1971: 4 movies

posted 2015 September 4

The Panic in Needle Park
Directed by Jerry Schatzberg
Written by Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne
Produced by Dominick Dunne
Cinematography by Adam Holender
Editing by Evan A. Lottman
Art direction by Murray P. Stern
Makeup by Herman Buchman
Starring Kitty Winn, Al Pacino,
and Richard Bright

   Now, this is a movie! It's not just good, it's a movie of the century. So depressingly real and gritty it hurts! Kitty Winn's face, voice, interpretations, and mannerisms are otherworldy, full of child-like curiosity, warm love, cunning, and heartbreak. Al Pacino is like a fickle flame, tame at times and lashing out unpredictably at others. The true beauty of the movie is not that it's a beautifully told story about a romantic relationship, or neither that's it's an unflinchingly detailed account of junkie-life, but rather it's so awesome because it walks the line beautifully between both. Early on in the movie, we are clued in to the secret of the couple's love: the physical reality of their lives doesn't matter to them. They could be thieves, prostitutes, sick, living in filth, and heading towards certain destruction, but as long as they are kind to each other, remembering their love for each other, keeping that as their moral center, then they will be together.
   A bonus perspective is to witness Winn's character and to debate whether she has grown, stayed the same, or deteriorated. Her genius performance is that subtle, and the story and direction so powerful that it will be interesting to hear how people's perspectives differ on this! 

The Tragedy of Macbeth
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Roman Polanski and Kenneth Tynan
Produced by Andrew Braunsberg
Music by The Third Ear Band
Cinematography by Gilbert Taylor
Editing by Alastair McIntyre
Production design by Wilfred Shingleton
Art direction by Fred Carter
Set decor by Bryan Graves
Costumes by Anthony Mendleson
Makeup by Tom Smith
Special effects by Ted Samuels
Choreographer by Sally Gilpin
Fight direction by William Hobbs
Starring Jon Finch, Francesca Annis,
Martin Shaw, and Nicholas Selby

   Fantastic and traumatizing rendering of the Shakespeare play, balancing all the aspects of sex, magic, and evil into a seamlessly gripping vessel of a movie. Director Polanski achieves this freedom from staginess by focusing on the theme of fear. The witches are gruesome to behold, Macbeth and his lady are frighteningly wicked, and so is the doomed traps they lay for themselves. Much of the dialogue is set as internal thought, so to make the movie more action-based. The sword-play is riveting. Music, cinematography, makeup, and editing all conjoin eerily to tell a tale of a man who wrestles with the rhythm of time, knowing when to act and when to be still, and how to be virtuous. The attention to detail in the feasts, the battles, and general life in a medieval castle are all splendid to behold even if the sum emotion is that akin to the trippiest nightmare.
   It's great to see how cinematic Shakespeare can be, and how stage-play adaptations have come since 1964's Becket. Polanski seems to have taken some notes from Pasolini's Edipo Re, and sadly possibly also from his personal tragedy.

Händler der vier Jahreszeiten
Written and directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder  
Cinematography by Dietrich Lohmann
Editing by Thea Eymèsz
Production design by Kurt Raab
Starring Hans Hirschmüller, Irm Hermann,
Hanna Schygulla, Andrea Schober,
Gusti Kreissl, and Ingrid Caven

   Very depressing, but somehow also very beautiful. The acting is stilted, but it is purposefully so, allowing us to fill in our emotions during the moments of silence between every line of dialogue. There is an element of searching through the characters' pasts, our memories of earlier scenes, to unravel the mystery of some of the decisions made, and this makes the experience more striking, as if it happened in our past. The short flashback scenes peppered throughout give a refreshingly romantic air to the dreary urban reality.
   The title translates from Deutsche to "Merchant of Four Seasons".

Il Decameron
Written and directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Starring Franco Citti, Ninetto Davoli,
and Pier Paolo Pasolini
Produced by Alberto Grimaldi
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography by Tonino Delli Colli
Editing by Nino Baragli and Tatiana Casini Morigi
Art direction by Dante Ferretti
Set decor by Andrea Fantacci
Costumes by Danilo Donati

   It comes off as a celebration of life, and it does this partly through the rebellious and lusty collection of stories, but also partly through the camera's wandering gaze which catches people at play, fighting, chatting, and sometimes catches non-human subjects like an empty but tilled field, and the winding zigzag walls of a ghetto complex. It's a beautiful poem against the morality around sex. Though the tone is always sexy, the undertones shift from comic, to romantic, to blasphemous, to wistfully contemplative.
   The title translates from Italian to "The Decameron", which refers to the 14th-century novel it was based on.

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