Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '75 - John D'Amico ""

Friday, May 29, 2015

Underrated '75 - John D'Amico

John D'Amico is a New York City based filmmaker and theorist who
writes for and On Twitter @jodamico1.
He did a list of underrated Action/adventure films and westerns for my previous series which you should have a peek at:

AFONYA (1975; George Daneliya)
Piercingly funny and disarmingly emotional little character study about a drunken slacker trying to make it through Soviet society. There was a lot of great Soviet cinema around this time (Sergei Bondarchuk’s massive WW2 epic They Fought for Their Land is another ’75 highlight), but this is the one I think the majority of western viewers will most readily latch onto. It’s got the spirit of Mark Twain, a gutsy and sloppy iconoclasticism that, while not always admirable, is always very funny.

GIVE ‘EM HELL, HARRY! (1975; Steve Binder/ Peter H. Hunt)
100 minutes of Harry Truman isn’t for everyone, but if it is, you’ll love this. The always underused James Whitmore (probably best remembered for Them! and Shawshank) really gets to stretch his legs here as a fiery Truman looking over his life and times. It gave Whitmore his second Oscar nomination, the only time anyone has ever received one for a one-man show.

FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE (1975; Lucio Fulci)
Lucio Fulci, better known for his splatter-fests like The Beyond and Zombi, surprises us with a deeply sensitive taken on Bret Harte’s stories “The Luck of the Roaring Fire” and “The Outcasts of Poker Flats.” I’m not gonna lie to y’all, the movie is saddled with just plain the WORST soundtrack I’ve ever heard and it’s a little uneven overall, but the whole shebang is worth it for the 20 minutes or so spent in an all-male mining camp in winter (the “Roaring Fire” story). It’s a delicate and beautiful sequence, the spirit of McCabe and Mrs. Miller crossed with Fulci’s unerring eye for vast lonely settings.

FRENCH CONNECTION II (1975; John Frankenheimer)
Like everyone else, I adore the ’71 original, but for my money this underrated sequel is in every way the superior film. Hackman is an absolute powerhouse here, cursing and blustering his way through France until slamming headlong into addiction, culminating in a grueling comedown sequence that could almost be its own short film. I miss Roy Scheider (I ALWAYS miss Roy Scheider), but his replacement Bernard Fresson more than holds his own as a cop just as ruthless as Popeye Doyle. It manages to fit neatly into both the brash run-and-gun American crime tradition and the more quiet observational French style. Regarded as mediocre at the time, an oversight more forgivable when you remember that’75 was arguably the single greatest year for Hollywood filmmaking.

FOOTPRINTS ON THE MOON (1975; Luigi Bazzone)
Eerie, elegant mystery about a woman who can’t remember the last three days. Haunting music, a strong performance by Florinda Bolkan (one of the strongest in the entire giallo genre), and tremendous cinematography by, of all people, Apocalypse Now’s Vittorio Storaro, make this a very rewarding watch.

Out-and-out North Vietnamese propaganda from 1975, it's very much the equivalent of those “plucky optimism” style of British and American flag-wavers during WW2. It’s always an enlightening thing to watch propaganda from a culture you’re not connected to, it helps you see it in your own cinema. This is the story of a little girl wandering the Vietnamese countryside when her whole family is killed in a B-52 strike. It’s predictably devastating at times (the footage of real bombed-out cities is harrowing) but what’s most striking about Little Girl of Hanoi is how light at touch it has at times. There’s a real humanity under it. It focuses on domesticity and day-to-day life under wartime, and there are even some sympathetic American characters in it. Absolutely indispensable if you’re interested in the era or in propaganda filmmaking, and a fine little movie even if you aren’t.

MANDINGO (1975; Richard Fleischer)
Famously loathed and often accused of virulent racism, but I think this is a genuinely good, intelligent, and cynical deconstruction of the antebellum south. The always controversial Ricahrd Fleischer is in his element systematiccaly and gruesomely blowing up the plantation myth and taking apart every notion of civility and honor among the "gentlemen" and "belles."

MILESTONES (1975; John Douglas)
From the other side of the Vietnam conflict as Little Girl of Hanoi, Robert Kramer’s seminal slice-of-life about the end of the war years across America is sprawling and heartfelt, a memorably beautiful and delicate work. It’s quietly experimental and massively ambitious, though it’s only ever composed of intimate moments.

MUNA MOTO (1975; Jean-Pierre Dikongue-Pipa)
Romeo and Juliet relocated to rural Cameroon. Full of powerful scenes - one sequence involving a pair of children’s shoes will break your heart - and rich black and white photography. The ending musical theme is one of my favorites in all of film.

RAPE (1975; Joann Elam)
Unrelentingly powerful documentary, we are a fly on the wall listening to rape victims discuss what happened to them and the way our culture lets them down and enables such inhumanity. Joann Elam keeps things moving with brisk editing, powerful b-roll, and strong MTV-ish title cards highlighting key points. This should be shown in schools... and to Congress.
Can be seen on YouTube here:

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