The 1960s List: Discussion and Suggestions

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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domino harvey
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Re: The 1960s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#101 Post by domino harvey » Wed Sep 15, 2021 1:53 pm

Trying to go through old Cahiers for viewing suggestions and I gotta tell you, the more I look at what the Cahiers crew liked and disliked, the less it makes sense and the more I think they just got very lucky that some of their more idiosyncratic favorites have become canon. Today's nonsense: every Cahiers critic trashed the Virgin Spring, but gave top marks to the Chapman Report

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zedz
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Re: The 1960s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#102 Post by zedz » Thu Sep 16, 2021 6:37 am

For the moment I've decided to focus my viewing for this project on the Japanese New Wave, so here are a couple of capsules:

A.K.A Serial Killer (Masao Adachi, 1969) - A one-of-a-kind documentary that presents the biography of a Japanese spree killer in terms of landscape. It's a formalist thesis film: can we infer anything about the actions and psychology of a killer from the places he passed through? So for an hour and a half we look at 'random' shots of various sites around Japan, corresponding to the movements of an absent person, accompanied by free jazz and very sparing matter-of-fact narration. It might sound impossibly dry, but you start to fall into the film once you realise how the uninflected formalism isn't really uninflected at all. The itinerary might be predetermined, but not what Adachi films along the way, or how he films it. For example, there's a long-held shot of a shed alongside a railway line, and it's allowed to run long enough for the viewer to realise that it's full of invisible jump cuts, so that there is always a train passing - impossibly - in the background. Or how much emphasis throughout the film is placed on car licence plates, as if the film is searching for clues that might solve the mystery of the grisly murders that we never see: evidence violently stripped of any context.

The film is a sort of proof of concept for Oshima's The Man Who Left His Will on Film the following year, with the film within the film echoing Adachi's theory of landscape. If anybody wants to vote for the film, you'll need to get a ruling from swo, as IMDB records it as a 1975 film, because that's when its first public screening took place. (IMDB is inconsistent, however, as another delayed 1969 film, Larks on a String, is listed as 1969 even though its first public screening was in 1990.)

Season of Terror (Koji Wakamatsu, 1969) - Wakamatsu's speciality was engaged political cinema masquerading as cheap soft-core porn, and that's exactly what this is. A pair of cops investigating a former radical bug his apartment and initiate surveillance from a neighbour's flat. Instead of anarchist plots and bombings, they find themselves eavesdropping on a menage a trois. The cops are aroused and frustrated, both sexually and professionally, as the guy and his two girls just keep on fuckin'. Eventually, they're forced to give up their mission. And then the film has a bizarre epiphany (orgasm?), slipping into colour for the first time, as overlapping superimpositions of the American and Japanese flags flutter over more sex footage, and after that the film delivers its punchline (not sexy at all).

Wakamatsu's films can be raggedy, but this one is very carefully controlled. It's for the most part confined to two tiny apartments, but it's shot in Cinemascope, so we get plenty of supine bodies and inclusions of empty contiguous spaces (great for giving a subtly paranoid edge, as is the natural distortion of the Cinemascope lens in such tight confines). Great music by Meikyu Sekai, who only seems to have scored four films, all in 1969, all by Wakamatsu or his frequent collaborator Adachi.

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swo17
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Re: The 1960s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#103 Post by swo17 » Thu Sep 16, 2021 11:53 am

zedz wrote:
Thu Sep 16, 2021 6:37 am
For the moment I've decided to focus my viewing for this project on the Japanese New Wave, so here are a couple of capsules:

A.K.A Serial Killer (Masao Adachi, 1969) If anybody wants to vote for the film, you'll need to get a ruling from swo, as IMDB records it as a 1975 film, because that's when its first public screening took place. (IMDB is inconsistent, however, as another delayed 1969 film, Larks on a String, is listed as 1969 even though its first public screening was in 1990.)
I generally like to recognize when the original release would have been in these cases, though this is obviously also less of a delay. It doesn't feel as "wrong" to classify this as a '70s film. That being said, if I can get one person saying in this thread that they'd like it to be eligible as a '60s film, I'll make it so

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zedz
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Re: The 1960s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#104 Post by zedz » Sat Sep 18, 2021 9:57 pm

