[Originally published in Movietone News 38, January 1975]
Something was missing in Film Year 1974 and I’ve never been able to isolate quite what it is. There were good films in town; I wrote down more than 40 titles before starting to rank anything, and they cover a broad range of style, subject matter, country of origin, production values, acting achievements, filmmakers new, old, and new-old. Very early in the year several Seattle Film Society premieres set standards of both excellence and originality that seemed hard to beat, and only two subsequent films managed to beat them, for my money. Those early excellences hung over the year, and so did carryovers from 1973, as always in this Northwest outpost. Such factors help create a sense of anticlimax, but they don’t explain or explain away my vague discomfiture.
We already know, of course, that many ghosts will hang over Seattle 1975: Louis Malle’s Lacombe, Lucien; Luis Buñuel’s The Phantom of Liberté, Lina Wertmüller’s Love and Anarchy and The Seduction of Mimi (which did arrive January 2), Bob Fosse’s Lenny, The Phantom of the Paradise, The Savage Is Loose, Going Places, Murder on the Orient Express, Alain Resnais’s Stavisky, Young Frankenstein, Emmanuelle, Les Violons du bal; Antonia, A Portrait of the Woman; John Cassavetes’ A Woman under the Influence, Le Trio infernal, Escape to Nowhere, Claude Chabrol’s Ophélia (which waited over a decade for Stateside release) and The Nada Gang, Jean Eustache’s The Mother and the Whore, Fassbinder’s Angst essen Seele auf/Ali….
While too many local screens were occupied by The Sting, The Exorcist, The Great Gatsby, and American Graffiti (though the last scarcely deserves to be mentioned in the same fetid breath as the other three), short and skimpy runs were made by The Conversation, The Parallax View, The Tamarind Seed, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, My Name Is Nobody, The Terminal Man, Mean Streets, Badlands, and Thieves like Us—although Seattle exhibitors did as well as, and sometimes better than, their counterparts in other cities when it came to giving these last several a chance, at least, to be seen. That any of the preceding—and Day for Night, Daisy Miller, Don’t Look Now, and Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams had any second-run play is almost entirely to the credit of independents like the Broadway, Cinemond, Edgemont, and the recently converted Neptune. For the record, the Uptown’s run of The White Dawn was by far the longest in the country for that specialized film.
Director-watching became, perhaps, more of a general occupation this year than in previous seasons. If Newman, Redford, Nicholson, and cataclysms were the most bankable forces in the film world, still there were chuckles of recognition among suburban audiences when the title character in My Name Is Nobody found a tombstone inscribed “Sam Pekinpeh,” and the names of Peckinpah, Coppola, Polanski, and Lester, as well as Fellini and Bergman, leapt out of the pre-film conversation in the appropriate auditoria. Lester got back to feature-film work after much too long an absence and was very nice to have around again. Fellini, Bergman, and Polanski hit their strides once more and were absolutely marvelous to have around again. Malick, Scorsese, Spielberg, and Alan Bridges promised much for the future and Altman, after turning out his most conventionally well-made film since achieving star status (Thieves like Us), created perhaps his most unpretentiously original movie. On the other hand, in Wedding in Blood Claude Chabrol seemed to have made the same movie once too often; and while I’m not about to get off the Chabrol bandwagon, and while I still yearn to see La Rupture and Just avant la nuit, I can only conclude that some of the superlatives heaped on the picture were auteuristically polemical. Michael Winner got off his circular death trip, however controversially, with Death Wish. Clint Eastwood came of age directorially while his most distinguished mentors figured among the also-rans: Don Siegel was distinctly off his feed (The Black Windmill), and Sergio Leone checked in only by proxy (My Name Is Nobody).
