

1970 ... what a year!

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