Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Beat Goes On

The year 1960 was a time when European films had been doing interesting stuff for a while, and the nouvelle vague was really revving up, while Hollywood films were still mostly childish.  This couldn't last.  (Though some would say it's lasted 50 years.)

Jesse Walker is now looking at the best films of 1960.  I generally agree with his list, though with perhaps a different emphasis.
Here's his top ten.

1. The Apartment
2. Psycho
3. Cruel Story of Youth
4. La Dolce Vita
5. Jazz on a Summer's Day
6. The Little Shop of Horrors
7. Peeping Tom
8. The Virgin Spring
9. The Young One
10. The Housemaid

We've argued over The Apartment before.  He calls it the best American director's best film.  I'd call it a decent if overrated film from one of America's best directors.  But it's certainly good enough to make the list somewhere.  In fact, a lot of this list is great directors doing second-best work.

I haven't seen #3 and #10, but the rest I know and like.  Still, The Virgin Spring is not top-notch Bergman.,  The Young One is a fascinating, and rare English-language film for Bunuel, but far from his best.  La Dolce Vita I like, but not love.  It's a turning point for Fellini--and not a good one--where he started the transition from neorealism to surrealism..  Perhaps his most famous and iconic film (that or the vastly overrated 8 1/2), it's still got enough of the good Fellini to make it worthwhile.  Peeping Tom, which destroyed Michael Powell's career, is one of those films with a story behind it that's more fascinating than the movie itself.

By the way, Little Shop Of Horrors, considering it was shot pretty much over a weekend, holds up quite well.

Here are the honorable mentions:

11. Testament of Orpheus
12. Shoot the Piano Player
13. Rocco and His Brothers
14. Tunes of Glory
15. Village of the Damned
16. The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse
17. Zazie Dans Le Métro
18. Jigoku
19. Breathless
20. The Your Name Here Story

Some good stuff here.  Certainly Shoot The Piano Player should be in the top ten.  It's actually a top-notch film from a top-notch director.  On the other hand, I've always considered Godard the emperor's new clothes, and Breathless is the film that starts that off.

I find Tunes Of Glory a bit dull.  Maybe I should give it another shot.

Jesse hasn't seen The Bad Sleep Well, The Entertainer, Night and Fog in Japan, and Purple Noon.

The Bad Sleep Well and Purple Noon are both pretty good.  Haven't seen Night And Fog In JapanThe Entertainer strikes me as something that works better on stage.

Jesse ignores a film that many consider a landmark, Antonioni's L'Avventura.  I guess he doesn't go for it.

He also leave out Satyajit Ray's Devi, which I think deserves a spot.

Also, since Jesse is willing to list shorts, where's The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film?

And where's ground zero of the Angry Young Man Film, Saturday Night And Sunday Morning?

I should note 1960 was a pretty major year for Jerry Lewis, who released three films.  He was a major star at this point, in control of his career.  I don't get the impression Jesse is much of a fan, but I find him an interesting character, at the very least.  Very talented, if not always the best judge of good material.  All three of the films from 1960 are fun in different ways.

First you've got Visit To A Small Planet, a massively rewritten version of Gore Vidal's play, and Jerry plays the alien.  Then you've got Cinderfella, with the staircase scene.  Above all, there's The Bellboy, a fairly short film shot in a month at the Hotel Fontainebleau while he was performing there.  He had to work fast because Paramount needed a summer release.  It's one of his most fascinating works. It's funny, but it's also more than a little surrealistic--something he may be better at than Fellini.

Here are other films of interest, for one reason or another, from 1960:

The Alamo, All the Fine Young Cannibals, Beat Girl, The Beatniks, Because They're Young, Bells Are Ringing, Les Bonnes Femmes, A Breath of Scandal, The Brides of Dracula, Butterfield 8, Can-Can, Carry On Constable, Cash McCall, The City of the Dead, College Confidential (starring Steve Allen as a sex researcher, it's a follow-up to High School Confidential that has to be seen to be believed), The Day They Robbed the Bank of England, Doctor in Love, Elmer Gantry, Exodus, Eyes Without a Face (Jesse says this was a good year for horror, so I was surprised he didn't list this movie), G.I. Blues, The Gallant Hours, Gangster Story, Heller in Pink Tights, The Hole, House of Usher, The Housemaid, Inherit the Wind, It Started in Naples, Let's Get Married, Let's Make Love, The Magnificent Seven, Make Mine Mink, The Millionairess, Murder, Inc., Never on Sunday, North to Alaska (better than True Grit?), Ocean's 11 (the original--iconic yet not good), Pepe, Please Don't Eat the Daisies, Pollyanna, The Rat Race, Sergeant Rutledge, Sex Kittens Go to College, Spartacus, Stop, Look and Laugh, Strangers When We Meet, The Sundowners, Sunrise at Campobello, Swiss Family Robinson, Tall Story, The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse, The Three Worlds of Gulliver, The Time Machine, Two Women, The Wackiest Ship in the Army, Where the Boys Are, Who Was That Lady?, The World of Suzie Wong


Blogger Jesse said...

La Dolce Vita: It's actually my favorite Fellini film, or at least my fave of the ones I've seen. It's at that stage of his career where he's letting in the wildness but not letting it take over, so it stops short of the self-indulgence that marks a lot of his later movies.

Breathless: It's a good movie, but I generally agree with you about Godard. You'll notice that it's down at the bottom of the honorable mentions rather than occupying the top ten.

Tunes of Glory: It threatens to be dull in the first half-hour, but it's all in the service of building to a great ending.

L'Avventura: An interesting movie, but not completely successful, IMHO. If I did a top 30 list it would probably make it.

Others: I haven't seen Devi or Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, and I've seen only part of a muddy print of Running Jumping & Standing Still.

Jerry Lewis: I like The Bellboy, and it would make that hypothetical top 30 list as well. I saw Visit to a Small Planet as a teenager and disliked it strongly, though in retrospect I have to wonder how much of that was disappointment that it wasn't much like the play. I haven't seen Cinderfella.

Eyes Without a Face: It almost made the list. Put it at #21.

10:51 AM, January 12, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of the sillier Hollywood films then, like Who Was That Lady? of The Time Machine hold up a lot better than movies that were taken seriously, like Elmer Gantry.

11:55 AM, January 12, 2011  

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