Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Year Was 1962

I began watching and studying the films of 1962 back in September, shortly after completing the 1961 year. 1962 offered even more titles to choose from (118 in all). International cinema was beginning to influence, and even eclipse, much of what American cinema was producing around the time of 1961. The intellectual and emotional challenges that films were giving audiences were at a higher level than before. Sometimes a film didn't need to make very much sense at all and still managed to make an impact. Films were becoming more and more experimental, slowly pushing the envelope of what was considered traditional filmmaking. My own appreciation of cinema continued to evolve.

The year's films I'd chosen for this project ranged from films that could have been done better with a few tweaks, to films that couldn't be better if they'd tried. That's not to say the year was short on bad films. Most of the more obvious clunkers, I chose not to sit through.  Probably for good reason.  Out of all of these films, I'd say one has the distinction of being considered a bad movie. Reptilicus represents all that could go wrong when making a movie. Ludicrous production values abound, and I'm certain it's not the only terrible movie produced that year. Perhaps I'll catch a few more 1962 disasters someday.

Not even Reptilicus himself (itself?) could blemish a year with such benchmark films as Cleo from 5 to 7 (experimental New Wave film with female director), David and Lisa (psychological drama with independent financing), The Exterminating Angel (subversive surrealism), Last Year at Marienbad (who the hell knows what's happening and who cares it's so pretty), Ride the High Country (classic neo-Western), and The Trial (trippy Orson Welles thriller). And those aren't even the best ones!

This year conjures up truly special cinematic memories for me, such as James Bond's first dry martini (shaken, not stirred) in Dr. No, Bette Davis serving Joan Crawford a dead rat in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Helen Keller learning to speak for the first time (Wah-wah!) in The Miracle Worker, Angela Lansbury's deceptively lethal performance in The Manchurian Candidate, and the innocence of childhood (Tell him I said, 'hey') perfectly captured on film in To Kill a Mockingbird, my favorite film of the year.

It was a year where truly brilliant directors took the helm and created some of the great masterpieces in cinema. There is no denying the epic grandeur of Lawrence of Arabia when the music, the acting, the visuals, the sound, the story, etc are all working in the audience's favor. True spectacle means you can never take your eyes off it for a second and that is the case with David Lean's film. The lovely Jules and Jim is the masterwork of French director Francois Truffaut. A bouncy tribute to love, no matter how psychotic, is even more a tribute to its audience who has the pleasure of experiencing it over and over again.

1962 has as many memorable moments as it has memorable titles. Having the exposure to so many of them in such quick succession is quite a treat for any film fan. I look forward to 1963's films and the continuation of my adventure through the cinema.