Remarks about the year just ended would be incomplete without some reference to the very special kind of film experience afforded by those good and fulfilling movies that hold one in thrall without ever suggesting themselves as likely candidates for honors. To suggest the existence of such a category is risky because, while I firmly believe a good movie is a good movie is a good movie, and you never know where excellence is going to strike, I’m aware that there are people in the world who smugly section cinematic reality into Art and Entertainment, Cinema and Movies, and I’ve no desire to give aid and comfort to that position. Having made that clear, I’d just like to add that Peter Hunt’s Gold was swell and Clint Eastwood’s Breezy probably had more truth in it than The White Dawn, although people who find it easier to review advertising campaigns than to assess what’s onscreen will never figure out what I mean.
I was aware of four clear imperatives when I sat down to compile a Ten Best list, and after minimal brow-beating and soul-searching I elected six other titles to MTN immortality. Unfortunately I had made this move with at least one likely 1974 biggie ahead of me; I went to see it and, sure enough, it demanded to be reckoned with. The once-less-than-imperative half-dozen had begun to seem indispensable by that time so, with twelve titles firmly established on my vintage, first-personal-encounter list, I grabbed one of my many tied-for-10a movies and made it a dozen all around.
1. CHINATOWN (Roman Polanski; U.S.A., 1974).
If any film this season testified more resoundingly to the staying and enriching power of Hollywood genre movies, I missed it. The beauty of the production and the resonance of the artifact are completely mutual, and just offhand I can’t recall the last previous big film that boasted such a wealth of impeccably-cast and -directed performances, from the stars—and what stars!—down to the incidental cops, morgue attendants, and little old ladies sewing up the Albacore Club flag. It took a little longer than usual but the backlash has finally begun to set in against this jewel of a picture; I still cling to my summertime hope that Chinatown will become the first great film since Casablanca (1943) to win the Academy Award. (SRO’s Music Box Theatre)
2. THE MERCHANT OF FOUR SEASONS (Rainer Werner Fassbinder; West Germany, 1972).
I doubt whether any other SFS Premiere has ever been more generally or more complacently disliked than this brilliant, harrowing, complex and at the same time marvelously lucid film by the man Andrew Sarris called “the most important new director of the past decade.” It was my first Fassbinder and I want to see more, but I am seriously concerned how and by whom they are going to be paid for in Seattle. (Seattle Film Society)
3. THE TAMARIND SEED (Blake Edwards; U.S.A.-Britain, 1974).
The most civilized and civilizing film of the year was a romantic spy story featuring, in the view of far too many non-viewers, Mary Poppins and Doctor Zhivago. (As with many other ignored good films, without exception the people who were unbelievingly referred to it by personal or MTN recommendation expressed their pleasure in the movie and their gratitude for the nudge.) Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif were both—the word seems right—beautiful, and if only they hadn’t been backed by such ultra-professional character players as Dan O’Herlihy, Anthony Quayle, and Sylvia Syms, their decency, intelligence, and sheer valuableness would have loomed more conspicuously. Still, it is as proper as it is obvious to throw the largest bouquet to writer-director Blake Edwards, whose filmmaking has never been more graceful and precise. Hopefully his safe-sounding Return of the Pink Panther will bring him some of the commercial reward that did not accrue to this film and his other recent (and in this country, mutilated) production, The Wild Rovers (1971). (SRO’s Town Theatre; later, the Cinemond)
4. LES BONNES FEMMES (Claude Chabrol; France, 1960).
Chabrol’s early masterpiece overshadowed his accomplished, but somehow uninspired, windup of the genteel-bourgeois-murder cycle, Wedding in Blood, which arrived late in the year. A single SFS performance of the film scarcely suffices, I’m sure, to disclose al1 its splendors or accommodate all its resonance; but that single viewing was enough to leave me awestruck at how Chabrol’s classicism never faltered before or compromised the tangible reality of his location shooting (cameraman, Henri Decaë). Perhaps a single shot of the spangled globe at the end would have sufficed; aside from that, I can’t think of a misjudgment to complain about. (Seattle Film Society)
