Thursday, May 3, 2012
1962 was definitely an exceptional year for film (it was also a sad year for literature as we lost William Faulkner–all those drinks finally caught up with him). Looking at the top 17 you have, it's almost hard to believe that all those films were released in a single year. Astonishing really. I can't cringe too much at your ranking, as I could do no more justice to those films than you. No easy task to rank so many titanic films. Great job!
To get them out of the way, I haven't seen THE ELUSIVE CORPORAL (last time I looked, I couldn't find it on youtube or anywhere else), HATARI!, CLEO FROM 9 TO 5, LE DOULOS, or THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE.
I've seen the rest of your top 17, but don't have anything interesting or original to say about them. Can I just respond to you with images as well? THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE at number one. Happy face picture. LOLITA at number 15. Sad face picture.
Actually, I really don't care that LOLITA is so far back on your list. Different tastes for different people. I would probably put it at number one on mine because I love Kubrick unconditionally and would put every one of his films from LOLITA on at number one for whatever yearly list I was doing. I wouldn't even say that LOLITA is the absolute best film of 1962, it's just my favorite. It's an uncomfortable and disturbed picture, but also an artistic marriage between two geniuses. It's more Kubrick's than it is Nabokov's, but that's to be expected from one of cinema's most singular auteurs.
THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE is definitely worthy of the top spot. Elegy is a great word for what this film is, as it mourns the passing of several things. Like TOUCH OF EVIL, one of the great transitional genre films in cinema history. Who better to make it than John Ford?
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is probably THE epic (along with GONE WITH THE WIND). It's enormous and beautiful in a way that only David Lean could manage to do. In recent years I've noticed countless directors mentioning the desire to go bigger, louder, and more expansive. Usually this results in something exquisite to look at but clunky to follow and depleted to connect to. Lean deserves the highest praise as large-scale visionary because he was someone who could go bigger or grander and not compromise on pure storytelling craftsmanship. It's not easy to do unless you are already a master filmmaker, which he was.
I wrote this about RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY back when you were away on tour. It'd be very high on my list too:
"I love the teaming of Randolph Scott (terrific in a generally more comedic role) and Joel McCrea (always great) as honorable old hands proving they still have what it takes and fighting against a wild and uncouth batch of brothers. The film has nothing but reverence for these aging heroes, as they ride taller in the saddle than anyone else and carry the moral weight of the film. Things really get interesting (and emotional) when a betrayal happens near the climax of the film. The ending is lovely, profound, and tragic (there's a two-shot of Scott and McCrea marching towards the final showdown that is sublime). Beautiful scenery and a host of raucous fistfights only add to what is a truly GREAT film about change and old age, honor and fraternity, violence and heroism."
IVAN'S CHILDHOOD is a stark and crippling look at war featuring some of the most beautiful and expressive black-and-white photography one could ever see. Bergman was right about Tarkovsky–nobody punctures so effortlessly into the world of dreams like he does.
I haven't seen JULES ET JIM in many years. I'm sure it's even better than I can recall. Truffaut dealt in the realms of love.
Did we talk about LONELY ARE THE BRAVE yet?
I'm glad you whittled down my AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON review cause that puppy is long and winded. If anyone is interested in reading it (and so the time I spent on it doesn't go completely to naught), here it is. I'm trying to get a job at Slant with this one:
"Watching AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON, Yasujiro Ozu’s final film, is like sliding back into one extended, serene dream. It’s surfaces are calm, its air wistful, its feelings tender and benevolent–filling you with hope and kindness. Warm summer days along riversides are rarely this relaxing. It’s a testament to Ozu’s genius that the film is so evocative when it seemingly does so little visually and narratively. The plot itself follows along the same lines as most Ozu films–a father decides to marry off his daughter before she becomes too old to marry, even as he is dependent on her to take care of him. Yet Ozu, who was always interested in this familial coming-of-age motif and the ultimate passage of time, seems more focused on the twilight of life than ever before. Here, we have the aging Hirayama and his companions, the already aged “Gourd” and his spinster daughter, and this general sense of old age looking back at youth, trying to foster and preserve it. The film’s title itself implies rapid change and movement towards coldness and darkness (the end of life) but also the rhapsody of the present lived-moment. Autumn and twilight are moribund but beautiful things, and AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON is anything but purely woebegone in its depiction of aging and time passing. It feels a sadness for change but it humbly accepts its inevitability and finds importance in it. While the film is filled with typical Ozuian moments of humanity and pathos about this sense of change, it is at the film’s finale that we are left with the great director's last and perhaps most indelible moment on the subject: A drunken Hirayama, now alone and with a heavy-heart, singing a patriotic song from his youth as we feel the emptiness of his house and his body slowly skimming into the shadows. It’s the perfect depiction of Ozuian duality: at once a gentle reflection on the halcyon days of youth and a dirge for the transience of all things."
I haven't watched SANJURO in a while either, but I loved it the last time I watched it. Watching that and YOJIMBO in close succession really solidified my love for Kurosawa as a young man.
Not trying to get aggressive at all here, just slightly confused: How is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD misunderstood? Didn't Obama just set aside a national day for it to be shown at the White House and broadcasted on national TV in honor of its 50th Anniversary? That's pretty prestigious. Do you mean misunderstood amongst cinephiles?
I love THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL and would put it high on my list if I made one. Bunuel certainly was one of the cinema's preeminent punks and here he is once again going after his two favorite targets for ridicule: the church and the bourgeoisie. A hilarious and wonderfully snide finale.
I'm pretty certain WINTER LIGHT is a 1963 film. IMDB has its Swedish release date listed as February 11, 1963. Either way, it's great film about spiritual crisis, deep emotional pain, and terror at the modern world. Just your typical light-hearted Bergman excursion into the soul's abyss.
Anyway, great list! I commend you for even trying to rank these films. I I know I'm having a tough time ranking 1948 and 1952, two other years with too many amazing films to count. This list shit isn't easy, and it's often embarrassing. You've got nothing to be ashamed of here though.
(By the way, I thought about doing a 60s marathon soon, but I can't get into it. I'd much rather keep digging through the 30s-50s for more great films. I don't blame you for having more fun watching 30s movies than 60s movies. I feel the same way. 30s > 60s.)