Monday, July 9, 2012

1975 - What a Year!

1975 … what a year!

Moving up the years (at a snail's pace, I must adtmit), we have come to a year that is chock full of celebrated films, relatively less known gems, and those in between. And let's not forget some of the bad and the ugly.

But here at Cinewise, I'm only interested in the good. Before we embark on our cinematic quest, let's recap on the happenings around the world:

  • Angola gains independence. The last of the great European empires falls.
  • UK votes yes to stay in the European Community. People were far more forward-thinking then. Then again, their prime minister wasn't Pingu.
  • Sultan Yahya Petra ibni Almarhum Sultan Ibrahim Petra, Sultan of Kelantan, becomes the 6th Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia. I'm not making this up.
  • Franco dies. La movida madrileña is unleashed.

I must admit, nothing really that juicy or exciting. Having said that, la movida will give us one of the truly great directors of the last few decades and a personal favourite of Yours Truly. He will feature quite frequently in posts to come.

But, what about what was going on on the screen? How did 1975 fare? Let's find out. Here are the also-rans:
  • Barry Lyndon, in which the marriage of candlelight and the 'magic hour' creates some of the most beautiful scenery ever filmed.
  • Jaws, in which the blockbuster formula is written for good (or for bad, depending on your view).
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail, in which knights say "niii!" and millions of us somehow still find it funny.
  • The Passenger, in which Jack Nicholson gives his best performance of 1975.
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock, in which the rules of horror film is forever altered.
  • Shivers, in which Cronenberg unleashes his sick, twisted and brilliant mind to the world.
This year absolutely rocked whichever way you look at it. No doubt, any of the films listed above would be genuine contenders for the best film of the year any other year. Unfortunately for them, 3 films were better (in my humblest of opinion, of course).

Here are the top 3 films of 1975 according to the Bru:

3- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (dir: Milos Forman; wri: Laurence Hoban & Bo Goldman)
Surprised this is not number 1? I don't blame you. Not only it is one of the 3 films ever to sweep the major gongs in the Oscar history, it is also one of the most iconic films of the decade and of a generation. It is a call-to-arms like no other. The subtle deadpan humour and the painful drama (can anyone remain dry-eyed when MacMurphy is commentating on the baseball game?) that enfolds on screen have captivated audiences since its release. It is well and truly a classic. It also boasts two of the most memorable performances ever. Yes, I have stated my preference for his role in Antonioni's The Passenger above, but this is the role that defines Jack Nicholson's career. No character has been so tailor-made for him (not even The Shining's Jack Torrance). But real kudos should go to Louise Fletcher's Nurse Ratched. A role so good and well performed that it basically ended her career. Just look at her filmography on IMDB - you'll know what I mean.

2- Dog Day Afternoon (dir: Sidney Lumet; wri: Frank Person)
Attica! Attica! Two words that mean nothing, yet so much, out of context. Even if you aren't familiar with the name (I wasn't when I first watched this), Al Pacino's throat-tearing screams of fury will sure to give you goosebumps. You don't know why, but you're rooting for this guy. The story of two hapless bank robbers who are in this for the most surprising of reasons will amuse you, lift you up and bring you down with the loudest of crashes. It is remarkably understated despite all the fireworks and screaming histrionics. It is an incredibly well-balanced film that breezes by you. It is a story within a story within a story, yet the whole is different from the sum of its parts. It is a viewing experience that sadly we don't get these days. Yes, this could only have been made in 1975, but there is no doubt that it was made to watch for years, decades ... screw it ... centuries to come. Attica! Attica!

1- Raise Ravens (wri & dir: Carlos Saura)
The death of Franco was such an event that its historical, political, social, cultural etc implications cannot be underestimated. Not just for Spain, but for the whole world. This was the end of a repressive regime in Western Europe. A regime that not only killed its political opponents, but also its social and cultural opponents. No wonder the Spanish took to their arts and created some of the most vitriolic and chaotic products imaginable. Yet, the most devastating and vicious treatise on the sea of change that Spain was going through was this beautiful and pseudo-violent coming-of-age story. A sci-fi wrapped in drama with hints of black comedy. There are scenes of a mother writhing in pain on her deathbed as her 8-year-old daughter wistfully watches on. It is the story of a father killed by a small child for suspicions of adultery. It is the story of 3 girls coming to terms with the death of a father who is responsible for the death of a mother. Or maybe all of this is a fantasy. Maybe the future (or present) is not really that ideal. It is a beautiful film of transition to the unknown.

1975 ... what a truly great year!


newjonnytransit said...

This 'What a Year' series is awesome. And, of course, my Netflix queue thanks you too (this time round, for Raise Ravens)...

Pedant's corner, though: Antonioni, not Bertulocci! ...Ok, I'll leave you alone now...

The Bru said...

Thanks! And a massive oooops!!!

The Bru said...

Sorted! I blame the arguing neighbours next door. :)

newjonnytransit said...

Ha ha - just thought for a moment there was a big gap in my Bertulocci watching... (Conformist one of my all-time favourite films.)


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