5. RED PSALM (Miklós Jancsó; Hungary, 1971).
Unhappily, Jancsó’s Agnus Dei (1970) was shown after Red Psalm and proved to be only a ponderous first-rehearsal of the later (but to us, earlier) film. A stunningly unified composition in color, camera movement, music, dance, political allegory, and completely non-dramatic characterization, whose formal power was exceeded only by its unprecedented charm. One was never sure in Agnus Dei—though I tended to withhold the benefit of the doubt—whether the comic effects were intentional or not; here Jancsó lays such questions to rest with the beguiling conceit of having lovely peasant girls revive dead warriors with a tender, comradely kiss. The best musical since 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Seattle Film Society)
6. SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE (Ingmar Bergman; Sweden, 1973-4).
It is mainly my preference for precise cinematic form that leads me to demote Scenes to this “low” a position on my list. There will be time enough to hash out questions of what to do with a two-and-a-half-hour theatrical film that started life as six hourlong TV episodes. For now, Scenes from a Marriage sweeps the preciosity of Hour of the Wolf, Shame, A Passion, and Cries and Whispers out of mind (myself, I’ve always preferred The Touch among post-Persona Bergmans) and gives us back one of our best cinematic friends. There can be no quarrelling with Liv Ullmann’s work here, but I’d like to pay special tribute to the magnificent incarnation of the husband by Erland Josephson—a rather more thankless job in the current cinematic and sexo-sociopolitical climate. (Harvard Exit)
7. DAY FOR NIGHT (François Truffaut; France, 1973).
Does anyone whose life has ever been touched by the movies need to be told why Day for Night (La Nuit américaine) makes such a glowing addition to our treasury of life-, as well as film-, experiences? (SRO’s Uptown Theatre—though it was up to the Broadway and the Edgemont to run subtitled prints of the film)
8. HARRY AND TONTO (Paul Mazursky; U.S.A., 1974).
Jon Purdy had it right in MTN 37 when he invoked Renoir and his river-of-humanity approach to cinematic population. Besides its abundance of spiritual and behavioral beauty, Harry and Tonto also stands as its director’s most visually accomplished work, quietly and unobtrusively fulfilling the promise of Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice while turning its back on the irritating grandiosity of Alex in Wonderland and the occasional stabs at Viscontian baroque in Blume in Love. (UA 150 Theatre)
9. GODFATHER II (Francis Ford Coppola; U.S.A., 1974).
An addition to the thin ranks of sequels that outdo their predecessors—or perhaps I should say intercessors since Godfather II is really more like Godfather I and III. Again, this impressed me as its director’s first consistently authoritative—indeed, mesmerizing—work, visually. (I was not, incidentally, among the boosters of the original Godfather.) (UA 70/150)
10. CALIFORNIA SPLIT (Robert Altman; U.S.A., 1974).
It doesn’t approach McCabe and Mrs. Miller‘s power (what does?) or achieve the visual density of—in their various ways—McCabe, Images, or The Long Goodbye (it wasn’t photographed by Vilmos Zsigmond …), but in its browsy/blowsy fashion California Split advances the cinema of Robert Altman and enlarges the (may I employ the word?) parameters of the cinema itself beyond the notable accomplishments of those films. When I saw the movie on opening night I confidently predicted that general audiences would have none of this funkily adamant refusal to tell a story or even properly introduce its main characters, but I’m perfectly willing to consume crow in celebration of such a good cause. The big moment of California Split worked for me, eerily, even before all the biographical data was in: I was both warmly delighted and inexplicably disturbed by that obscured yet luminous lady who smiled and murmured appreciatively in the fuzzy background while Elliott Gould doped out the various keno players’ personae for George Segal’s pre-game benefit; it was only as the end credits rolled up that I realized the Nevada barmaid was Barbara Ruick, who had subsequently died of cancer at the age of 38. (General Cinemas)
