"I've seen horrors... horrors that you've seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that... but you have no right to judge me."
Says the character of Marlon Brando's Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. I've said it before and I always say to all that ask my opinion on film. The 70's were indeed the greatest time for cinema. It was a different time then and a much more dangerous time in the world of mainstream cinema. Big budget hollywood epics were beginning to get tired and drawn out, costing too much money, and not making the revenue it was originally known to do. Films like Ben Hur, Lawrence Of Arabia, El Cid, Gone With The Wind...were and are classics in their own right, but people were looking for something new around this time.
Our nation's most unpopular war is now reaching about 4 years old, 1970 is a fresh decade with a new leader, new values, and new filmmakers on the rise. The unpopularity of the war, the rise of the free thinking hippies, rock n roll becoming as dangerous than ever, and people are becoming absolutely fed up with the system, were just some of the many fuels that were added to the creative fire that made this decade shine in area of arts and film. Gas prices go up, businesses are going down, a war like vietnam is costing the country more than it can afford...just like now! Just like the hollywood system producing sequels that cost next to nothing to make; like Saw 5 and produce a revenue of 3 times or more of it's cost...the only difference between cinema now and then is the fact that we aren't mad anymore. The hollywood system found a way to find people that weren't afraid to speak their minds and create incredible stories, metaphorical, literal, whatever that may be, to basically show people who were bright enough to understand what the country's actions are doing to it's regular citizens. Sidney Lumet, Martin Scorcese, Peter Bogdonovich, Francais Ford Coppola, George Romero...I could continue forever...but these people are the ones that truly revitalized the hollywood system from near death and creative drought. So I've decided to spend some time this month only on making nothing but posts of films of the 1970's that affected everyone and myself included.
DOG DAY AFTERNOON - SIDNEY LUMET - 1975
Al Pacino plays a man at the end of his rope named Sonny Wortzik. Sonny was what you would call the everyman of the 1970's. Too poor to afford a university, drafted in Vietnam, and a closeted gay homosexual. Based on a true story, this character was turned into an overnight hero when he decides he's not going to take it anymore and rob a bank in New York City. The money was meant to help pay for his boyfriend's sex change and it was supposed to be a simple "in and out" job. The film's simple set up became something more special as the film develops. We learn of Sonny's indignation in life with his emotions, experiences, and relationships with other people and begin to cheer a man who is originally introduced to be a criminal...but then becomes the person who eventually becomes the star of lots of influential 70's films to come, The Antihero.
As a hostage stand off begins, Sonny and his dim-witted friend Sal; brilliantly played by fellow Godfather co-star John Cazale, develop friendships with the hostages, and become heros who have decided to lash out at the establishment that has ousted them in the first place. Unforgettable and really moving, Dog Day Afternoon is Pacino's best work in my opinion and one of the best films of the 1970's...if not the best.
TAXI DRIVER - MARTIN SCORCESE - 1976
Like Al Pacino, Robert De Niro was a rising star in the 70's film circuit also riding the waves of the success of the Godfather franchise by the time he became the title role of Scorcese's dark psychological portrait of a man breaking down. De Niro plays Travis Bickle, a vietnam veteran who applys for a taxi driver position to deal with his insomnia. A man of strong moral values though little to no patience at all, the more time he spends driving the streets of New York City, the more disgusted he becomes. "Listen, you fuckers, you screwheads. Here is a man who would not take it anymore. A man who stood up against the scum, the cunts, the dogs, the filth, the shit. Here is a man who stood up." The character becomes a monster slowly as he obsesses over a young prostitute, plots to possibly assassinate an up and coming political figure, and stews in his own rage, disgust, and sadly...his loneliness. A product of what society had continually offered him, we watch the slow and mental breakdown of a commended officer of the armed forces who can't cope with what he's become...a nobody. Paul Scharader's fantastic screenplay deals with how our country treated the vets who fought in an unpopular war and who they eventually became nothing here upon return. A metaphor for the entire decade in general, this film resonates decades later and continues to impact people on a personal basis because of it's visceral depiction of violence and mental anguish that at one time or another everyone goes through. Here's one man's way of dealing with those pressures...I give you Travis Bickle.