Punishment Island (Masahiro Shinoda, 1966) - A man returns to the site of childhood trauma in order to exact a long-nursed revenge. The basic narrative of the film is kind of pulpy, and it's easy to imagine it handled in a much more sensationalised way, but Shinoda treats everything with seriousness and great formal imagination. As you'd expect from this kind of story, a lot of it is revealed in flashback. Shinoda's flashbacks are unsignalled and fragmentary, and he keeps them distinct through differences in film syntax. In the present-day scenes, naturalistic background noise is always present (wind, waves, traffic), whereas the flashback sequences are either near-silent or stripped of ambient noise - until the protagonist arrives at the site of one of his most vivid memories, and the two time frames merge stylistically. Some of the flashbacks are even more striking, most notably one which consists of nothing but inward zooms. The climax of the film is a tour de force of unconventional staging, unfolding in a single, fixed long shot of about six minutes duration inside a darkened shack. The drama unfolds as the characters move in and out of the shadows, so we can't always see what they're doing, while our attention is focussed on an object lit at the centre of the frame.

Flame and Woman (Yoshishige Yoshida, 1967) - The hot topic issue of this film, artificial insemination, as Yoshida conveys in his introduction to the film, is merely a vehicle for him to explore one of his favourite subjects, the sexual freedom of women. The film begins with husband and wife Tatsuko and Shingo passive-aggressively competing for the attention and affection of their son, Takashi. Things come to a head when Takashi vanishes one day. The film unfolds in a totally fragmentary way, with a pile-up of unsignalled flashbacks, fantasies and dreams. You need to latch onto distinctive interiors and costuming in order to anchor yourself in the present day and figure out the details of the narrative, but Yoshida is such a brilliant visual storyteller that it's possible to get the emotional drift anyway. It turns out that Takashi is the product of artificial insemination, and Tatsuko was kind of bullied into the procedure by her impotent husband. There are thus several candidates for paternity (Shingo; the sperm donor, who may or may not be family friend Ken Sakaguchi; the doctor who inseminated her; or the farm labourer whom she may or may not have had sex with a couple of years earlier.) Tatsuko figures that too many fathers might as well be no father at all. The film is twisty as hell, and visually stunning throughout. Mariko Okada is surely the greatest female star of the Japanese New Wave on the strength of the run of films she made with her husband alone, and this is another gem in a long trail of them. I can't fit them all on my 60s list, but the quality of this film gives me a very high benchmark for excluding non-Yoshida films!

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Maltic
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Re: The 1960s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#105 Post by Maltic » Wed Nov 17, 2021 1:13 pm

Has the Kurosawa list been cancelled/postponed? I don't remember when it was planned to run. Was hoping to kill two birds with one stone and watch his 1960s films, but I see the Deneuve project wasn't a success etc

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Re: The 1960s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#106 Post by swo17 » Wed Nov 17, 2021 1:18 pm

I assume it's not happening before this list ends in February, unless someone starts it up right when the Fassbinder project ends next month

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Re: The 1960s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#107 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Nov 17, 2021 2:25 pm

Maltic wrote:
Wed Nov 17, 2021 1:13 pm
Has the Kurosawa list been cancelled/postponed? I don't remember when it was planned to run. Was hoping to kill two birds with one stone and watch his 1960s films
Kurosawa only directed five films in the 60s, and they're all worth seeing, so I'd definitely recommend just doing that. High and Low in particular is a strong list contender and an excellent precursor to bifurcated police procedural narratives across film and television

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Maltic
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Re: The 1960s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#108 Post by Maltic » Wed Nov 17, 2021 3:54 pm

I've seen it and Sanjuro/Yojimbo before. Was especially hoping to find 3 hours for Red Beard, and two pending lists might give you that extra incentive. I'm afraid I don't have your movie-watching stamina, and of course there are plenty other to-dos, for this list and in general..
Last edited by Maltic on Wed Nov 17, 2021 6:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The 1960s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#109 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Nov 17, 2021 5:01 pm

Hey, my stamina has only been refueled this week after about three months of listening to only music, so I hear ya- and I coincidentally returned Red Beard many times back to the library this year unable to muster up the energy to rewatch it as well. It is great though.

