Movie reviews for movies I’ve seen released theatrically in 1975.
1. La batalla de Chile: La lucha de un pueblo sin armas – Primera parte: La insurreción de la burguesía, directed by Patricio Guzman (10/10)
Part one of one of the great documentaries of the 20th century. Read my review.
1. Monty Python and the Holy Grail, directed by Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones (10/10)
For me, this is one of the top couple comedies of all-time. In addition to being ridiculously absurd, it is also a ruthless satire of medieval epics, low-budget movies and BBC documentaries.
1. Nashville, directed by Robert Altman (10/10)
I saw this a while ago, before I started writing reviews. I can’t really remember it enough to defend the rating right now. But this is classic Altman film; perhaps the best he has ever utilized his ensemble formula. Give it a try.
4. Professione: Reporter aka The Passenger, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni (10/10)
It’s not what you’re running from that will get you.
This is a very deliberately-paced, obliquely-shot, somewhat inscrutable film.
Nicholson is great, as he usually was in the early to mid ’70s, but otherwise the acting isn’t entirely what one would hope for (I can’t say I’m a fan of the female lead). This might have to do with the oblique motivations of the main female role.
But I think this is incidental, and forgivable given everything else. The film builds slowly, so slowly that sometimes it’s painful, to what is one of the great endings in film history, featuring an astounding shot (with what must be a very cleverly disguised cut in there somewhere). I know not everyone subscribes to this view, but a great ending makes a film worthwhile, even if that film has the odd minor flaw in it.
5. Dog Day Afternoon, directed by Sidney Lumet (9/10*)
I have seen this film way too many times to be objective about it.
6. Attila ‘74: the Rape of Cyprus, directed by Michael Cacoyannis (9/10)
This is one of the great documentaries of the ’70s. It will make you very angry.
7. One Flew Over the Cuckoos Next, directed by Milos Forman (9/10*)
I have seen this movie way too many times to be objective. Having now read the novel, I actually appreciate it more than I used to, I think.
8. Night Moves, directed by Arthur Penn (9/10)
I had heard about this movie so long that I guess my expectations wrecked it a little…at first. This isn’t the movie I thought it was. There’s a lot of that “things aren’t right in society” thing going on, and I wasn’t wholly prepared for it for some reason. However, they knew what they were doing. This is one of those “the mystery is solved but the real mystery isn’t” movies which are always nice. The ending is pretty damn awesome. It is the best part. It could have been even better I think, but it’s still awesome.
9. Barry Lyndon, directed by Stanley Kubrick (8/10*)
I have downgraded my rating slightly because I gave it a higher one during my Kubrick phase. I should watch it again to see if it’s as boring as people say. It’s period lit! It’s period lit!
10. Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg (8/10*)
I have not seen this film all the way through in ages. I should give it another go. This is what I said earlier:
“I don’t want to admit it, but it’s good…but he wanted to show the shark! The only reason he didn’t was because he didn’t have the technology. So it was only circumstances that kept the movie good.”
11. Picnic at Hanging Rock, directed by Peter Weir (8/10)
This is a fascinating and mysterious movie. It’s hard really to describe except to say that it is beautiful to look at and the tone is such that, even though it has an unconventional narrative, you are hooked throughout. This is probably not for everyone; there are those who find the very nature of this movie annoying. But for those who liked something like Weir’s the Last Wave, this has more of that sort of Australian mystery, only with less plot.
12. Three Days of the Condor, directed by Sidney Pollack (8/10)
During my conspiracy movie phase, I thought this was one of the second tier of ’70s conspiracy movies. I should probably have a giant ’70s conspiracy theory movie marathon to find out how my views have changed.
13. Overlord, directed by Stuart Cooper (8/10)
This is a pretty incoherent piece of film-making. It’s hard to see how a lot of the actual footage from the war fits in with the specific plot (and maybe the idea was put the plot in its proper place). That being said, much of the new stuff is quite effective. And I actually see the germs of the so-called “noble grunt” subgenre here, about a decade or so early. For whatever reason, I find it interesting enough to watch and think about that I’m willing to sort of forget about the lack of a overarching narrative connecting the specific footage created for this movie with the archival footage from the war. Occasionally they do it successfully, but often they don’t (especially most of the aerial stuff).
14. Fox and His Friends, directed by Ranier Werner Fassbinder (8/10)
I have to say, I never really connect with Fassbinder’s subject matter. That being said, the man can flat out direct. This isn’t the best film of his I’ve seen to date, but it’s still amazing to watch. He has an innate gift for selecting shots. And even though we in the audience know pretty early on what’s going to happen to Fox, he somehow manages to make it interesting right up until end.
15. Grey Gardens, directed by Ellen Hovde, Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Muffie Meyer (8/10)
This is a real shocker.
It’s actually sort of hard to watch (as it hits me a little too close to home, but I can’t elaborate). It is utterly incredible what happens when people – whether they are rich or poor – seclude themselves from society. As Plato (or someone) said, you are either a beast or a god.
Though it is hard to watch, there really isn’t much like it. It was probably the first film (at least it’s the first one I know of) that broke down stereotypes of this kind of thing that we now would associate with hoarding (even though it’s not exactly the same thing). “Breeding” clearly has nothing to do with it (though maybe inbreeding does…I kid).