11. AMARCORD (Federico Fellini; Italy, 1974).
Gee! but it was nice to like Federico Fellini again! I still think that people like Altman are expanding the frontiers of movies more decisively these days than this more universally celebrated maestro; but when he turns his attention back to humanity and rediscovers the true nature of trippiness in the grand and grandiloquent foibles of his fellow creatures, the man from Rimini is a joy to reencounter. Amarcord—which means “I remember”—doesn’t really make it alongside such memory films as The Magnificent Ambersons, Chimes at Midnight, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Lola Montès, El Dorado, and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. So much for my duty to critical distinctions. Enjoy. (Varsity Theatre)
12. BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA (Sam Peckinpah; U.S.A., 1974).
You’ll recall that I just kissed off critical distinctions. There are a lot of things wrong with Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia—but “wrong” seems such a petty word to intrude in the context of a film that made me write, last August, “we shall not see a braver or more personal work this year.” I stand by that. Some of the most eloquent and discerning of domestic critics can confront Peckinpah only from behind a wall of trendy categorical phrases—and he’s never so directly invited the trotting-out of the full panoply of chic disqualifiers as he does in Alfredo Garcia. This pilgrimage toward and away from death and dishonor comes from the gut, yes, but also from the mind, and certainly the soul. Peter Hogue has suggested, very aptly, that this is Peckinpah’s Pierrot le fou. It played here last summer for exactly one week and has not reappeared. (SRO’s Town Theatre)
Ten Best Lists really ought to have ten on them, but one thing or another makes me sorry I can’t commandeer some boldface type to celebrate, in no necessary order, Alan J. Pakula’s The Parallax View (Pakula is easily the most classically disciplined of new American directors, and is Parallax View ever a rivetingly good film to sit in front of and through!), Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers, Terrence Malick’s Badlands, Alan Bridges’ The Hireling, Peter Bogdanovich’s Daisy Miller and, demurs notwithstanding, Claude Chabrol’s Wedding in Blood. I feel jeopardized by my failures to revisit Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets, Jacques Tati’s PlayTime, Robert Altman’s Thieves like Us, Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, and Richard Lester’s Juggernaut. But I have to go with the Now.
I’ve sneaked a peek at Kathleen Murphy’s year-end comments and find she’s done some unofficial awards-giving and made some (customarily) very perceptive judgments, so I’ll just name some special folks from 1974 (winners may claim their custom-made pizzas at any time):
Best Actor: A last-minute switch to Erland Josephson for Scenes from a Marriage, with Jack Nicholson (The Last Detail, Chinatown) just crowded out. There was also Robert Shaw in The Hireling.
Best Actress: Faye Dunaway, Chinatown—not forgetting the extraordinary Isela Vega in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, or Sarah Miles in Hireling.
Best Supporting Actor: Dan O’Herlihy, The Tamarind Seed, with very fond appreciation for a splendid John Huston performance in Chinatown that redeems a lot of uncomfortable memories (Candy, Myra Breckinridge…).
Best Supporting Actress: Ellen Burstyn, Harry and Tonto—whose few minutes therein convinced me she’d been doubled in The Exorcist.
Best Screenplay (Original): Robert Towne, Chinatown. Close: Ingmar Bergman, Scenes from a Marriage; Paul Mazursky and Josh Greenfield, Harry and Tonto.
Best Screenplay (Adaptation): Robert Towne, The Last Detail.
Best Cinematography: John A. Alonzo, Chinatown, with a lot of distinguished company: Gordon Willis, The Parallax View and Godfather II; David Watkin, The Three Musketeers; Brian Probyn, Tak Fujimoto, and Stevan Larner, Badlands; Anthony Richmond, Don’t Look Now.
Best Direction: Roman Polanski, Chinatown.
There were a dozen first-time encounters with vintage films that jolted my seismograph most decisively—in order of original release, The Big Parade (King Vidor; U.S.A., 1925), The Lodger (Alfred Hitchcock; Great Britain, 1926), Ben-Hur (Fred Niblo; U.S.A., 1927), Pandora’s Box (G.W. Pabst; Germany, 1929), Monte Carlo (Ernst Lubitsch; U.S.A., 1930), The Merry Widow (Ernst Lubitsch; U.S.A., 1934), Mad Love (Karl Freund; U.S.A., 1935), Make Way for Tomorrow (Leo McCarey; U.S.A., 1937), The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (Preston Sturges; U.S.A., 1944), Run of the Arrow (Samuel Fuller; U.S.A., 1957), Party Girl (Nicholas Ray; U.S.A., 1958), and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (Vincente Minnelli; U.S.A., 1970).