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Re: The 1960s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#110 Post by Maltic » Wed Nov 17, 2021 7:47 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Tue Jun 01, 2021 6:46 pm
Westerns Part 2

The Last Sunset: Every time I see this film I become more impressed with its audacity at throwing the psychological weight behind the unexpected antihero. Aldrich, always more interested in the darker, emotionally and mentally complex characters, pairs a layered Douglas with a unidimensional Hudson, demonstrating where the audience should place their interest, if not their allegiance, from the word go. Douglas is a man who spouts lies of having changed that we don’t believe, but we see that he really, truly does, and that’s what makes this such a tragic story.

The final speech, full of sage advice about moving on granted to another, coming from a character who cannot take his own advice, is gratingly realistic and one of the most psychologically apt portraits of the fatalism from expectations yielding under the limits of will power I've seen on film. Our attention lies on the worthy man, and yet the man whose own delusions of what that worth will grant him ultimately deliver an outcome allegorical for those of us who have engaged in the same thought patterns.

Perhaps more importantly, the producer Kirk Douglas was more interested in the character played by Kirk Douglas. :lol:

I watched this the other day. A good film, to be sure, though it's unlikely to find a place on my list.

I listened to some of Nick Pinkerton's commentary, too. Worth a listen, imo. He quotes extensively from Ursini & Silver's readings of specific shots/scenes from their book on Aldrich. I know this will annoy some people, but it was ok by me. Of course, even better might've been to have those two do the commentary, but you can't have everything. The book sounds great, as you'd expect.
Last edited by Maltic on Wed Dec 01, 2021 7:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The 1960s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#111 Post by nitin » Wed Nov 17, 2021 11:07 pm

Red Beard is a must.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: The 1960s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#112 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Nov 18, 2021 1:12 pm

Probably my overall Akira Kurosawa favorite -- Young Tokugawa Dr. Kildare....

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swo17
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Re: The 1960s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#113 Post by swo17 » Wed Dec 01, 2021 5:53 pm

Friendly reminder that the Round 1 deadline for this project is about two months away

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Re: The 1960s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#114 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Dec 03, 2021 4:00 am

Ingmar Bergman

The Virgin Spring
The Devil’s Eye
Through a Glass Darkly
Winter Light

The Silence
All These Women
Persona
Stimulantia (segment “Daniel”)
Hour of the Wolf
Shame
The Rite
The Passion of Anna


Bergman’s best decade begins with one of his greatest films, The Virgin Spring, which draws a layered portrait of competing and yet inevitably-melded components of a chaotic social environment, where some perspectives are sheltered under a guise of inspiration and optimism- out of necessity but to their own detriment, as well as an ironic apparent salvation in the final moments. Bergman effortlessly pivots his focus from antithetical and intrinsically-hypocritical doctrines into concerns of oppression inherent in gendered and classist social contexts, consequential naivete from privilege and sheltered customs, then meditates on the sobering trauma of unpredictably invasive social violence with a dash of folklore fatalism. Ultimately this iceberg-narrative -where most of its complex thematic contents exist in the invisible bulk of elisions beneath the surface- builds towards a confining, compromised empowerment that refuses to be cathartic because it’s impotent to prevent the horrors already sewn.

It’s interesting that this film would become the blueprint for revenge-horror exploitation grindhouse films in the 70s, which seem to miss the point of Bergman’s emasculating zenith of parental surrender, simply because von Sydow postures with agency in the climax. The sacrifice of purified virtues for the psyche’s self-preservation via emotional impulses does fit with rape-revenge ideas, though Bergman’s film refuses to grant an ounce of serenity until the miraculous ending ambiguously either reveres its characters' intentions unconditionally with divine intervention, or is coincidentally placed as a faux-marker of God to be interpreted as benediction. Does it matter whether it's a subjective interpretation of divinity or a literal divine act, when the effect is the same- affirming in preserving faith and also numbed by the cruelty of corporeal woes? Either way, Bergman deliberately thwarts both a simplistic Hobbesian analysis or dogmatic didacticism with a mixture of sublime and devastating final imagery, demonstrating how incongruous ideas are ingrained in our DNA as well as our societal structures, and are as complementary as they are repellent- spawning a soiled harmony that discounts neither polar extreme of attitude or belief in its cumulative equation of violence and grace.

