His latest book: Norman Mailer: Film is Like Death (A Cinema Reader) is scheduled for release via Bloomsbury in the Spring of 2017.
In no particular order:
01. Cathy Come Home (Ken Loach, 1966)
Pre-dating the release of a film like D.A. Pennebaker's Don't Look Back (1967) by merely only a few months as well as other American Cin駑a v駻it , Ken Loach's Cathy Come Home is a recall that fast-forwards through the life cycle of the marriage of a young British couple who keep spitting out kids during the post-war housing shortage. Loach's film does not capture the swinging London of 1965-1967 that features the music of The Beatles, The Who, Pink Floyd or Jimi Hendrix. No, this is a bleak teetering-on-dystopian vision of the class struggle in the post-WWII era. Part direct cinema, part avant-garde, Loach crafts a kind of numbness here in the viewer by juxtaposing a hyper-kinetic visual aesthetic with layers and layers of soundscapes which are memory-derivative. The question? Who's memory is this? #Masterpiece
Watch on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGL4b25AJpM
British slice-of-life piece about a newly married young man (Hywel Bennett) who has the problem of being unable to make love to his beautiful new bride (Hayley Mills). What's the problem? Ask his mother and his father! Roy and John Bolting made some excellent films as early on as the late 1940s. All of them are underrated and most of them completely unknown with the exception of 1947's Brighton Rock and 1968's Twisted Nerve.
03. You're A Big Boy Now (Francis Coppola, 1966)
Francis Coppola's cheeky, coming-of-age story about a young man whose parents still call him 'Big Boy' [Peter Kastner]. He overlooks what is right in front of him only to stumble around New York chasing after the elusive and sexy Barbara Darling (Elizabeth Hartman), while his true love Amy (Karen Black) watches and waits. Part French New Wave and part Jerry Lewis, You're a Big Boy Now is always overlooked as the film that brought the boot down on the kick starter that fired up the cylinders of the “Easy Riders, Raging Bull” era.
04. Dutchman (Anthony Harvey, 1966)
A theater piece transferred over to film due to the passion of actress Shirley Knight (Petulia, Love Story, Sweet Bird of Youth, As Good As It Gets) who raised the money herself to bring this controversial work of Amiri Baraka to celluloid. An African-American businessman draws the unwelcome attention of a racist, yet sexually super-charged queen bee named Lulu on the subway in New York City amongst passengers. She either wants to fuck him or kill him. There's something here that reminds of the German theater work of Frank Wedekind, who's “Lulu Plays” of the late 19th Century aimed to open Pandora's Box.
Watch on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VRoOAmtHsQ
05. Passages of Finnegans Wake (Mary Ellen Bute, 1966)
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me before Twin Peaks: Fire Walks With Me. That is if this and David Lynch's film can be read as both being singular death bed visions. Artist Mary Ellen's Bute's pitch-perfect mid-1960s adaptation of James Joyce's 'Finnegan's Wake,' is naturally, a stream-of-consciousness envisioning--not purely of Joyce's influential novel but more a vision of Mary Manning's theater piece which was based on Joyce's novel itself. Which tells the tale of “Finnegan,” who upon falling asleep sees his entire life flash before him but also gets glimpses of the lives of others' surrounding him at his wake Bute crafts, what is arguably, the quintessential oneiric piece of cinema here. Her mise-en-scene is just as amusing and metaphysical as Joyce's prose. An entire film of montage, here, it recalls how exact Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein was in his thinking back in the 1930s that Joyce's novel, with its play and structuring of words and their echoes, was more film montage than an actual novel itself.