Essential viewing in terms of the historical evolution of documentaries. But quite difficult to sit through.
16. The Man Who Would Be King, directed by John Huston (8/10)
This is a pretty good film. It’s a decent adventure story with a huge dose of humour. It could have been great, if only it had been blacker (the humour borders on black a lot of the time but doesn’t quite get there, and the traditional film score doesn’t help the tone). It is a huge improvement on something like Gunga Din, but that is no doubt partially due to the context.
17. Shivers aka They Came From Within, directed by David Cronenberg (7/10)
This helped establish Cronenberg’s (old) reputation and it is pretty inventive, though it has dated rather badly.
18. The French Connection II, directed by John Frankenheimer (6/10)
There are some surprisingly good things about the sequel to the French Connection. First, there are no subtitles for the French that is spoken meaning that, for non-French speakers, we are as confused (or as much a fish out of water) as Hackman is. That’s good. Then there’s the direction, it’s quite effective and there are some neat moments just as in the first film (except for the similar transit chase sequence). There is nothing wrong with the dialogue. The acting is good. Hackman is very good (though for a while he seems to be playing the “Ugly American” type from anti-imperialism / anti-war films…though that suggests genre mashing, which is always interesting).
The problem then is the story itself. The first film was loosely based on real events, even though I’m sure many liberties were taken. With this second film, I can see no way how it was based in fact because it just doesn’t make any sense. There are lots of moments where Hackman is just too out-of-control or too crazy to ever be tolerated by any police force. For example (spoiler?), on his first day in France, he causes the death of an undercover cop. And yet he is allowed to remain in France to pursue his investigation. That happens… Even with the subsequent revelations of the plot, it does not make any sense. The story is just believable enough, even though it follows some fairly standard police movie plot-lines. It’s unfortunate, because otherwise I would have been very surprised by the quality of this movie (which, as I have said, I don’t think should exist at all). Anyway, it just goes to show Frankenheimer is competent, because he can make a bad story very interesting. It’s too bad he was given so few of them after the late ’60s.
19. A Boy and His Dog, directed by LQ Jones (6/10)
One of those innumerable 70s science fiction films where the execution does not live up the to idea.
20. Black Moon, directed by Louis Malle (6/10)
This is a bizarre, barely plotted, surrealistic fantasy/sci-fi French film that tests one’s patience with its attempts to say things as obtusely as possible and with its attempts to be shocking. It’s part of a grand tradition of obscure French science fiction/fantasy films about post-apocalyptic worlds – where the world-building the English-language world loves so much is barely a consideration – but takes a wild digression into adult Alice in Wonderland territory not long into the film. It’s one of those movies where there are memorable moments – as well as moments that are probably meant to be memorable but aren’t – but you’re not sure what the sum of those moments is supposed to be. In fact, it feels like two ideas to me, grafted together for no reason that I can think of. That being said, it’s certainly more thought-provoking than some movies that set out to be deliberately weird (or deliberately shocking) though it is less effective than a lot of cinematic surrealism in part because it is rarely creepy and only occasionally funny.
21. Seven Beauties, directed by Lina Wertmuller (6/10*)
This is a strange film about the holocaust that I saw in a university politics class.
22. Love and Death, directed by Woody Allen (6/10*)
Seen before I knew who Bergman was. I am going to re-watch it.
23. The Return of the Pink Panther, directed by Blake Edwards (6/10*)
Seen during the height of my “Peter Sellars is God” phase. I can think of no justification for this rating.
24. Death Race 2000, directed by Paul Bartel (5/10)
Like many Corman films, this suffers from a lack of a budget. There are a number of horrible continuity errors that really hurt this movie. And the script could have been a lot better. But of course they weren’t aiming high, so I guess I should grant them that the cheesy lines are de rigeur for this kind of film. Fortunately, the film has a great sense of humour. One real groaner of a gag they spend most of the movie setting up. It is such a groaner, but because they put so much time into it, you want to like it. I can’t help but think that with a little bit more money and talent, they might have made one hell of a movie.
25. Race with the Devil, directed by Jack Starrett (4/10)
HALF THE STATE OF TEXAS IS TRYING TO KILL THEM…
This is pretty preposterous. Seriously, how many people are in on this conspiracy? There are some decent stunts, there are some funny lines, and not much else. I love how no one seems to notice/care that half of the front of the RV is missing… This is a pretty prototypical car chase film (with an RV) with not a whole lot to recommend it.
26. The Jezebels aka Switchblade Sisters, directed by Jack Hill (3/10)
Well, the one good thing I can say for it is that I didn’t notice any major technical flaws. Often with films like this you can see boom mics, and there are repeat shots, and that kind of thing. Didn’t notice any of that. So let’s see: the acting is uniformly atrocious (though it’s fun to see Donna’s dad from That 70s Show), the motivations change to conveniently fit the plot, the film tells us that not only do 30 year olds attend high school, but they do so while possessing automatic weapons. And so forth.
27. Bug, directed by Jeannot Szwarc (2/10)
I wish I had written down my thoughts at the time, this is a great one.