I was somewhat surprised to find so many movies from the 1960s on my Best Discoveries of the Year list, a total of 15, matched only by my total from the 1940s. Quite a few of these are from the first half of the decade and many are international films. I can honestly say that of all the films I watched in 2018, the ones from this decade are the films I’d most like to revisit.
Although I may not like where he takes me as a director, I am fascinated by the films of Luis Buñuel. They challenge me in a way that films from other directors rarely do. The Exterminating Angel (above, 1962) was mysterious, hilarious, intriguing, and frightening, sometimes all in the same scene, while Viridiana (1961) is a moral train wreck you can’t turn away from. Both films are brilliant.
I am slowly working my way through the films of Sidney Lumet that I haven’t yet seen. Had I known The Hill (1965) would be so powerful, I’d have viewed it much sooner. This war drama set in a British military prison in the Libyan desert during WWII sets prisoners Sean Connery, Ossie Davis, and others against the camp’s sadistic major (Harry Andrews). While not necessarily graphically violent, this is a brutal film with superb performances.
I was very pleased when my friend Audy Christianos asked me to join him on his podcast Film Don’t Lie to discuss one of the Criterion Double Features on FilmStruck: My Night at Maud’s (1969) and Night Moves (1975). Night Moves (a film noir masterpiece) was a rewatch, but Maud’s was new to me, a mesmerizing examination of theology and desire.
Film noir continued into the 60s with an excellent remake of Robert Siodmak’s The Killers (1946), this time (1964) with Don Siegel directing. Flipping the story on its head, Siegel gives us the point-of-view of the two killers, wonderfully played by Lee Marvin (who cited this as his favorite role) and Clu Gulager.
I continue to be blown away by the work of Jean-Pierre Melville, this time with the outstanding Le Deuxième Souffle (1966), with Lino Ventura as a prison escapee looking to pull one last job.
Finally, Private Property (1960) was a low-budget, but very effective project featuring Warren Oates in one of his earliest films. (I discussed the film previously here.)
The only reason you won’t see the British noir Offbeat (1961) on my upcoming film noir list is because its release date falls outside the “recognized” film noir years of 1941-1959. Regardless of when it was released, it’s an excellent noir/heist picture with a twist. I wrote about it in more detail last month for Noirvember.
Why, why, why did I wait so long to finally watch The Wild Bunch? What a spectacular Western with an all-star cast including William Holden, Robert Ryan, Warren Oates, Ernest Borgnine, Ben Johnson, and more. The film is about much more than pulling one last robbery, reflecting also on aging, the Old West, the criminal code, Hollywood, the 60s, and the inevitable questions that arise at a certain point in a person’s life. And it’s not only a Sam Peckinpah film, it’s perhaps his masterpiece.
The full recommended list from my 60s journey appears below:
The Exterminating Angel (1962)
Vivre Sa Vie (1962)
The Hill (1965)
The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (1962)
My Night at Maud’s (1969)
Chimes at Midnight (1965)
Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962)
Black Sun (1964)
The Wild Bunch (1969)
Private Property (1960)
The Killers (1964)
Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)
Le Deuxième Souffle (1966)
Next time: the 1970s
Photos: DVD Beaver, IMDb, Janus Films, Sky