I’m also glad I saw Victor Fleming’s The Virginian, King Vidor’s The Crowd, Stella Dallas, and Beyond the Forest, Hitchcock’s Young and Innocent, Capra’s American Madness, Hecht and MacArthur and Garmes’ Crime without Passion, Clyde Bruckman’s The Man on the Flying Trapeze, Victor Heerman’s Animal Crackers, Clarence Brown’s Flesh and the Devil, David Lean’s Brief Encounter, and Henry Hathaway’s Sundown. Elia Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire fulfilled a longstanding obligation, if little else.
I’m even gladder I decisively connected with some films I’d glanced off before, Mizoguchi’s Yang Kwei Fei, Lubitsch’s Design for Living, Minnelli’s The Cobweb, Nicholas Ray’s They Live by Night, and Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Sam Fuller’s House of Bamboo, at long last seen in CinemaScope, proved to be one of the several most exciting Scope movies I’ve ever encountered.
SFS Contributing Writers’ lists follow. SFS members are welcome, as before, to submit their own tallies, which will be run in the Letters column next issue.
ROBERT C. CUMBOW
I am uncomfortable about having missed several reputedly good films which might well have made my “Best” list. Nevertheless, of the films which premiered Seattle during 1974, here are my favorites, in order of preference: Chinatown (Roman Polanski), Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese), Das Testament des Doktor Mabuse (Fritz Lang, 1932—first full-length, subtitled showing), La Nuit américaine (François Truffaut), The Last Detail (Hal Ashby), The Hireling (Alan Bridges), Blackmail (Alfred Hitchcock, 1929).
Of the films which premiered for me personally in 1974, here are my favorites, in alphabetical order: American Graffiti (George Lucas, 1973), Animal Crackers (Victor Heerman, 1930). L’Atalante (Jean Vigo, 1934), L’Enfant sauvage (François Truffaut, 1969), I Confess (Alfred Hitchcock, 1952), It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946), Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922), The Shop around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940), Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950), Überfall (Erno Metzner, 1929).
Ten Best seen during 1974 by Your Correspondent, who lives in Vancouver, seldom sees first-run flicks, and confesses to a weakness for esoterica: Even Dwarfs Started Small (Werner Herzog), The Ceremony (Nagisa Oshima), Le Samouraï (Jean-Pierre Melville), Performance (Roeg/Cammell), Love (Karoly Makk), Payday (Daryl Duke) , Ulzana’s Raid (Robert Aldrich), Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan (Chu Yuan), Juvenile Court (Frederick Wiseman), To Live with Words (David McDougall). Special 10a: Scarface (Howard Hawks).
In alphabetical order: Amarcord (Federico Fellini), Badlands (Terrence Malick), Chinatown, Don’t Look Now (Nicolas Roeg), Godfather II (Francis Ford Coppola), Harry and Tonto (Paul Mazursky), Juggernaut (Richard Lester), Mean Streets, Scenes from a Marriage (Ingmar Bergman), Wedding in Blood (Claude Chabrol).
Two films I didn’t catch and which I wish I’d seen are Sugarland Express (Steven Spielberg) and The Tamarind Seed (Blake Edwards).
These are films which stick in my mind as being awfully good and which I hadn’t seen before this year—in no special order: Five Easy Pieces (Bob Rafelson), Fury (Fritz Lang), The Scarlet Empress (Josef von Sternberg), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (John Huston), North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock), Murmur of the Heart (Louis Malle), Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Frank Capra), Gaslight (George Cukor), Design for Living (Ernst Lubitsch).