I'd always considered The Devil’s Eye to be one of the best 'comedies' in Bergman's oeuvre, though I admittedly don't really like him in Comedy Mode. A revisit didn't incite the kind of tranquil comfort it did the first time, but I suspect my youthful love for kittenish Bibi Andersson perfs helped elevate it a few notches higher than it might have deserved to rest. The film starts out with fun energy and maintains that momentum for a while, but the back half crumbles apart, so it's a tough recommendation unless you love your Bergman served sunny-side-up. Through a Glass Darkly is one of my personal favorite Bergmans period, the best of the faith trilogy, and a terrific psychosocialspiritual presentation of mental illness functioning within a family system. In particular, there is an affirming irony in how Bergman portrays the principals with the privileges to live in delusions of ignorance having their lives upended by Karin's acute state of.. diagnostic delusions(!), making her the character most sober to the raw 'reality' (even if it's by proxy of realizing she's elusively out of touch with this complacent normalcy) and thus the vehicle to enlighten her family. It's a Godlike power, and demonstrative of the effect we can all have to ignite a spiritual revelation in those we love, the energy becoming its own kind of palpable Higher Power- the closest we can get to God.

Winter Light remains a potent film about the existential crisis between one’s spiritual and corporeal attentions, but its greatest asset is in the simultaneous search for and ignorance of tangible information for satisfaction. As Tomas vies for reprieve from God’s silence, he forfeits recognition of the languages of love spoken, and grace shown to him by earthly souls, yet the amassing physical absence of light in a dark macro-cloud of suffering usurps these opportunities for gratitude. I suppose I don’t see this film as one about man vs. enigmas anymore, but about man vs. himself, as he becomes enveloped into inherent narcissistic impulses and cannot access God’s gifts with elastic applications of faith as he once could. It’s not due to outside forces intruding in, but a growing personal demand for ‘more’, or the complacent stability that life events have obstructed static binding to- a part we all have, but electedly dominant here when the other parts of our psyche are not nurtured properly.

[I don't take Tomas' narrow-minded depressive declarations at face value- though I believe he's in part right that he was committed to a God who he subconsciously thought loved him most of all, aided by reprieve from relentless exposure to personal suffering; though the flexibility we have to see peripherally and access a higher power is rooted in supports. Tomas, ransacked of those supports from within, cannot be trusted to provide an accurate picture of the Whys of his past faith- and I believe he actually did believe and engaged in selfless behavior in the past, unable and unwilling to recognize it in his current self-flagellating state. He was engaged in war, experienced pain and suffering, and only in his present exhausted and angry isolation finds an urge to comparatively pronounce falsehoods under the influence of malaise.]

Tomas’ defeatist and self-destructive behavior towards Marta was determined already by his persistence to seek what cannot be sought, and lack of willingness to engage with the world on its own terms, a fear-based reaction projecting his own undesired emotions from suppressed defective characteristics onto another; and yet his stoic response to visit the site of the man who he’d just counseled supplies a visual construction of resilience in the face of self-annihilation and guilt, and a profound exhibition of Tomas’ value as a pastor, against his own self-concept. The emotional outbursts that come later are confessional yet validating applications of self-destructive animosity as ‘hurt people hurt people’ but they're also a necessary purge that can precede the evolution of a soul on God’s terms. It’s no wonder Bergman shifted his focus onto corporeal love after this film, which asks important questions but the answers are in what is tangible as a reflection of whatever higher power exists and cannot be penetrated. That itself is resilience, maturity, and inspiring action towards grace.

