1966: 5 movies

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Directed by Mike Nichols 
Written and produced by Ernest Lehman
Cinematography by Haskell Wexler
Editing by Sam O'Steen
Production design by Richard Sylbert 
Set decor by George James Hopkins 
Costumes by Irene Sharaff
Music by Alex North
Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, 
and Sandy Dennis

   This is a weird movie! It's so real, so beautiful, and so sad! The lead actors are one of the most famous movie couples ever, if not the most famous. Known for their beauty, class, and acting talent, and yet here they are gross, boorish, pitiful, old-aged, and dumpy! I am not one who is unfamiliar with how acting works,  how the actors are not really the characters they play and often nothing like them. Yet, these two roles so become the actors that I can no longer picture the actors any other way. Every performance I see of Taylor's before this role seems too ripe and not fleshed out enough, and every role she did afterwards seems a tad rotten and sloppy. It's the same with Burton. Every other role he's done seems inferior, except for Becket (1964), which is only a tad inferior. This movie has a hypnosis to it which makes us believe this is what Liz and Richard were actually like in their real relationship. But it goes beyond the excitement of celebrity worship, the movie gives us a strong sense of the love and hatred inherent to marriage. You sense the isolation from the rest of the world, the amount of fantasy involved, the madness, the mercilessness violence, the heart-breaking sweetness, and the ever-looming dead end. Did I mention that you will not be able to believe that the actors are any younger than their characters! The age, alcoholism, and miserable sarcasm is too much in their blood and brains.
   This movie tops the year, yes, because it features possibly the best duet-acting in a movie, but also because it's a beautiful blues poem about love. The fact that it's also funny, smart, and scary just makes it that much easier to digest and makes it that much more realistic, because it, like life, is not monotone. The cinematography is a very rich and hallowed black-and-white. It feels soft, dreamy, and sexually agitated like a sculpture by Bernini.

Directed by Bruce Conner
Vocals and dance by Toni Basil

   Movie starts, and BAM!, you're in Bruce Conner's reality. It feels like a more thrilling and enlightened reality than ours, and much more vivid and powerful than what most movies offer. He actually furthers the dance-themed cinema of Maya Deren! 
   The fact that the dance involves erotic attire and nudity, makes me think of pornography and where this falls in regards to that. Basil, the dancer, also happens to be the singer on the uplifting R&B record that is playing, so we get a full sense of a woman who is liberated, doing what she wants, in love with her body and its relation to the world, rejoicing in song and dance. The fact that a man recorded it and manipulated the images and sounds brings us back to the pornography question. But if Conner derives some pleasure from seeing a woman perform so beautifully, why should we fault him? Do we enjoy it is the more interesting question. Basil dancing in Conner's environment is a fantastic subject, and this movie reminds us that there is nothing wrong with appreciating beauty, whether it is our own, that of someone of the same sex, or that of someone of the opposite sex. Maybe that is why Conner's reality feels so much more thrilling and enlightened: it excludes the sin of our world and leaves only the fun.
   The second half of the movie is perfectly fitting, bringing everything back to status quo. And it's completely captivating.

Little Richard: Live in Paris (1966)
Recorded at the L’Olympia in November
Backed by UK band, Johnny B. Great & The Quotations

   Wild fiery sexual violent proud and beautiful. The crowd is feeling it. Gay gospel boy Little Richard rose to fame through seedy nightclub performances and early historic recordings of the new sound, known as rock & roll, that was sweeping the nation in the 1950s. The sound had its 2nd explosion in popularity in the 1960s spurred largely by energetic young white British rockers such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, who cemented rock's vitality and caused it to go global, or viral, before that was even a term. And in 1966, that rock pioneer, who had toured with the Beatles, the Stones, and Jimi Hendrix, before they were even widely known, comes back with a concert to re-assert his dominance, his status as one of the originators, his status as visionary, his status as the ruler of these times. And the audience understands and accepts and claps and shakes and stares and drools and is mesmerized.
   The shirtlessness and overt intense sexual aura adds authenticity, and ushers in the era of sex in music, which would be furthered by the Doors, David Bowie, funk, punk rock, heavy metal, and now almost every other act in music today.
   In other words, this concert movie isn't great because it documents the presenting of new sounds or new music to the world, after all, these songs are all about a decade old, but it  is a great movie because it documents the presenting of a new mood, a new philosophy, or maybe an old one. It documents a new naked unabashed style of performance, and the lifting of previously banned or unacceptable themes, like lurid staring, and a shirtless male beckoning the crowd like a lover, and a black man embracing his sensuality in a room full of admirers, and heightening it even further.
   Recorded three years before the mind-shifting, ethos-shift that was the Woodstock, Festival of Peace and Love. I mean, he's literally making the crowd beg for him to throw out to them his sweaty shirt for a minute or two. The energy is insane. The music is great. The band is on point. The performer is a demon. And the crowd is perfectly in tune with the times. Great document.

Writing, direction, and production design
by Jan Svankmajer 
Produced by Erna Kmínková and Jirí Vanek
Cinematography by Jirí Safár 
Editing by Helena Lebdusková and Hana Walachová 
Puppeteering by Nad'a Munzarová and Jirí Procházka
Animation by Bohuslav Srámek
Music by Zdenek Liska 

   It flows so captivatingly, and yet it's always completely revolting. Director Svankmeyer seems to have adopted Bruce Conner's flow, and rapid-fire cutting. But the tone is somewhere between an eerie nightmare, a very pertinent parable, and a collage of fascinating textures. That's probably the chief benefit of the movie, the sense of the palpable. It's wet, it's furry, it hurts like hard hits upon the head, it's red and fleshy like eye sockets and gums. The parable aspect makes the whole piece that much more distasteful since we begin to realize that our habits aren't very different from that of the macabre characters.
   The title is in Czech, and I believe it means either "Punch and Judy" or "Coffin House".

A Big Hand for the Little Lady
Directed by Fielder Cook 
Written by Sidney Carroll
Produced by Fielder Cook
Cinematography by Lee Garmes
Editing by George R. Rohrs
Production design by Robert S. Smith
Set decor by Ralph S. Hurst 
Starring Henry Fonda, Joanne Woodward,
Jason Robards, Kevin McCarthy,
and Allen Collins

   It's a fun movie with an awesome script and wonderful performances by Fonda and Woodward. It would have been better without some of the comedic tone, but on the whole, the constantly shifting narrative keeps the viewers on their toes and makes for a suspenseful ride.

posted 2015 September 4
added 2020 June 7 Little Richard: Live in Paris 

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