Two clutches of first-run film, each group arranged in the order seen:
1. The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola), The Last Detail, The Mother and the Whore (Jean Eustache), Chinatown, Man Is Not a Bird (Dusan Makavejev), Thieves like Us (Robert Altman), Scenes from a Marriage.
2. In the Name of the Father (Mario Bellocchio), Badlands, The Merchant of the Four Seasons (Rainer Werner Fassbinder), California Split (Robert Altman), Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (Sam Peckinpah).
New-old, in the order seen: Mon Oncle Antoine (Claude Jutra), Apache (Robert Aldrich), The Adversary (Satyajit Ray), The Wedding Night (King Vidor), The Crowd (Vidor), Ceiling Zero (Howard Hawks), Alice Adams (George Stevens), The River (Jean Renoir), What Price Hollywood? (George Cukor), Song of Ceylon (Basil Wright), Le Samouraï (Melville), The Last Command (Josef von Sternberg), The Man Who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hitchcock, 1934), The Queen of Spades (Thorold Dickson), Head (Bob Rafelson).
1) Chinatown, 2) Harry and Tonto, 3) Godfather II, 4) Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, 5) The Parallax View (Alan J. Pakula), 6) The Last Detail, 7) Frank Film (Frank Mouris), 8) The Tamarind Seed (Blake Edwards), 9) Day for Night, 10) I.F. Stone’s Weekly (Jerry Bruck Jr.).
These are the finest first-run American films I saw this year. Chinatown was clearly the best-of-field, and The Tamarind Seed and Godfather II rank respectively second and third on the list. The remaining seven films are catalogued alphabetically, not in any preferential order: Chinatown, The Tamarind Seed, Godfather II, Badlands, California Split, The Conversation, Daisy Miller (Peter Bogdanovich), Harry and Tonto, The Three Musketeers (Richard Lester).
A few words of special praise for Clint Eastwood’s Breezy and Barbara Loden’s Wanda. Eastwood’s third film managed to skirt or pointedly explode every cliché in a story richly mined with platitudinous potential. And, after The Wild Bunch, The Wild Rovers, and Breezy, it’s about time someone gave William Holden a special award for his superb portrayals of men on the edge of age who face the music of their mortality with incomparable dignity. Barbara Loden directed and starred in Wanda, a relentlessly true film about the by turns sleazy and, on a small scale, sublime experiences of a woman too limited for any but the most minimal forms of human liberation. It’s too bad that Loden’s modest home-truths have gotten lost in the trendy shuffle towards touting Lina Wertmüller and Liliana Cavani as the best (and sometimes, only) women directors on the cinematic scene. Unfortunate, too, that in its screening last month by the University YWCA as one of a group of women’s films, Wanda wasn’t exactly welcomed on its own merits, peripheral as those might have been to women whose ideas of emancipation do not include small, failed gestures toward autonomy and selfhood. Impossible, of course, to name where the whole audience was vis-à-vis Wanda, but it was not hard to guess by the guffaw of approbation that greeted one woman’s bellowed exception to screen reality. Clearly, for this soul locked into loudmouthed solipsism, Barbara Loden should have made another film and it should have been the one that has been booked to run forever inside Loudmouth’s head.
As for best male performance of the year, Jack Nicholson wins hands down in my book for his incarnation of Chinatown‘s Jake Gittes, whose flawed and fallible vision prevents him from halting or altering the course of events that culminates in a creamy convertible slowing to a terrible stop at the far end of a street in Chinatown. Runners-up must include Erland Josephson in Scenes from a Marriage, Warren Oates in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Omar Sharif in The Tamarind Seed, and Martin Sheen in Badlands.
The best actress award goes to Faye Dunaway primarily for her peerless Evelyn Mulwray in Chinatown, but also for her powerful realization of Maggie in the teleplay of Arthur Miller’s After the Fall. An awfully close second, maybe even a wholly other first, prize must be awarded Liv Ullmann who, with Erland Josephson in Scenes from a Marriage, definitively exposes the quotidian horrors and pleasures of living intimately with another human being. A special award goes to Julie Andrews for the extraordinary dignity and decency of her performance as Judith in The Tamarind Seed, whose fear of burning gives way by degrees to the warmth of intelligent sensuality and affection. And one won’t forget the splendid Isela Vega in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, a Peckinpavian lady of great and good appetite for the earth, whether as bed or grave. Cybill Shepherd (Daisy Miller) and Joan Goodfellow (Buster and Billie) must not be discounted for their unexpected gifts of girls cut down by communal mores that kill what they cannot contain.
