Movie reviews of movies released theatrically in 1966.
1. Blowup, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni (10/10)
As perfect an adaption of the story as I can imagine. One of the great films of the ’60s.
2. The Battle of Algiers, directed by Gillo Pontecorvo (10/10)
An incredibly important film. I have misplaced my review.
3. Closely Watched Trains, directed by Jiri Menzel (10/10)
I feel like I wrote an eloquent review of this when I saw it, but I can’t find it anywhere. An absolute classic, though.
3. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, directed by Sergio Leone (10/10)
Despite the terrible dubbing, this is a marvel of cinematography and pacing. Certainly one of the most iconic westerns of all time if not the greatest.
3. Seconds, directed by John Frankenheimer (10/10)
At one point this was one of my favourite movies. It is certainly one of the best “conspiracy” movies.
6. Andrei Rublev, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky (9/10)
Writing a brief review of Tarkovsky’s immense, uncompromising, willfully difficult Andrei Rublev seems inherently unfair. This is one of the most ambitious and difficult films I have ever seen, also among the longest. When I say it’s immense, I mean it: 9 chapters over nearly 3 ½ hours, ostensibly about the Russian medieval iconographic painter of the same name. The film is really about freedom of thought and ideas in the face of oppression, as far as I can tell. But you would forgive me if I’m not 100% sure, as there is so much going on, and so much of it is not really about Rublev in any obvious way, that it’s possible for numerous interpretations.
7. Au hasard Balthazar, directed by Robert Bresson (9/10)
I did not write down my thoughts at the time, apparently, which is terribly disappointing. I don’t think I can really discuss the films near-greatness fairly at this remove.
8. The Shooting, directed by Monte Hellman (9/10)
This is a remarkable film.
The acting of the female lead is definitely pretty amateurish, but nearly everything else about this film is awesome.
Finally, a western that recognizes that the west was probably filled with a lot of people who weren’t that intelligent. This feels more authentic in terms of dialogue and behaviour than most of the westerns that came before it and many of those that came after. It is also fantastically shot, for the most part (save a couple silly stills and slow-mos).
The music is appropriate.
This may be the best performance of Oates’ career.
Lots to recommend.
Really the only two things keeping it from being truly transcendent, for me, are the acting of the female lead and the occasionally too enigmatic behaviour of a couple of the characters. Otherwise, this is a classic.
9. The Chase, directed by Arthur Penn (9/10)
Like Peckinpah with Cross of Iron, Penn has disowned The Chase. He claims, for one thing, that Brando’s best scenes were cut by producer Sam Spiegel.
I don’t know what Penn’s cut would be like, but what remains seems to be almost classic. Aside from perhaps one major flaw – though Brando’s character’s pride suffers, arguably the minor black character of Lester suffers far far more than anyone else, and yet the movie doesn’t really give a shit…but then in a way I guess that could be considered apt for the story in one way – the movie is quite good. It might actually benefit from not having more Brando on screen, because this way it seems it’s more allegorical via the whole town than it is about Brando’s sheriff himself.
Anyway, the movie lends itself to all sorts of interpretations and really is very interesting (also, extremely depressing, which is rare for the time).
In most films of that time, the lawman triumphs against the mob. The strong-willed, self-righteous, lone sane person, etc etc main character stands against the mob, does the right thing, and walks away at the end having won. Well, The Chase can be seen as a precursor to the ’70s renaissance in the sense that, though Brando’s character fits the bill of the typical Gary Cooper-esque heroic sheriff (in role only, not in acting) who does the right thing despite the townspeople, Brando loses. Badly. He tries to do the right thing. He tries to up-stand the law. He tries to separate himself from allegations of corruption. He tries to make sure nobody gets hurt. He wants to leave on his own terms. Instead, everyone in town thinks he’s bribable. Brando himself gets the shit kicked out of him. Other people are seriously hurt too. More importantly, people die. A man’s business is destroyed. Brando has to leave the town, not on his own terms, but having failed miserably at his own goals, and having shown to the entire town that, when pushed to a certain point, he himself will also lose control, just like the rest of the mob.
Admittedly, the town as a whole embodies certain cliches of how southern, ‘backwards’ places treat blacks, the law and outcasts/misfits.
