For what it's worth, I guess this is one of the most flawed films to top my list. By no means would I tout it as being perfect, and I'm not even sure it's great. But I love it more than any other film I've seen from 1975.
I put Night Moves in the same category as The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Straight Time, films that are all substantially lower in budget than the Coppola and Polanski crime epics. And I only mention budget because there's a grit and casualness to Night Moves that immediately announces its relative lack of ambition. In fact, its this lack of ambition that accounts for much of its likeability. Like a close friend that puts no expectations on you, it's always easy and a pleasure being in its company.
I say all this, but there's still much to boast about in this one. Gene Hackman delivers one of his finest performances, Melanie Griffith is criminally sexy, Michael Small proves once again that he's a master when it comes to subtle, minimal scores, and the serpentine plot is an absolute delight.
I miss Arthur Penn. I love this film, and I love The Chase, and I admire the hell out of Bonnie and Clyde. Like Cimino and even Coppola, if the system had worked better, we'd probably have another handful of incredible Penn films to love and discuss.
Other contenders for 1975: Even with some gaps, I already know this is a really great year. I still need to see: Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger, Richard Fleischer's Mandingo, Theo Angelopoulos' The Travelling Players, Abbas Kiarostami's Two Solutions for One Problem, Jean-Luc Godard's Numero deux, Elaine May's Mikey and Nicky, Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai de Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Fox and His Friends, and Francois Truffaut's The Story of Adele H. At some point, I'll need to revisit Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon, Milos Forman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock as these are all titles I've struggled with in the past. From this year, I really like Woody Allen's Love and Death. I love Steven Spielberg's Jaws, Akira Kurosawa's Dersu Uzala, John Cassavetes' The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and John Huston's The Man Who Would Be King. And my closest runner-up is Hal Ashby's Shampoo.
7/14/11 I watched Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger. Antonioni's incredible talents are all over -- his meticulous framing, his daring yet languid camerawork, and his feel for spaces that the medium has yet to capture. Still very slow and cerebral like almost all his work, but The Passenger gains some warmth from its summer exteriors and more rustic locations. One of the cinema's great road movies, and in the same family as Wenders' Alice in the Cities and Kings of the Road.
8/14/11 I watched Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. Artful and careful. But also distancing and painfully boring for me. Plus Kubrick's almost wall-to-wall music wore on me quickly.
8/17/11 I watched Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Fox and His Friends. Decadent and defeatist as it seems most of Fassbinder's films are. This one feels slightly more intimate though with Fassbinder himself playing the lead.
4/13/12 I watched Robert Aldrich's Hustle. There's something ambitious about the emotional scope that doesn't quite click or fully come together. But this Aldrich remains of interest by refusing to steer clear of the personal, no matter how uncomfortable or how telling. An interesting role for Reynolds while a questionable choice for Deneuve.
9/15/14 I watched Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. An art film with a capital A that is extraordinarily admirable in its restraint, patience, and incredible rigor. But for me the effort ultimately felt more nihilistic than transcendent in any way and it is probably not something I would ever seek out again.
2/6/16 I watched John Frankenheimer's French Connection II. Less artful than the first one, Renoir's cinematography lacks the aesthetic pleasures of Roizman's work. And though it does a good job at capturing Marseilles, the location work also does not quite match what Friedkin did with New York. The real pleasure of this one lies with the final 20-30 minutes. Hackman's pursuit is visceral and Frankenheimer's direction taut, alive, and relentlessly involving.