1968: L'enfance nue (Maurice Pialat)
Maurice Pialat has never really caught on in this country. Certain of his titles, and he didn't make that many films, remain without distribution in the States. But according to French cinephiles I know, he is considered the most important French director to emerge post-Nouvelle Vague. Along with Leos Carax, he's certainly been the most important to me.
L'enfance nue, Pialat's debut feature, is one of his titles that's not terribly easy to find. In fact, I've only seen it once and that was at the old Cinematheque, Palais de Chaillot (the namesake of my production company). With Ken Loach's Kes, it's my favorite film about the vulnerabilities and dangers of childhood. In typical Pialat fashion, this one's emotionally raw and unsentimental, formally natural and unobtrusive.
Pialat might be too tame formally for the general American public, or his lack of sentimentality might be the turn-off. Whatever it is, in my book he remains one of the giants of the last fifty years. An honest, deep, keen filmmaker, a certain Bressonian purity coupled with Nicholas Ray's emotionality. I can only hope that Pialat will soon get his due stateside. We've been deprived long enough of this truly great body of work.
Other contenders for 1968: A good number of titles I still need to see. These include: Nagisa Oshima's Death by Hanging, John Cassevetes' Faces, Alain Resnais' Je t'aime, je t'aime, Mel Brooks' The Producers, Jean Eustache's La rosiere de pessac, Ingmar Bergman's Shame, Richard Lester's Petulia, Lindsay Anderson's If..., Tomas Gutierrez Alea's Memories of Underdevelopment, and Orson Welles' The Immortal Story. Although I have no runners-up this year, I need to revisit Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time in the West, George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, and Stanley Kubrick's 2001. It's been too long since I've seen any of them to know where they'd place on this list.
5/8/11 I watched Mel Brooks' The Producers. I loved Gene Wilder in this, and really liked a scene or two. But otherwise, I didn't find it all that funny and just a little tiresome after awhile.
5/9/11 I watched John Cassavetes' Faces. A tough go, for sure. But Cassavetes definitely is up to some interesting stuff in terms of framing and editing, and he pushes through some cinematic artifice that most people can never completely overcome.
6/13/11 I watched Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo & Juliet. Although the most famous romance ever, it didn't grab me like some other movie romances. Zeffirelli actually proved most effective for me during a couple of the fight sequences. His collaboration with the great Nino Rota is also memorable.
9/7/14 I watched Orson Welles' The Immortal Story. One of the few works by Welles I had never seen is yet another testament to the director's genius and brilliance. The story is labyrinthine and deeply auto-biographical for anyone who wants to think about it in terms of Welles' one-off success with Kane. It joins Renoir's Partie de campagne as one of the medium's all time great short efforts. It is incredibly poignant and powerful in spite of the limited means it surely seems Welles had at his disposal.