But personally, that didn’t bother me. I was far more interested in the shattered conventions, the downbeatness (is that a word??), and the quasi-existentialist undertones of the film. Spiegel had made plenty of films before The Chase, and I think that perhaps that’s what saved the movie from being one of the countless studio hack-jobs. Penn may not like the finished product, but that doesn’t make it bad.
Also, the great cast (Brando, Redford, Duvall, Jane Fonda, a few older actors I recognized and like but can’t for the life of me remember their names) and the quality script no doubt helped keep it from being a blotch on Penn’s record.
10. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, directed by Mike Nichols (9/10)
This is clearly an important film, as one of the first American films to directly address failed relationships, sex outside of marriage and with some of the “crudest” language yet seen from a major studio (as much as that is hard to believe for us). In fact, you might say that this started a genre as there have been numerous American films to go over this territory since (especially recently).
But I can’t help but feel like this has dated somewhat. What seemed extremely risqué in the early ’60s is now quite tame and, though the performances are all great, one can’t help but ask “Why are these people spending this time together?” I feel like subsequent additions to this genre have added a realism that improves upon the staged quality of this admittedly important movie.
11. The Sand Pebbles, directed by Robert Wise (8*/10)
I have seen this movie way too many times to be objective about it.
12. A Man for All Seasons, directed by Fred Zinnermann (8*/10)
I saw this movie in high school history class or something.
13. Our Man Flint, directed by Daniel Mann (8/10)
This is pretty much the movie I have dreamed of making about CSI, only it’s about Bond. It is a spoof, contrary to what some of the other reviewers [on the now defunct zip.ca] say, only it’s a little more subtle than most ’60s spoofs and so I guess people get confused. Everything is over the top but over the top in a way so similar to Bond that it’s hard to tell some of the time they are poking fun (which makes it fantastic). But the man teaches ballet! He speaks in mathematical codes! Do you honestly believe the people who wrote these things were being serious? Some of it is so close to Bond that I guess it’s just really hard to tell the parody from the real thing, but that is the sign of a great parody.
I would rate it higher if the ending were a little funnier. It is better than its sequel (which I watched first for strange reasons).
14. Modesty Blaise, directed by Josephy Losey (8/10)
This movie is astoundingly silly. Fortunately, unlike most spoofs, it never feels the urge to get semi-serious at the end. It remains silly for the whole time, and in fact it gets sillier as it goes, with the climax being by far the most ridiculous part of the film. I definitely wasn’t warming to this quickly, but it wore me down, as I couldn’t help laughing over and over again, and more frequently as it went on (a rarity).
Though I at first wondered about how they could cast Vitti as a British spy, I think everyone was aware of how stupid that was from the outset, as the whole tone of the movie is similar to that casting decision.
15. The Plague of the Zombies, directed by John Gilling (7/10)
This is the first zombie plague movie I am familiar with. All earlier zombie movies I have seen focus on one or two zombies, and they’re not always really dead, and so they don’t really have anything in common with the later zombie genre. This definitely does. There are some good bits and some totally ridiculous bits, but overall I guess this is a significant progression in the genre.
It’s hardly of landmark status, like Night of the Living Dead, but it’s well worth the time if you’re interested in movie history.
16. The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!, directed by Norman Jewison (7*/10)
Seen as a teen.
17. What’s Up Tiger Lilly, directed by Woody Allen, Senkichi Taniguchi (6/10)
The first time I saw Allen’s destruction of a Japanese film, I thought it was the greatest thing I had ever seen. The second time I thought “what was I thinking the first time?” The truth is probably somewhere in between.
18. Farenheit 451, directed by Francois Truffaut (6/1*0)
I was way too young to appreciate this when I saw it. On the other hand, it is Truffaut, who I do not love. But that score…
19. Torn Curtain, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (6*/10)
Seen during my Hitchcock phase.
20. El Dorado, directed by Howard Hawks (6*/10)
Seen during my John Wayne phase.
21. Batman, directed by Leslie H. Martinson (6/10)
Utterly ridiculous and campy beyond belief.
22. The Blue Max, directed by John Guillerman (5*/10)
Seen during my war movie phase.
23. The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t, directed by Rossano Brazzi)
Probably the worst Christmas movie I’ve ever seen. Read the review of The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t.
24. Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, directed by William Beaudine (1/10)
As bad as it sounds.
25. Manos: the Hands of Fate, directed by Harold P. Warren (1/10)
Probably unwatchable without the team from Mystery Science Theatre 3000.