1969: The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah)
I'll never forget when I first saw this. It was 1995 in St. Louis at the Tivoli Theatre. I must have gone to something like the 8:00 showing. I remember going alone, and when it was over, seriously considering staying for the 10:40 show. I was that blown away.
The desire to see something immediately for a second time had never happened to me before nor has it happened since. I guess it's safe to say that the action sequences, particularly the first and the last, were the most exciting pieces of action filmmaking I had ever seen. They literally showed me another way of doing things. Peckinpah's combination of different film speeds and offbeat, elliptical editing style were a revelation. Of course, John Woo, and even Takeshi Kitano and Wong Kar-Wai, have gone on to reference Peckinpah's inventions here, but the original still packs the greatest punch for me.
I also think its syncopated opening is one of the strongest in the history of the medium. I find myself moved by its themes of friendship. And the movie looks so real, I feel like I can almost smell it.
And what can I say about Robert Ryan and William Holden? The movie almost serves as an argument to cast more of our legends at later stages in their career. There's simply a depth and effect that come from their presence that the younger guys can never provide.
Other contenders for 1969: I still have quite a number of titles to see. These include: Costa-Gavras' Z, Frederick Wiseman's High School, Robert Bresson's Une femme douce, Frank Perry's Last Summer, Ken Russell's Women in Love, David Lynch's The Grandmother, Nagisa Oshima's Boy, Sergei Parajanov's The Color of Pomegranates, Satyajit Ray's Days and Nights in the Forest, Sydney Pollack's They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, Budd Boetticher's A Time for Dying, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Katzelmacher, Robert Kramer's Ice, Claude Chabrol's La femme infidele, Andy Warhol's Blue Movie, Richard Lester's The Bed Sitting Room, and Jacques Rivette's L'amour fou. I need to revisit John Schlesinger's Midnight Cowboy and George Roy Hill's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It's been too long since I've seen either to know where they'd place on this list. I really like Paul Mazursky's Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. I love Eric Rohmer's Ma nuit chez Maud and Jean-Pierre Melville's Army of Shadows. And my closest runner-up is Ken Loach's Kes.
7/15/12 I watched Andre De Toth's Play Dirty. There have been many movies depicting the absurdity of war. But few ring as truthful as this late film by De Toth. It's gritty, bleak, and one of these films coming at the end of the Hays Code, where you can smell the feeling of liberation. A cerebral "man on a mission" with some very intelligent direction from De Toth.
9/26/13 I watched Alfred Hitchcock's Topaz. In my opinion a highly underrated film by the master. It's of interest first off to see what Hitch can do with the Hays code no longer around. There's a brutality at work and a graphic punch that feels like new territory for the director. It also features some fantastic set pieces, including most of what's set in Cuba, some typically expressive Hitch camerawork that De Palma had to have seen, and yet another complex and emotive Hitch score. The ending admittedly lets the film down a little but that's only because much of what comes before is so entertaining. Like Marnie, this Hitch film deserves far more eyes on it and far more people talking about it.
11/16/13 I watched Mark Cousins' The Story of Film: An Odyssey: New Waves - Sweep Around the World. Some fairly new territory for me, I particularly enjoyed his handling of Tarkovsky, Imamura, Ghatak, Psycho, and Wajda.
11/30/15 I watched Peter R Hunt's On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Lazenby made and would have continued to make one of the very best Bonds and Savalas was a wonderful, menacing Bond villain. I am not as big a fan of the direction as Soderbergh or Nolan. But the hard-hitting ending was unexpected and memorable.
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