Categorized | Arts & Culture

Turbulent Times: the 1960s and 1970s

[film1] The Arts & Culture film series continues through the decades to the 1960s and ’70s, a turbulent time of change in both American history and abroad reflected in many of its films. Whether you want to be a film buff, have an interest in film history or just enjoy watching movies, these fantastic films will be a great start to a more interesting Saturday night.
The 1960s and 1970s were a time of rebellion and revolution in America, and the cinema reflected that sentiment. New wave cinema was introduced in the late 1950s, leading to an outburst of creativity shown throughout the ’60s and ’70s. These films sometimes dealt with extremely taboo subject matter in a visually artistic and original manner. The films lack the politeness and political correctness of earlier and later cinema, which in part is their appeal – their cynicism and bitterness opened up a whole new world for film as an art form.
The 1967 film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is a provocative story concerning a young woman bringing her fiancé to meet her progressive parents. Once they see their daughter’s fiancé is black, they are forced to deal with prejudices they did not realize they had. The powerful message deals with actual acceptance rather than self-proclaimed progressiveness about racial issues and reflects the attitudes of its time period. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is writing and acting at its best, featuring Katharine Hepburn, Sidney Poitier and Spencer Tracy in his final role.
[livingdead] George Romero’s 1968 film Night of the Living Dead appeals not only to horror lovers, but anyone in the mood for a scare. This zombie film is a good example of postmodern cinema, with little introduction and an unsettling conclusion. Its portrayal of the undead and effective cinematic technique serve as an influence for all horror films made after this, including Romero’s two fantastic sequels: Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead.
Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange takes a different approach to violence. This controversial 1971 film is based on the novel by Anthony Burgess, and is a perfect example of ’70s cinema, featuring a protagonist who isn’t a “good guy.” Greg Wright, a writer and film teacher at MSU, says A Clockwork Orange is a “celebration of ultra-violent behavior.” This visually breathtaking film poses a challenge because it is “assuming a certain intelligence” from the audience – it is asking them to recognize in part what the film is about, which is a countercultural celebration of the “freedom of expression,” Wright said. Colorful, clever, quirky and stunning, A Clockwork Orange is a must-see for true cinema lovers.
Another film revolving around anti-heroes, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, is undisputedly one of the best films ever made. Though it was released in 1972, it is set in the 1940s and ’50s and “redefines what it means to be an epic film,” Wright said. The film was a huge risk, with a large budget and big stars focusing on only one family rather than an entire country, as had been done in previous epics. But what it lacks in scale, it gains in character development, allowing for a deeper storyline and demanding better acting. The winner of several Academy Awards, including Best Picture, The Godfather is a timeless milestone in cinematic history.
[godfather] Woody Allen takes cinema in a lighter direction with films like his 1977 romantic comedy Annie Hall. One of Allen’s best films, Annie Hall is a love story for a new generation, where people found themselves surrounded by material possessions but were still unhappy. In this film, Allen is an offbeat, pseudo-neurotic character who, much like the film, “doesn’t identify with counterculture proper,” Wright said. “He’s a real person – he has sex appeal.” According to Wright, this romantic comedy is successful in “keeping a Marx Brothers’ sensibility, but lending itself to classic romantic drama.” Annie Hall is one of Allen’s top films, and is a love story with cynicism and dry humor at its best.
The 1960s was an especially great time for Italian cinema, with directors like Bernardo Bertolucci, Michelangelo Antonioni and Federico Fellini doing some of their best work on screen. Fellini’s 1963 masterpiece 8 ½is a stunning, self-reflexive movie about a filmmaker’s work and crisis, modeled after Fellini himself. 8 ½ combines dream-like, surrealist qualities with masterful cinematic techniques, making it one of the most original foreign films ever made.
The bitter, oversexed and jaded Cabaret of 1972 gave the word “musical” an entirely different meaning. Bob Fosse directs the Sleeping Beauty of a new generation – darker; sexier; grimmer and, of course, the film ends with the start of the Nazi rise to power. Starring Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey, Cabaret was the winner of eight Academy Awards. Much of the classic music from the original Broadway production was cut, and other songs were written for the movie that later appeared in revivals of the stage show. With its show-stopping numbers and morally ambiguous characters, the film is a disturbingly brilliant example of ’70s postmodern cinema.
From zombies to musicals, and everything in between, the ’60s and ’70s represented a period of cinematic growth and experimentation. If you’re in the mood for cynical love stories and colorful works of ultra-violence, be sure to pick up one of these films for a fascinating movie night.

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