Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Decades: 1960s

An extraordinary decade for the cinema was marked by tragedy and paranoia, reflected in the challenging power of the decade's best films. JFK was elected as the decade began, three years later he was assassinated, and for the remainder of the decade, as we swirled in a haze of paranoia and uncertainty, the cinema was a conduit for challenging, daring, sometimes shocking ideas. The result was some of the most influential films of all-time.

And now, my personal list:

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) -- Two endlessly influential Stanley Kubrick films top this decade, but I give the extra nod to his extraordinary space epic, which still remains unlike any science fiction the cinema has ever seen, and speaks greater volumes about the evolution of man than perhaps any other film in history.
2. Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) -- Kubrick's other undying masterwork from this decade is, very simply, the most brilliant satire in the history of movies. It is goofy and savvy, hilarious and frightening. And amazingly, it's bite remains sharp 46 years after its release.
3. The Apartment (1960) -- Billy Wilder, patron saint of sassy comedy, also knew how to cut straight to heart of people and relationships. In this beautiful film, with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine falling in love amid complicated circumstances, Wilder crafts what might be the greatest romantic comedy-drama of all-time, striking notes of humor and heartbreak the big screen had rarely seen at the time...and has rarely seen since.
4. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) -- One of the most extradinarily romantic films ever made, Jacques Demy's heart-rending classic exposed the world to the legendary Catherine Deneuve, and told a story of such heartbreaking beauty it plays like classic literature. I will say no more...if you haven't seen it, stop reading now and go put it on your Netflix queue.
5. Persona (1960) -- The great Ingmar Bergman's most famous psycho-drama, with Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson finding that their personalities -- and personal appearance -- are eerily melding, and the intensity reaches such a fever pitch that the image literally burns out on the screen. A frightening work of psychotic brilliance.
6. Breathless (1960) -- Jean-Luc Godard, daring master of the French New Wave, makes the film that essentially founded the "jump cut," a creation that gives the film its legendary disconnected, breakneck style and pacing in this story of narcissistic fantasy between wannabe French criminals on the run.
7. Psycho (1960) -- To mention the film's name is celebration enough. Hitchcock's most recognizable film, with the cinema's most legendary murder scene...brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.
8. Blow-Up (1966) -- One of Italian master auteur Michaelangelo Antonioni's most amazing masterworks, about a mod London photographer who discovers he has photographed a murder. But more than a thriller, this is a film oddly, masterfully about cool detachment in 60s-era London.
9. Bonnie and Clyde (1967) -- A wild ride in every way. Arthur Penn's enduring classic about the infamous, bank-robbing lovers-on-the-run is a tortured, complex love story between two young people addicted to the thrill of crime.
10. 8 1/2 (1963) -- A vivid, masterful, darkly funny look into the tortured world of a frustrated Italian filmmaker and the women who dance around his mind. Federico Fellini's brilliant classic went on to inspire the musical Nine, which in no form ever came close to casting the beautiful spell of 8 1/2.

No comments: