Thursday, 23 December 2010

Back in 1971, the movies used to mean something

The dynamic body of films produced by the Film School Generation from the late 1960s onwards accounts for many of my favourite films.

Directors such as Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogodanovic, and their peers, made dark, personal films which incorporate an ironic awareness of the history of film and elements of French New Wave cinema. The FSG directors shocked audiences with their disavowal for authority, unhappy endings, subversive content and gratuitous nudity and violence like never before in mainstream cinema (Scorsese's Taxi Driver ends in a bloodbath which is still shocking by today's desensitised standards).

Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1968)

Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper, 1969)

The Last Picture Show (Peter Bogdanovic, 1971)
The Godfather (Francis Ford Copolla, 1972)

Martin Scorsese on the set of Mean Streets (1973)

 Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)

Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

After plummeting two decade earlier due to the introduction of home television, cinema attendance was suddenly reaching record heights. The truly remarkable thing about this period of Hollywood was that economic success was being achieved alongside artistic excellence. Then two films were made that raked in more cash than any before them and altered Hollywood's expectations of how much revenue can and should be made from a production.This effectively left artistic endeavours to eat dust.

Steven Spielberg' Jaws paved the way for brainless, big-budget, crowd-drawing blockbusters, while George Lucas' Star Wars trilogy showed the trillions that can be made from video games and merchandising related to a children's film. The sorry state of contemporary mainstream cinema can be traced back to these two films. These days, the cinema patron's choice of film is more often than not between a children's adventure movie or a Vin Diesel action flop. The rise and fall of the Film School Generation is a travesty, because in their day, movies used to mean something.