1972: The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola)
I read once where Steven Spielberg said that he would never make a movie as perfect as The Godfather. I never understood why he would make that statement, but I can't argue against the greatness of Coppola's film. It simply does so many things right.
It has tremendous performances. Pacino, Duvall, Brando, Caan, Cazale, Shire are all at the top of their game. It has a perfect score, perfect lighting scheme, seemingly perfect editing, shot selection, camera movement, and production design. It has some of the most memorable lines and scenes in the history of the medium. And it seems perfectly scaled to fit its themes, desired effect, and wonderfully crafted story.
Pauline Kael used the term "movie art" to describe it in her 1972 review, and I've always felt the film to be as great a hybrid as we've ever had of depth and entertainment. It's a tremendous achievement and model for all of us that hope to reach audiences in more than just NY and LA, but hope to say something, too.
Other contenders for 1972: I still have a few titles from this year I need to see. These include: Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris, Jacques Rivette's Out 1: Spectre, Elaine May's The Heartbreak Kid, Ingmar Bergman's Cries and Whispers, Billy Wilder's Avanti!, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's The Merchant of Four Seasons, Bill L Norton's Cisco Pike, and Maurice Pialat's We Won't Grow Old Together. I need to revisit Bob Rafelson's The King of Marvin Gardens, John Boorman's Delivrance, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder's The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. It's been too long since I've seen any of them to know where they'd place on this list. From this year, I really like Eric Rohmer's Chloe in the Afternoon. I love Bob Fosse's Cabaret. And Werner Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God is my closest runner-up.
8/31/10 I watched Bob Rafelson's The King of Marvin Gardens. It's a deep film, but one that I've now seen twice and can't warm to quite yet. It's so dark and drab and is almost completely devoid of fun. I love Five Easy Pieces and know that this Rafelson also enjoys a huge reputation, but I can't quite connect to it yet.
4/10/11 I watched Jean-Pierre Melville's Un Flic. Melville's final film is not at the same level of his two previous and, in my opinion, two strongest films, Army of Shadows and Le Cercle Rouge. But it still shows off the director's ability for bringing an incredibly unique approach and attitude to the crime film. Zooms abound, while also on display are the director's uncanny interest in the human gaze and most minute details of a crime. Of particular interest, the entire sequence where a helicopter helps with the heist of a moving train.
7/30/11 I watched Ingmar Bergman's Cries and Whispers. A Bergman rumination on humanity's superficial responses to death. As is typical in his work, he's able to draw incredibly carnal and deeply primal performances from his female actors. But as is often my response to Bergman, I'm left more in admiration than in great empathy and connection.
10/15/11 I watched Abel Ferrara's The Hold Up. Ferrara's second short film is decently interesting with a wonderful, elliptical ending.
11/20/11 I watched Roberto Rossellini's Blaise Pascal. No one made movies like Rossellini, and this statement is particularly true of his later period. These zoom-heavy (in and out) films of historical figures feel like they're in cursive, with a bunch of commas, long, lovely phrases that we find curious but are unsure to really understand. Probing and cerebral like later Godard but more linear and less blatantly rebellious.
2/12/12 I watched Stuart Rosenberg's Pocket Money. Based on a script written by all people, "Terry Malick", this offbeat road movie has some interest. But it's too lax for my taste and just seems to amble along, so loose as to fall apart at any minute. Great collaborators all around, just wish it had a stronger formal approach or a more discernible pulse.
8/17/13 I watched Mike Hodges' Pulp. Like a French New Wave noir without the beauty or the genius. Not my thing at all.
10/5/13 I watched Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy. There is a lurid, unhinged brutality on display that seemed restrained during the Hays period. The effect of this blunt approach is of interest in its raw, primal effect, but it also seems to diminish some of the feelings that come from the best Hitch when he was forced to be more suggestive and subversive.
8/3/14 I watched Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris. Ambitious and impressive but an elusive as much as a moving experience for me. Tarkovsky is heady and seems to prefer symbolism and opaqueness over any kind of even somewhat easily readable viewer relationship.
11/2/15 I watched Maurice Pialat's Nous ne viellirons pas ensemble. One of the last of the Pialat features I had never seen, Pialat impresses again by his strong, uncompromising approach to the medium. A French friend of mine once mentioned how revered Pialat was for his editing. I had never paid real attention to the editing until now but here it is remarkable - forceful, edgy, propulsive and completely a piece with the rest of Pialat's form. Also Pialat draws Jean as a character with such unpredictable rage that the final minutes simmer and vibrate with such potential violence. But Pialat runs counter to the catharsis Scorsese offers Bickle and through great restraint trails off instead into a soft and wistful coda of an equal but different power.
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