1970 in Movies

Movie reviews written for movies I’ve seen which were theatrically released in 1970.

1. M.A.S.H., directed by Robert Altman (10/10)

In addition to being a major trailblazer for American film – the first feature to be semi-improvised (far as I know), the first feature to include swearing, etc – it is also hysterically funny.

2. The Confession aka L’aveu, directed by Costa-Gavras (9/10)

This is a harrowing and difficult movie about authoritarianism and Stalinism, and why people participate in show trials, when it strikes as as cowardly and/or irrational. It’s based on a true story, too. It tells the story of one man as he experiences arrest, interrogation and indoctrination on his way to a show trial in Czechoslovakia.

Costa-Gavras begins bravely, ambitiously, giving us very few details to go on and us extreme jump cutting (for the era), unusual sound techniques, and some archival footage, to create what is probably the first film to (at least attempt to) portray actual, real-world torture on screen. It’s a daring and fantastic approach, though the film gets less daring as it progresses (which makes some sense).

It’s that seeming change from daring to more conventional, plus the rather long run-time that are my only two quibbles of this near-masterpiece. Costa-Gavras is the greatest political filmmaker of the late ’60s and early ’70s, by my reckoning. (It’s worth remembering that this film was released in 1970, not much after the Prague Spring.)

3. The Butcher, directed by Claude Chabrol (9/10)

I have lost my review. Sorry to say. This is great. A must-see. It’s a thriller, FYI.

4. The Ballad of Cable Hogue, directed by Sam Peckinpah (9/10)

The flip-side of The Wild Bunch in pretty much every way imaginable. They would make an interesting double-bill.

5. The Conformist, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci (9/10)

I am really disappointed that I lost my review for this. It is a must-see.

6. Le Circle Rouge, directed by Jean-Pierre Melville (8/10)

A unique twist on a heist film. Read the review of Le Circle Rouge.

7. Woodstock, Michael Wadleigh (8/10)

An iconic film about an iconic moment. Not perfect by any means, but you should still watch it. Read the review of Woodstock.

8. Listening to You: The Who at the Isle of Wight Festival aka The Who: Live at the Isle of Wight Festival, directed by Murray Lerner (8/10)

You should watch this if you like Live at Leeds. I seem to have lost my review.

9. Little Big Man, directed by Arthur Penn (8/10)

Hysterical, if a little over-the-top.

10. 7 Plus Seven, directed by Michael Apted (8/10)

The second of the Up Documentaries is much better than the first if only because the true vision of the project comes into view. It also jumps back to the original TV episode so you don’t have to have actually watched that original program.

Read the review of the Up documentaries.

10. Tora Tora Tora, directed by Richard Fleischer, Kinji Fukasaka (8/10)

The Longest Day of Pearl Harbor. Better than it should be.

11. Patton, directed by Franklin J. Schaffner (8*/10)

Seen during my AFI movie list summer of 1999.

12. Original Cast Album: Company directed by DA Pennebaker (7/10)

Probably a landmark, but very short. Read the review of Original Cast Album: Company.

13. Five Easy Pieces, directed by Bob Rafelson (7/10)

I have no idea what I did with my review. I was somewhat underwhelmed.

14. Domicile conjugal aka Bed and Board, directed by Francois Truffaut (7/10)

Full disclosure: I do not like Truffaut’s Antoine Donel character.

This is a sporadically entertaining film that is very well-shot though a bit clumsily edited and paced. It’s not quite as funny as it probably was originally, but it hasn’t held up that well.

The bigger problem is that it really does feel like a defense of the immaturity of the protagonist, who is going through some kind of early-mid life crisis. Apparently women really shouldn’t worry about philandering husbands because they still really love them.

15. The American Soldier, directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (6/10)

This is an early Fassbinder film – I think maybe it’s his 5th – that has many hallmarks of his style but failed to move me in the way that his later work does.

It’s a film noir – at least in style if not in pacing – and Fassbinder goes all out with his lighting; there are a lot of cool shots and the lightning is frankly amazing. Everything is very artificial – not just the lighting but the sound, the stilted acting, the monologues, the lack of camera movement, etc. That is an important part of Fassbinder’s mature style, but I feel like in those films it’s much more measured. Here it feels like it might have been a condition of the budget. Or, if it’s a deliberate stylistic choice, it’s just so overwhelming that it’s distracting.

But there’s enough here for Fassbinder fans to make it worthwhile if you’re interested.

16. Kelly’s Heroes, directed by Brian G. Hutton (6*/10)

I seem to remember this as being pretty funny.

17. Catch-22, directed by Mike Nichols (6*/10)

A semi-disastrous adaptation of one of the funniest novels of all-time.

18. Le Genou de Claire, directed by Eric Rohmer (5/10)

This pretty-looking meditation on the nature of romantic obsession is too creepy for me. Read the review of Le Genou de Claire.

19. Rio Lobo, directed by Howard Hawks (5*/10)

Seen during my John Wayne phase.

20. Colossus: the Forbin Project, directed by Joseph Sargent (5/10)

I lost my review but I think this was a good idea marred by bad acting and a not-so-believable script.

21. The Mackenzie Break, directed by Lamont Johnson (5/10)


22. The Beneath the Planet of the Apes, directed by Ted Post (5*/10)

Seen a very long time ago. Is 5 charitable?

23. Le passager de la pluie aka Rider on the Rain, directed by Rene Clement (4/10)

The premise is interesting. But there are a number of major issues.

  • Firstly, the transfer didn’t work so well. The copy they used must have been in pretty bad shape.
  • The sound is often terrible.
  • The acting is for the most part atrocious. Particularly the husband.
  • A lot of the film is hard to buy as the audience has trouble believing the people and / or the situations could plausibly exist.
  • Some of the protagonist’s actions are downright befuddling, but that is probably because most men can’t write women.

This could have been a neat film, but it is fairly incoherent and not well conceived instead. I would love to remake it in my other life as a director.

24. Waterloo, directed by Sergey Bondarchuk (4*/10)

Seen during my war movie phase.

25. The Lickerish Quartet, directed by Radley Metzger (1/10)

Thanks, Showcase.