Watch on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cibQA_LNe9s
06. 10:30 P.M. Summer (Jules Dassin, 1966)
A human triangle is put under duress in a hostel in Spain when an alcoholic wife [Melina Mercouri] catches, or maybe even drunkenly fantasizes, her husband [Peter Finch] and their little daughter's au pair [Romy Schneider] in a passionate embrace on a balcony. On a death-trip, she sets out to track down a murderer on the loose who is running rooftop-to-rooftop across a black and rainy night in Madrid out of a strange desire to be with him romantically. A lush, metaphysical mystery that unravels motives and jealously; a technicolor-like dreamcoat that looks like a 90-minute Goya painting, intertwined with the hopelessness of film noir. Screenplay by novelist and filmmaker, Marguerite Duras, who's follow-up films La Musica (1967) and Détruire dit-elle (1969) aka Destroy, She Said are equally underrated. #Masterpiece
Watch on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfBCQeXnkWE
07. A Rain in July (Marlen Khutsiyev, 1966)
An existential sleeper that is part of the Russian New Wave, which of course, was inspired by the French New Wave. Lena (Yevgenya Uralova), a young woman in a thriving Moscow, takes stock in her life as she begins to examine the emptiness of it amidst her comfortable social status. In her late twenties, she loves her boyfriend (Aleksandr Belyavsky) but in time comes to see that their relationship serves no real function. What's more, she sees that her friends are stupid, empty-headed dipshits. If there ever was a female Dostoyevsky, Lena might have been reading her. Great slice-of-life piece in post-war Soviet life. It was once thriving like Paris.
Scripted by novelist and playwrights Jean Genet and Marguerite Duras (the second time she's popping up on this list!), Jeanne Moreau plays at the metaphysical nightmare of a schoolteacher who poisons folks in a tiny village. [Playing] out like some study of biblical darkness, there is an unspoken undercurrent running through Mademoiselle that will give anyone chills who might be prey to spirits. More than cinema--this is something demonic.
09. 7 Women (John Ford, 1966)
Shockingly overlooked today, 7 Women was director John Ford's final movie of his 60-year career. And it features, what is arguably, Anne Bancroft's finest performance. Yes, “Mrs. Robinson” shows up in front of Ford's camera as a doctor who shakes up the moral status quo of a conservative Christian missionary in violent China. Bancroft as “Dr. Cartwright,” chain smokes, isn't afraid to speak her mind and is a poster figure for Women's Liberation long before Gloria Steinem hits the scene.
7 Women also features Sue Lyon in a post-Kubrick Lolita (1962) performance, as well as Woody Strode and Eddie Albert―but the entire cast is overshadowed by Bancroft here, where one can not take their eyes off of her, but only revel in her mammoth persona.
7 Women has a long history of being ignored in the Ford oeuvre as it often has been considered by many Ford-aficionados as one of his minor works in a massive body that features such classic films like The Quiet Man (1952) and Stagecoach (1939).
This might be the only time I've ever agreed with a film critic, especially someone of the inept ilk of the likes of Andrew Sarris, but it was Sarris who suggested that not only was 7 Women nearly the best film of 1966, but it might be best served to consider it for inclusion on a list of the “Most Misappreciated American Films of All Time.” Ford's final film made this list of Sarris's in 1977, but was also thrust upon the same tableau of many other American critic films that the same year―who, all of which, thank God, we can barely remember.
The plot? Dr. Cartwright and the missionary staff take on a group of hostile Mongolian looters and pillagers who steal from local villages that the mission is there to aid. This bitch is visual too, like Johnny Guitar (1954), Desert Fury (1947) or Douglas Sirk visual!--it's layered with shadows, and colorful tones and hues, which are a technicolor feast and a fuck! Bancroft leaves us much in the same manner of which she arrives in the film at its end―with unforgettable swagger. In the finale, she manages to not only get some of the village hostages released, but she also manages to poison the no-good “Tunga” who has been terrorizing all. She offers him a drink in their final moment saluting him with: “So long you bastard!” Then what does she do? She pauses, knowing that she's just violated the Christian ethics of her work, she grabs and an empty cup and pours herself a cup of the poisoned mixture, and drinks it! They say you lose “it” with age, well, if that's the case, John Ford must have been the exception to the theory. [This] is every contemporary genre film today.
10. Les Créatures (Agnes Varda, 1966)
Fact and fiction are blurred in Agnes Varda's debut feature film with actress Catherine Deneuve. There's no point to say anything else. See Les Créatures right away.