Actors in supporting performances would indisputably include Michael V. Gazzo (Godfather II), John Huston (Chinatown), Anthony Quayle and Dan O’Herlihy (The Tamarind Seed), Chief Dan George (Harry and Tonto), and Chariton Heston (The Three Musketeers). Best supporting actress awards go to Sylvia Syms (Tamarind Seed), Ellen Burstyn (Harry and Tonto), and Jacqueline Brooks (The Gambler). And a word of special praise for Bibi Andersson in her brief but telling appearance in Scenes from a Marriage.
Below are the most outstanding first- and second-run foreign films I encountered in 1974. They are listed in order of excellence (I have not yet seen Amarcord): Scenes from a Marriage, Pandora’s Box (G.W. Pabst, 1929), Red Psalm (Miklós Jancsó, 1977), Les Bonnes Femmes (Claude Chabrol, 1960), Yang Kwei Fei (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1955), The Merchant of Four Seasons, Day for Night, La Religieuse (Jacques Rivette, 1965).
Among the best second-run and vintage American films I viewed this year are the following 18, noted alphabetically: Across the Pacific (John Huston, 1942), All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, 1954), The Big Parade (King Vidor, 1925), Broken Blossoms (D.W. Griffith, 1919), The Charge of the Light Brigade (Michael Curtiz, 1936), The Cobweb (Vincente Minnelli, 1956), The Killers (Don Siegel, 1964), Love Letters (William Dieterle, 1945), Mad Love (Karl Freund, 1935), Make Way for Tomorrow (Leo McCarey, 1937), Monsieur Verdoux (Charles Chaplin, 1947), The Mysterious Lady (Fred Niblo, 1928), Northwest Passage (King Vidor, 1940), Party Girl (Nicholas Ray, 1958), Pitfall (Andre de Toth, 1948), Run of the Arrow (Sam Fuller, 1957), Underworld (Josef von Sternberg, 1927), The Wild Rovers (Blake Edwards, 1971).
For me it was a Renaissance year, a year wherein the young director provided what may be the richest collection of films in many years, especially in the American cinema. The sudden arrival of such promising talents as Scorsese, Spielberg, Malick and Roeg, and the return to form or maturation of such young filmmakers as Polanski, Lester, Coppola and Mazursky seem to have overshadowed but not diminished Fellini’s and Chabrol’s consummate contributions as established auteurs. In fact, there were so many good films from this young bunch that it was hard to find one that rose over the rest; but if only one film out of my ten manages to survive as a bonafide masterpiece it will probably be Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets, which for me was the most powerful announcement of a new major film artist since Bertolucci’s The Conformist. But a good film is a good film, so I list the ten in alphabetical order: Amarcord, Badlands, Chinatown, Don’t Look Now, Godfather II, Harry and Tonto, Juggernaut, Mean Streets, The Sugarland Express, Wedding in Blood.
There were so many great films first seen in the last year that I decided to list only those that came unheralded and provided that warm feeling of discovering for the first time something or someone that is so very fine. The order is alphabetical, The Big Combo (Joseph H. Lewis, 1955), Das Testament des Doktor Mabuse, The Lodger (Alfred Hitchcock, 1926), Les Bonnes Femmes, Man of the West (Anthony Mann, 1958) , Pandora’s Box, The Rain People (Francis Ford Coppola, 1968), Ride the High Country (Sam Peckinpah, 1962), The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (Budd Boetticher, 1960), Sylvia Scarlett (George Cukor, 1935), Young Mr. Lincoln (John Ford, 1939).