The 1960s List: Discussion and Suggestions

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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domino harvey
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Re: The 1960s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#101 Post by domino harvey » Wed Sep 15, 2021 1:53 pm

Trying to go through old Cahiers for viewing suggestions and I gotta tell you, the more I look at what the Cahiers crew liked and disliked, the less it makes sense and the more I think they just got very lucky that some of their more idiosyncratic favorites have become canon. Today's nonsense: every Cahiers critic trashed the Virgin Spring, but gave top marks to the Chapman Report

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Re: The 1960s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#102 Post by zedz » Thu Sep 16, 2021 6:37 am

For the moment I've decided to focus my viewing for this project on the Japanese New Wave, so here are a couple of capsules:

A.K.A Serial Killer (Masao Adachi, 1969) - A one-of-a-kind documentary that presents the biography of a Japanese spree killer in terms of landscape. It's a formalist thesis film: can we infer anything about the actions and psychology of a killer from the places he passed through? So for an hour and a half we look at 'random' shots of various sites around Japan, corresponding to the movements of an absent person, accompanied by free jazz and very sparing matter-of-fact narration. It might sound impossibly dry, but you start to fall into the film once you realise how the uninflected formalism isn't really uninflected at all. The itinerary might be predetermined, but not what Adachi films along the way, or how he films it. For example, there's a long-held shot of a shed alongside a railway line, and it's allowed to run long enough for the viewer to realise that it's full of invisible jump cuts, so that there is always a train passing - impossibly - in the background. Or how much emphasis throughout the film is placed on car licence plates, as if the film is searching for clues that might solve the mystery of the grisly murders that we never see: evidence violently stripped of any context.

The film is a sort of proof of concept for Oshima's The Man Who Left His Will on Film the following year, with the film within the film echoing Adachi's theory of landscape. If anybody wants to vote for the film, you'll need to get a ruling from swo, as IMDB records it as a 1975 film, because that's when its first public screening took place. (IMDB is inconsistent, however, as another delayed 1969 film, Larks on a String, is listed as 1969 even though its first public screening was in 1990.)

Season of Terror (Koji Wakamatsu, 1969) - Wakamatsu's speciality was engaged political cinema masquerading as cheap soft-core porn, and that's exactly what this is. A pair of cops investigating a former radical bug his apartment and initiate surveillance from a neighbour's flat. Instead of anarchist plots and bombings, they find themselves eavesdropping on a menage a trois. The cops are aroused and frustrated, both sexually and professionally, as the guy and his two girls just keep on fuckin'. Eventually, they're forced to give up their mission. And then the film has a bizarre epiphany (orgasm?), slipping into colour for the first time, as overlapping superimpositions of the American and Japanese flags flutter over more sex footage, and after that the film delivers its punchline (not sexy at all).

Wakamatsu's films can be raggedy, but this one is very carefully controlled. It's for the most part confined to two tiny apartments, but it's shot in Cinemascope, so we get plenty of supine bodies and inclusions of empty contiguous spaces (great for giving a subtly paranoid edge, as is the natural distortion of the Cinemascope lens in such tight confines). Great music by Meikyu Sekai, who only seems to have scored four films, all in 1969, all by Wakamatsu or his frequent collaborator Adachi.

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