In need of some fresh direction to get those creative juices flowing? The 60’s! Cinema and culture around the world were going through a revolution, new ideas, sexual liberation, drugs; the world was transforming and cinematography along with it. Here’s a batch thats guaranteed to deplateau you.
Contempt or Le Mépris 1963 – written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard, starring Brigitte Bardot, Michel Piccoli, Jack Palance, and Giorgia Moll. Yes the Jack Palance. This is what happens when we barter our significant others off to an executive producer in order to bring home the bacon. Paul Javal is a writer who is hired to make a script for a new movie about Ulysses more commercial. It all starts with Paul’s wife, Camille (Bridget Bardot), taking a ride with the EP Prokosch played by Palance; followed by your general bout of animosity and feelings of betrayal. If gratuitous displays of chest hair makes you uneasy this is not a movie for you… you’ve been warned.
The Graduate, – 1967 – Directed by Mike Nichols starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft “Are you trying to seduce me Mrs. Robinson?” Yes! Yes very young Dustin Hoffman!!! That tawdry cougar is definitely trying to seduce you!!! The pre-Tinderesque coming-of-age tale of a young man who’s a little worried about his future. From today’s perspective, an era where we’re practically born swiping right it’s almost painful watching Benjamin Braddock, fumble throughout the process of the affair. Benjamin experiencing what could only be sheer terror at times. It culminates with the wedding chase that Wayne’s World 2 did a rendition of.
Funny Face – Although not technically the 60’s, close enough, we’d be remiss to not include this one in our list. 1957 Directed by Stanely Donen; both a transformation story and a love story between a photographer and his model before that sort of thing was cliché. The photographer, Dick Avery played by Fred Astaire, in search of a model with a little more substance discovers Jo Stockton, played by Audrey Hepburn. She’s a Greenwich Village intellectual with disdain for the world of fashion; an unlikely selection with a funny face. The story is based on Richard Avedon and how he met his first wife Doe. Avedon serves as the movies visual consultant. You see his images throughout the movie. Maggie Prescott Quality magazine editor is clearly based on Diana Vreeland.
Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo – 1966 by William Klein, Starring Dorothy McGowan, a biting satire of the absurdity of the fashion industry, the story centers around a fictitious documentary of Polly Maggoo, an American supermodel in Paris. Abstract, excessive, vapid; the visuals alone are enough to stimulate anyone in creative. Complete with Fashion Editor Miss Maxwell, another character based on Diana Vreeland. Interestingly enough this was McGowans film debut and she disappeared from modeling and acting immediately after.
La Dolce Vita – 1960 Directed by Federico Fellini, A story of decadence and hedonism and savage paparazzo in Rome; viewed through a series of encounters via Marcello Mastrioanni a womanizing tabloid reporter. Marcello a man balancing on the precipice of chaos and a woman who love him obsessively.
At one point the buxom blond bombshell Anita Ekberg who plays American actress Sylvia cries, “Everything is so difficult Marcello.” The overall voice of La Dolce Vita, the burden of such a sweet life.
If you’ve never been around Rome, this is as close as you can get without going. from Anita’s jaunt frolicking in the Trevi Fountain, to Bassano, The Vatican (Cupola di St. Pietro), Tivoli, Passo Oscuro. You should probably still just go.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s – 1961 – Truman Capote’s story starring Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly. She’s breathtaking, she’s stylish; charming and clever, a girl that knows a guys net worth from across the room. A complete opportunist. It’s such a familiar story. A small town girl runs off to the big city in pursuit of her dream of a lavish life. “I need money, and I’ll do whatever I have to do get it.”
And Paul Varjak, a writer not a stranger to being patronized. Paul dutifully pines after Holly in spite of her efforts to bag a rich husband.
If this movie were made in 2016 the role of Holly would be filled by a Kardashian or Lindsay Lohan and it would be the story of that girl we all know that couldn’t pay rent on her FiDi apartment last week but somehow managed an instagram selfie yesterday in Dubai fanning out Benjamin’s in a gold Lamborghini. She’s a “model”
Some interesting notes, Capotes first choice for Ms. Golightly was Marilyn Monroe, but her agent didn’t want her playing the role of an escort. And The role of Paul Varjak was initially offered to Steve McQueen but he had other commitments. And in the spirit of some good old fashioned Hollywood white washing we can see Mickey Rooney playing the caricature of a Japanese landlord, Mr. Yunioshi, a casting that by today’s standard is considered pretty repugnant.