What a difference ten years makes between revisits: I absolutely hated The Silence the first time I saw it, and while it still presents as relatively hollow compared to the other two films in the Faith trilogy, the film is so clearly rooted in style to convey any feeling that it seems wrong to demote points for its abstract, occasionally empty offerings. The film is, above all else, beautifully photographed, and retains merit in its haunting score and eerie shot choices that concoct a fleeting tone to make it a kind of precursor to The Shining’s domestic tension, or the surreal horror in arthouse films of late. I found myself admiring the craft and sensations of inescapable ennui more than I connected to the material or a higher order of faith-oriented thematic resonance- yet there’s still a slight, looming frustration in how inconsistent this film strikes me. If the entire package worked alongside a discernible internal logic to build to the stirring climax of Ester’s surrender, it would be a perfect film, but I’m beginning to see the connective tissue materialize, and I can imagine this being a film that, if viewed again in quick succession, might click for me as it does for so many others. All These Women, on the other hand, I highly doubt I’ll ever give another go- woof! It's like someone took the unfunny hyperactive inanity of One, Two, Three and repurposed it into Red Garters-esque artifice only in a bourgeois setting. At least no one can accuse Bergman of phoning it in- he's clearly passionate about his mise en scene in shot choices, constructed setpieces, chaotic editing, and goes for broke on the slapstick routines.. but he's overplaying his hand every time. I admire full-throttle failures like this more than half-measures, but I wasn't even close to an internal laugh once (well, maybe for a second during the interplay with the bird chirping- though the 'punchline' ruined the bit), so this is resigned to linger at the bottom of the barrel.

Persona is The Art Film, evoking a surreal mass of confusion and discovery utilizing everything from spatial and temporal manipulations to identity diffusion and even aggressive diagnostics on relational patterns to sell its enigmatic tonal energy. It’s an easy list-qualifier that perhaps one day I’ll expand upon, but to thoroughly tackle its monstrous content begging for interpretive emotional purging, I’d need about as much energy as this movie has- so I will humbly pass and submit to its aura of magic left as such. Stimulantia’s segment “Daniel”, on the other hand, is the polar opposite of Persona's force: It's simply a presentation of Jonas Mekas-style home video footage capturing Bergman’s son’s early childhood development, which he declares is “the most stimulating” thing to him. Of course the subject of a father’s love doesn’t translate as well to the general public, unless of course you’re Mekas himself and imbue your frames with spiritual nostalgia that transmit a fleeting sense of God captured and immortalized on celluloid but eluding time and space for the artist himself. Bergman's short is a fine blip of affection, but nothing more.

In a decade where Bergman seemed to get as deep as he ever has around philosophical horror, Hour of the Wolf is the most genre-typical entry, and also one of the weakest. I like a nice meal of psychological unraveling as much as the next guy, but this film always leaves me a bit empty and craving more. Still not bad by any means though. Shame, on the other hand, is perhaps the most ‘realistic’ horror film Bergman ever made. It’s not very complex when sitting alongside some of his other films this decade, but a Hobbesian unveiling of our shameful potential under pressure is as starkly informative as it is depressing, and Ullman’s final attempt to reframe a nightmare as beauty via moving the goalpost through acceptance of life on life’s terms is both hauntingly heroic and delusionally tragic.

The Rite offers a detour into lower-stakes theatrical fare, as we passively taste glimpses of ham-fisted characterization and interpersonal dynamics in what is certainly intended to be both dramatic and comic. Unfortunately it’s not wholly successful- for one, I was far less enamored by the interviewer’s self-inserted pot-stewing than the exposition of the others’ reactiveness- but a film composed of parts in its conception feels unfairly-judged based solely on its synthesis, even if it’s challenging to recommend an underwhelming final product when all stitched together. Last but not least, The Passion of Anna is Bergman’s supreme validation of pain, a profoundly spiritual film ironically about the absence of spirituality from subjective vantage points. Bergman goes so far as to acknowledge that Ullman’s reframing of illusory gratitude in Shame may not be good enough for us, but he also allots us enough distance from these characters to identify with their struggles and also objectively detect a hope present to implement in our own existences. This is Bergman’s most emotional film, taking place in a milieu of cold and sterile defense mechanisms- but even these walls can’t stop us from gleaning the raw tissue of their vulnerable cores. Unpopular opinion I know, but it's probably my favorite Bergman in a decade full of Great Bergmans, and hopefully won't wind up an overlooked orphan- though it's an uphill battle trying to contend with at least half of these popular titles.

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domino harvey
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Re: The 1960s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#115 Post by domino harvey » Fri Dec 03, 2021 5:32 pm

I keep coming back to All These Women, like touching a plate when the waitress tells you it's hot. I've already seen it twice but I feel like I'll keep tricking myself every couple of years into revisiting and trying to make it work, because it is so spectacularly and awe-inspiringly bad.

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