This list tries to encapsulate the lost classics and great forgotten directors of American cinema in the 1970’s, more particularly involved in a revolutionary period called New Hollywood.
A long time ago, not in a galaxy far far away but in the good old States in the ‘Golden Sixties’ and later the crisis stricken seventies, creativity boomed in film. With federal antitrust actions and the advent of television, the old Hollywood studio system collapsed and a new wave of young ‘movie brats’ took over in American cinema. Inspired by new waves all over Europe, young directors were given the chance by the old and now desperate Hollywood establishment. That radical shift in power spawned classics like The Godfather (Coppola, 1972), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Forman, 1975) and Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976) but eventually got crushed by the blockbuster mentality of sensational films like The Exorcist (Friedkin, 1973), Jaws (Spielberg, 1975) and Star Wars (Lucas, 1977).
A lot of people seem to forget that seventies New Hollywood cinema also generated a thrilling time of ‘sex, drugs & rock ‘n’ roll’ and I’m not only referring to the masterpieces Bonnie and Clyde (Penn, 1967), The Graduate (Nichols, 1967) and Easy Rider (Hopper, 1969). Many filmmakers were given the possibility to experiment and tell existential stories about antiheroes or the difficulties of romantic relationships and sex. Hidden treasures were the result which influenced a couple of popular cinephile directors, for instance Miramax’s wonder child Tarantino or Mumblecore king Joe Swanberg.
Top 25 best forgotten New Hollywood classics (1966-1983)
This top celebrates those lost classics that were on the edge of controversy and made you reconsider not only the American Dream way of life but also the naïvety of sixties ‘flower power’. They were products of an age of oil crisis, the Watergate scandal, the disillusionment in Vietnam, before Spielberg’s sharks, aliens and dinosaurs turned Hollywood into a fun fair of attractions.
Only one film per director allowed.
Beside this limited selection, there are off course many more forgotten masterpieces to discover that did not make the list: Real Life (Brooks, 1979), Medium Cool (Wexler, 1969), The Front (Ritt, 1976), The Arrangement (Kazan, 1969), Atlantic City (Malle, 1980), Johnny Got His Gun (Trumbo, 1971), Reds (Beatty, 1981), The Boys in the Band (Friedkin, 1970), Downhill Racer (Ritchie, 1969), Blue Collar (Schrader, 1978), Prince of the City (Lumet, 1981), …
25. Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)
Directed by Richard Brooks
Featuring Diane Keaton and Richard Gere
Martin: “Teaching’s a waste of time, I’m writing a novel.”
Theresa: “Isn’t everybody.”
Martin: “Getting divorced too.”
Theresa: “Isn’t everybody.”
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Elmer Gantry (1960) and In Cold Blood (1967) already proved Brooks’ skills when he published this little lovely piece with Diane ‘Annie Hall’ Keaton. Her Theresa Dunn appears to be the same attractive intellectual woman as many of her Woody Allen creations which she does so wonderfully fine. I loved her performance and conversations with strangers in pick-up bars, looking for a partner in love. Richard Gere portrays her beautiful but crazy stranger, putting on the act of his career, alongside American Gigolo (Schrader, 1980) of course.
Sexual relationships can be difficult, the same goes for finding a meaning to existence. For Theresa a struggle, for me a very enjoyable movie night.
24. Joe (1970)
Directed by John G. Avildsen
Featuring Peter Boyle and Dennis Patrick
“The niggers, the niggers are gettin’ all da money. Why work, tell me, why the fuck work, when you can screw, have babies, an’ get paid for it?” (Joe)
Despite being the director of the disappointingly meager Rocky (1976) and the filled with empty youth nostalgia The Karate Kid (1984), Avildsen attained my attention with his Jack Lemmon vehicle Save the Tiger (1973) and especially Peter Boyle’s radical rendition of Joe (1970), the everyday American. Bill Compton, a wealthy advertising executive, meets lower class, hippie-hater Joe after coincidentally killing one of them free-lovers. The friendship, based on a mutual resentment, is first forced upon Compton by Joe and eventually leads them to a drastic climax of radicalism.
After being a commercial success, Boyle hated people associated him with the glorification of violence. In effect, he refused the leading role in The French Connection (1971), which yielded a gigantic box office success for William Friedkin.
23. Fingers (1978)
Directed by James Toback
Featuring Harvey Keitel
Restaurant patron: “All right, I’m tellin’ ya – turn it off!”
Jimmy Fingers: “Do you believe this? This is the Jamies, man! “Summertime, Summertime!” – the most musically inventive song of 1958! What are you eating? Shrimp? Are you gonna tell me this song doesn’t go with your shrimp?”
An energetic portrait of a mad man, a fanatical pianist and an extrovert lover who makes his living being a loan shark for his father’s ‘businesses’. Toback tries to capture the same mood Scorsese created in his magnum opus Mean Streets (1973) but does not quite succeed. He never achieved much success with directing, perhaps some with his notable screenplays for The Gambler (Reisz, 1974), a Dostoievsky adaptation starring James Caan, and Bugsy (Levinson, 1991), a Warren Beatty gangster flick. Fingers (1978) got remade by the French director Jacques Audiard as De battre mon cœur s’est arrêté in 2005 but just cannot compete with the original.
In Seduced and Abandoned (2013), James Toback conceived an interesting look at the industry of contemporary filmmaking. He tries to get backing for an ambitious political picture together with actor Alec Baldwin. Naturally, the sources for these kind of budgets seem under control of a depressingly superficial and bloated elite, who are just looking for the next big star-driven blockbusters. It is clear we have to get past those empty headed, rich bastards, Mumblecore all the way!