Plein Soleil – 1960 (aka The Talented Mr. Ripley) Directed by René Clément. Alain Delon plays Tom Ripley a clever con-artist and master identity thief. René Clément plays Philippe Greenleaf a rogue affluent whom Tom is tasked with retrieving and returning to the U.S. to his father. Philippe has other plans. It’s a breathtaking film. Delon is as beautiful as he is diabolical in the role. You’ve probably seen the 1999 version with Matt Damon and Jude Law.
Belle de Jour – 1968 – Catherine Deneuve – Perhaps the original desperate housewife, Deneuve plays Séverine, a frigid woman who takes up prostitution while her husband is at work during the day garnering her the name Belle de Jour, a French play on words contrasting “belle de nuit” Lady of the night. Filled with sadomasochistic dreams and visions the story leaves you weighing the consequences of sexual repression versus sexual indulgence. If nothing more than a great argument for a dildo.
Blow Up – 1966 Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, his first English flick. David Hemmings plays Thomas modeled after the iconic English photographer David Baily. We’re quickly introduced to our dizzyingly swinging and trendy freelance photographer as he works a couple of sets, dodges eager models, and raids an antique store for props, things take a turn for the unexpected after he takes some photos of a couple in the park and captures more than he expected.
After developing the images, Thomas is appalled to find not only what looks like a body, but a vague image on the edge of the frame, which could be a shadow, but looks like a gun. The only thing clear is that the woman in the photo has appeared at his studio — and wants the pictures he took.
Blow up is a cult classic, the definitive go to for what most photographers thought they were getting themselves into. David Baily never had to deal with Instagram in 1966. #marketsaturation
Bullitt – 1968 – Peter Yates Directs- Steve McQueen! This is that man flick that if you’re stranded on a desert island and you get one movie it’s the one with Steve McQueen and the high speed pursuit between the 68’ Mustang and 68” Charger. Johnny Ross defects from the mob and is going to testify before a Senate Subcommittee hearing on organized crime. A politician, Chalmers, gets SFPD Lieutenant Frank Bullitt to guard said defector. Hitmen manage to take Ross out before he can testify. It’s up to Bullitt to find the guys responsible. It ends up him against the hitmen and the politician. Of course there ‘s one of those something isn’t as it seems twists. If anything this movie makes you want to go out and buy a white shoulder holster and a tactical turtleneck. *Archer reference
La Piscine – 1969 (The Swimming Pool), by Jacques Deray, starring Alain Delon, Romy Schneider, Maurice Ronet . Why did I pick this movie to review!? It’s actually pretty boring. How much can you write about events surrounding a swimming pool? Pretty people swimming, smoking by the pool, drinking by the pool, hitting on their friends girlfriends by the pool, hitting on their friends daughters by the pool. Drowning said friend. All in French. La Fin.
Lenny – (not the 60’s but worth mentioning) 1974, Directed by Bob Fosse, another great Dustin Hoffman flick.
Obscenity laws!!!??? There was apparently a time when you could be sent to jail for saying things that were deemed obscene or offensive. Here is the biography of Lenny Bruce a comedian who essentially founded comedic social commentary. This is a man that didn’t just refuse to play by the rules, he was incapable of it. He single handedly took it to the establishment and highlighted the “hypocrisy” that was. Nothing was off limits; civil Rights, gay rights, free speech, STD’s. The judicial system ran him into poverty, between his legal issues and drug addiction, they killed him. We now enjoy a level of freedom in regards to free speech that most nations couldn’t even fathom and it’s only because the martyrs that were practically burned at the stake for it. This is a must see. Next time you’re enjoying Stephen Colbert, Louis C.K. , Chris D’Elia, Ricky Gervais, John Oliver, Jon Stewart … etc Come back Jon! Remember Lenny Bruce.
- Allen Henson