Monday, May 7, 2012

1973 - What a Year

1973 ... what a year!

We are all the way up 1973. In other words, it's been 20 years since we started this. 1973 is a special year - it features three absolute classics of the world cinema. You can even argue that they are the best films their respective countries have ever produced. Intrigued? I hope so.

But before we embark on our modest cinematic survey of 1973, let's have a look at what happened elsewhere on this fair planet of ours.
  • George Steinbrenner buys the New York Yankees. Posers the world over are in absolute ecstasy for the impending flood of fairweather headwear.
  • Roe vs. Wade.
  • Thomas Pynchon publishes Gravity's Rainbow (it's vastly overrated, by the way).
  • Televised trial of the Watergate scandal begins. Mr. Gump was mysteriously absent in the proceedings.
  • O.J. Simpson rushes for 2,000 yards in a season. He was a footballer, you know.
Phew ... quite a bit there. Compared to what was happening on the big screen, though, this was nothing. Before revealing the Top 3, here are the other cinematic highlights of 1973:
  • The Exorcist, in which Max Von Sydow stops ageing once and for all.
  • The Last Detail, in which bloody sailors fucking swear the shit out of the cunting script.
  • Mean Streets, in which Marty, Bobby, and Harvey unite for the first time.
  • Serpico, in which Al Pacino is simply wonderful.
  • Sleeper, in which Woody Allen is fighting a nose.
  • The Wicker Man, in which Christopher Lee wears a wig and dances about like a little girl.
Are you kidding me?! Could this possibly be the best year ever?! Like, O.M.G!

It definitely has a legitimate shot at being the greatest year in film ever. Especially if you consider the next 3 titles, the Top 3 films of 1973 according to the Bru:

3- Turkish Delight (dir: Paul Verhoeven; wri: Gerard Soeteman)

A classic of Dutch cinema, Turkish Delight tells the doomed love affair between a sculptor and a young girl. It is erotic cinema at its best, with Rutger Hauer and Monique van de Ven giving incredible and nuanced performances. Paul Verhoeven was never given enough credit for his subtly humour - except for Showgirls, which was anything but subtle. Verhoeven and Soeteman went on to collaborate further, with Soldier of Orange (also starring Hauer) and the brilliant The Fourth Man (another strong candidate for the greatest Dutch film of all time). But, while the latter two films were systematic and somewhat 'cold' in their approach, it is the warm, fuzzy feeling of Turkish Delight that really shines above others. It is the best film of Verhoeven's career, a career (lest we forget) that includes the likes of RoboCop, Total Recall, and Starship Troopers. There.

2- The Spirit of the Beehive (dir: Víctor Erice; wri: Ángel Fernández Santos & Víctor Erice)

No disrespect to James Whale, but this is the greatest adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Just like Nosferatu, you can even argue that it improves on the source material (I'm talking about the book here ... yes, really). As far as adaptations go, this falls into the category of "loose". Into a post-Civil War Spanish town comes a heavily-censored version of James Whale's 1931 classic horror. Coincidentally, a wounded deserter also happens to stop by and squat in the abandoned house just outside of town. When a 5-year-old girl sees the film and meets the man in the space of a few days, she connects the dots in her mind: the deserter is the Monster in the film she just saw. This is the film that introduced Ana Torrent to the world, who went on giving the greatest (yes, you've read that correctly) child performance of all time in Raise Ravens 3 years after this. But she is just as brilliant here as Ana, the wildly imaginative and introspective little girl. Her dialogues with her older sister Teresa (played by Teresa Gimpera) are so naturalistic that the voyeurism of their scenes together are quite disconcerting to the viewer. Adding to the mix the legend that is Fernando Fernán Gómez, you have the undisputed classic of Spanish cinema. Despite the critical and commercial successes of both Luis Buñuel and Pedro Almodóvar, it is The Spirit of the Beehive that will forever be associated with Spanish cinema. And what a film it is to be synonymous with.

1- Don't Look Now (dir: Nicolas Roeg; wri: Alan Scott & Chris Bryant)

Well, what can I say? I have never shied away from bestowing the highest of accolades to Don't Look Now and admittedly my opinion of it is very much diluted by my unending love for it. No horror film is as beautiful, heartbreaking, and damn right fucking scary as this. From the bleakest of bleak opening scene, to the devastating finale, it is a journey unlike any other. Britain may have given the world the likes of David Lean, Alfred Hitchcock, and Charles Chaplin (3 of the greatest, I mean really greatest directors of all time). But, Nicolas Roeg's wonderful adaptation of this Daphne du Maurier story is the greatest British film of all time. Period.

1973 ... seriously ... what a year!

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