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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Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

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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zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

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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swo17
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Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
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Re: The 1960s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#103 Post by swo17 » Thu Sep 16, 2021 11:53 am

zedz wrote:
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) 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.)
I generally like to recognize when the original release would have been in these cases, though this is obviously also less of a delay. It doesn't feel as "wrong" to classify this as a '70s film. That being said, if I can get one person saying in this thread that they'd like it to be eligible as a '60s film, I'll make it so

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zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

Re: The 1960s List: Discussion and Suggestions

#104 Post by zedz » Sat Sep 18, 2021 9:57 pm

Punishment Island (Masahiro Shinoda, 1966) - A man returns to the site of childhood trauma in order to exact a long-nursed revenge. The basic narrative of the film is kind of pulpy, and it's easy to imagine it handled in a much more sensationalised way, but Shinoda treats everything with seriousness and great formal imagination. As you'd expect from this kind of story, a lot of it is revealed in flashback. Shinoda's flashbacks are unsignalled and fragmentary, and he keeps them distinct through differences in film syntax. In the present-day scenes, naturalistic background noise is always present (wind, waves, traffic), whereas the flashback sequences are either near-silent or stripped of ambient noise - until the protagonist arrives at the site of one of his most vivid memories, and the two time frames merge stylistically. Some of the flashbacks are even more striking, most notably one which consists of nothing but inward zooms. The climax of the film is a tour de force of unconventional staging, unfolding in a single, fixed long shot of about six minutes duration inside a darkened shack. The drama unfolds as the characters move in and out of the shadows, so we can't always see what they're doing, while our attention is focussed on an object lit at the centre of the frame.

Flame and Woman (Yoshishige Yoshida, 1967) - The hot topic issue of this film, artificial insemination, as Yoshida conveys in his introduction to the film, is merely a vehicle for him to explore one of his favourite subjects, the sexual freedom of women. The film begins with husband and wife Tatsuko and Shingo passive-aggressively competing for the attention and affection of their son, Takashi. Things come to a head when Takashi vanishes one day. The film unfolds in a totally fragmentary way, with a pile-up of unsignalled flashbacks, fantasies and dreams. You need to latch onto distinctive interiors and costuming in order to anchor yourself in the present day and figure out the details of the narrative, but Yoshida is such a brilliant visual storyteller that it's possible to get the emotional drift anyway. It turns out that Takashi is the product of artificial insemination, and Tatsuko was kind of bullied into the procedure by her impotent husband. There are thus several candidates for paternity (Shingo; the sperm donor, who may or may not be family friend Ken Sakaguchi; the doctor who inseminated her; or the farm labourer whom she may or may not have had sex with a couple of years earlier.) Tatsuko figures that too many fathers might as well be no father at all. The film is twisty as hell, and visually stunning throughout. Mariko Okada is surely the greatest female star of the Japanese New Wave on the strength of the run of films she made with her husband alone, and this is another gem in a long trail of them. I can't fit them all on my 60s list, but the quality of this film gives me a very high benchmark for excluding non-Yoshida films!

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