Peter Wix presents his quarterly digest of armchair observations on all things cinematic. Here, he waxes rueful and nostalgic about a golden year for movies, and reveals a filmic approach to stopping time.
Back in 1971, in a Sight and Sound interview, the soundtrack genius Bernard Herrmann announced a decline in cinema.
“The film business today is full of bikini manufacturers,” he claimed, bemoaning not only the end of “personalities who knew how to put together big films using impressive techniques”, but also the advent of a factory approach, based on repeating successful formulae.
“If I were starting to work in films today, I’d tell them, ‘Get lost. You have no need for me. You want everything that sounds like everybody else,’” said the composer of scores for Citizen Kane, Vertigo, Psycho, North by Northwest …
In the interests of quality control, let’s go back in time – time as cinema history – to 1975. Ponder your expectations for films from 2015. We can now access a greater market, and our film media are more open to international product. We can search better now and, if we have a mind to, we can download movies free without much regard for legalities. What can we hope for in comparison to 40 years ago?
If you know even half of the titles in the following list of products reviewed back in 1975, you’ll have it tough arguing that the product of 2015 is anywhere near as impressive, entertaining, provocative and well-crafted as these (and if you go back ten years earlier you’ll have an even tougher job).
We don’t have the filmmakers we had back then; this list includes the work of Welles, Wilder, Coppola, Altman, Lumet, Cassavetes, Antonioni, Peckinpah, a young Scorsese… The corporations now have so much control they have eliminated the mavericks, strangled the Bambis and killed the influence of all the Cock Robins the film industry ever hatched.
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
The Front Page
The Godfather Part II
The Cars that Ate Paris
Dog Day Afternoon
A Woman Under the Influence
The Wind and the Lion
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
F for Fake
HOW TO MAKE TIME DISAPPEAR
Jonas qui aura 25 ans en l’an 2000
(Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000) Alain Tanner (1976)
This is a film I keep returning to. Over time – my time and the time that apparently passes independently of me – I find increasing meaning in this tale of utopian thinkers who look ahead from the mid-’70s to the year 2000. Within his title’s suggestion of time measured in generations, the great Swiss director, aided by some great European ‘naturalistic’ acting, considers the likely span of the political legacy of 1968, leaving us with good companionship as our only comfort against the bitter reality of a capitalist future. It’s still timely, then, to watch this. The realist firing a bullet into a ticking clock will stop nothing but the clock, but the history teacher who explains, with the use of a length of blood sausage, how the industrial revolution changed time into a cultural weapon of mass destruction, is one of the film’s many priceless moments. Neither it nor its director should be kept in the exquisite collections of film buffs. They speak to the street.