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Friday, December 12, 2008

The Best Years of Our Lives: 1960

The year 1960 falls during a period of transition in American film, coming along as the studio system was on its last legs and before the MPAA replaced the Hays Code, allowing for bolder narratives from rising auteur filmmakers. It’s a great year for film and produced a number of enduring classics, made both in America and abroad:

For starters, there’s The Apartment, Billy Wilder’s ode to the lonely that would go on to be crowned Best Picture by AMPAS.

Psycho, one of Hitchcock’s very best (and that’s a very long list indeed).

The Magnificent Seven, John Sturges’ retelling of Seven Samurai and the film which made Steve McQueen a genuine star.

Inherit The Wind, a personal favourite of mine and a showcase for top notch performances by Spencer Tracy and Frederic March.

Spartacus, written by Dalton Trumbo, one of the Hollywood Ten. A blacklisted screenwriter, Trumbo worked on the film under a pseudonym, but the film’s star Kirk Douglas would later reveal his involvement, kick-starting the beginning of the end of the blacklist period.

The Misfits, a film released in 1961 but made in 1960 and which has the distinction of being the last appearance of two bigger than life stars: Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe

Coming from the other side of the Atlantic:

Peeping Tom, the controversial horror thriller from Michael Powell that was initially lambasted by critics but has since been championed by Martin Scorsese and Roger Ebert, amongst others.

L’avventura Michelangelo Antonioni’s incredibly influential masterpiece.

Breathless, Jean-Luc Godard’s French new wave tour de force.

Two Women, which won Sophia Loren an Oscar as Best Actress, the first time a woman had won the award for a non-english speaking role.

La Dolce Vita from the master Federico Fellini.

The Virgin Spring from that other master, Ingmar Bergman


Anh Khoi Do said...

I've got good memories about Psycho.

As for the replacement of the Hays Code, it certainly allowed scriptwriters to create narratives that are less black and white. For instance, although I haven't seen a lot of films from the 1960s, but I'm sure that some American scriptwriters seized the opportunity to make a criminal the leading character of their story.

However, while I look back, I have that odd feeling that the influence of the Hays Code can still be felt in the MPAA. In fact, back in 2005, I just couldn't believe that Where the Truth Lies was nearly censored in the USA when most critics said that the love scenes were useful to understand the characters' psyche.

Ric Burke said...

What a list of films, I had no idea that 1960 was so pivotal.

I only got to watch Breathless and L'Avventura this year and both knocked my socks off. Breathless especially and who can resist La Dolce Vita?

Still need to see The Virgin Spring, in fact Bergman is a director I'm not that well versed in - I should make that a New Year resolution.

Anyway, I thought I'd let you know that I've tagged you for the latest meme doing the rounds. I'd love to see your take on it.