L’Avventura, France-Italy, 1960, 145 min. Starring Monica Vitti, Gabriele Ferzetti, Lea Massari. Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. When her friend goes missing during a holiday trip, a young woman and the man the friend was seeing search for her, but the girl isn’t the only one who’s lost. Antonioni burst on to the international scene with this, the first of a trilogy of films examining a particularly European brand of ennui.
Psycho, USA, 1960, 109 min. Starring Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, Martin Balsam. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Leigh goes on the lam with some embezzled money, but if she had known what was waiting for her ahead she might have thought twice. The film is so ingrained in the collective pop psyche, one can only imagine what it must have been like to see it on its first release without any prior knowledge of what to expect, which does not, of course, prevent it from being a truly terrifying film experience in the present day as well.
Last Year In Marienbad, France-Italy, 1961, 93 min. Starring Delphine Seyrig, Giorgio Albertazzi, Sacha Pitoeff. Directed by Alain Resnais. Extremely enigmatic film about a man who meets up with a woman claiming to have made a date with her to do so a year before. Only problem is she doesn’t remember. Or does she? Endlessly debated puzzle of a movie that we may never truly be able to figure out, though we will continue to have fun trying.
Viridiana, Spain, 1961, 90 min. Starring Sylvia Pinal, Fernando Rey, Francisco Rabal. Directed by Luis Buñuel. A student nun finds out more about sin than she had ever wanted to when she’s sent to visit her lasciviously-minded uncle. To atone she attempts to help the local unfortunates, but they’re not as grateful as you might think. Religion and class, two of the director’s favorite targets, get mercilessly skewered, Pinal is wonderful in the title role and Rey is reliably sleazy as the uncle, playing an archetypal role he would reprise for Buñuel on several occasions.
Jules & Jim, France, 1961, 104 min. Starring Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner, Henri Serre. Directed by Francois Truffaut. Truffaut’s story of a love triangle beginning at the turn of the century and spanning several decades. Moreau’s ebullient performance as the eccentric woman caught between the two men anchors this story of loyalty, friendship, politics and love.
The Birds, USA, 1963, 119 min. Starring Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette, Veronica Cartwright. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. A young socialite visits a small town on a whim, hoping to see a man she has met, but instead finds herself in the middle of a bizarre and horrific situation when the local birds begin inexplicably attacking people. The closest thing The Master ever made to a supernatural horror film still has tremendous power today. The innovative use of synthesized noise in lieu of a musical score helps emphasize the underlying theme of the piece, one of social repression and fears of abandonment. The sheer senselessness of the violence stands as a symbol of the anxiety people have that their whole frame of reference, the very notion of reality as they perceive it, could come crashing down in a moment’s notice.
8½, Italy, 1963, 135 min. Starring Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimée. Directed by Federico Fellini. Mastroianni often served as the director’s onscreen alter ego and never more so than in this, Fellini’s highly personal, practically biographical fantasy about a filmmaker attempting to make a film. Full of delightful vignettes and set pieces.
The Silence, Sweden, 1963, 95 min. Starring Ingrid Thulin, Gunnel Lindblom. Directed by Ingmar Bergman. Two sisters vacationing together check into a hotel in a foreign land. The two women are as different as night and day, and yet there is something that ties them together for better or, more likely, worse. The third film in Bergman’s trilogy about faith may appear to be short on plot, but it features a depth of storytelling that only a true master of the art form could possibly pull off.
The Gospel According To St. Matthew, Italy-France, 1966, 135 min. Starring Enrique Irazoqui, Margherita Caruso, Susanna Pasolini. Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini. Beautifully realized telling of the story of the events leading up to Christ’s crucifixion. Pasolini may have been a Marxist – a strange choice to make such a film to be sure – but he was foremost a poet and it is his strengths as such that he brings to this moving piece of work.
Persona, Sweden, 1966, 90 min. Starring Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullman. Directed by Ingmar Bergman. A young woman is assigned to care for an actress who has gone mysteriously mute. She takes advantage of the silence to bare her soul. But as the women spend more time together it becomes less and less clear what is real and what is not – or for that matter who is who. Bergman uses another of his psychological games to play with perceptions and the two actresses give intense performances.
Blow-Up, UK-Italy, 1966, 111 min. Starring David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles. Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. A jaded photographer shoots a picture that may or may not contain evidence of a crime, but the plot is beside the point. What’s more important, as is so often the case with Antonioni, is his characters’ inner life and their attempts to lift themselves out of the moral/spiritual/psychological morasses into which they have allowed themselves to sink. And, of course, a protagonist who is a photographer is perfect for a filmmaker so renowned for his stunning landscapes.
Bonnie And Clyde, USA, 1967, 111 min. Starring Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman. Directed by Arthur Penn. Groundbreaking, if romanticized, dramatization of the famed outlaws’ crime spree ultimately changed the nature of the Hollywood film. Much has been written about the battle to get it on the screen and Beatty deserves much credit for eventually finding a way. Panned on its initial release, it has gone on to be considered one of the staple American films of the decade.
Belle de Jour, France-Italy, 1967, 100 min. Starring Catherine Deneuve, Jean Sorel, Michel Piccoli. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Housewife Deneuve loves her husband, but can’t bring herself to be intimate with him. Instead she finds fulfillment spending afternoons working in a brothel. Many who haven’t seen this since it was first released probably remember it as being far more explicit than it is, but that’s because Buñuel so saturates the film with an aura of eroticism, and such a furtive one at that, the viewer comes away with a feeling of having seen more than they have.
The Wild Bunch, USA, 1969, 144 min. Starring William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O’Brien. Directed by Sam Peckinpah. A bunch of old outlaws, sensing that their time and that of the West they knew has past, decide to make one last big score before retirement. Criticized upon its initial release for its graphic violence, some failed to see that Peckinpah was attempting to show the true results of violence in more detail than they had ever been shown before, which coupled with the poignant character studies makes for one fine film.
The Wild Child, France, 1969, 83 min. Starring Francois Truffaut, Jean-Pierre Cargol. Directed by Francois Truffaut. The director plays an eighteenth century doctor who takes in a boy raised in the wild. He attempts to connect with him in hopes that it will allow the boy to connect with his own humanity. The doctor – and the film, told in a semi-documentary style – hopes that the boy can teach mankind something about what it actually means to be civilized.