Close Up

1 September - 1 November 2015: Close-Up on New Hollywood


The swinging 60s are over: moving on from a cold war at its peak, the assassination of President Kennedy, King and Malcolm X, the swamps of Vietnam War, here comes the glorious 70s: The Watergate scandal is all over the press and President Nixon resigns. The Arab oil embargo sees gasoline prices skyrocket. The largest series of tornadoes in history hits the U.S. LaGuardia airport is bombed. New York enters a fiscal crisis and nears bankruptcy. Harvey Milk is assassinated. The Iran hostage crisis begins... This programme presents a collection of films that illustrate the looming corruption, conspiracy and anxiety that marked most of New Hollywood's productions with justified paranoia and existential nihilism.  

Five Easy Pieces
Bob Rafelson
1970 | 98 min | Colour | 35mm

Director Bob Rafelson devised a powerful leading role for new star Jack Nicholson in the searing character study Five Easy Pieces. Nicholson plays the now iconic cad Bobby Dupea, a shiftless thirtysomething oil rigger and former piano prodigy immune to any sense of responsibility, who returns to his upper-middle-class childhood home, blue-collar girlfriend (Karen Black) in tow, to see his estranged, ailing father. Moving in its simplicity and gritty in its textures, Five Easy Pieces is a lasting example of early 1970s American alienation. read more

Alan J. Pakula
1971 | 114 min | Colour | Digital

Jane Fonda is the star of Klute, a moody detective thriller in the noir style, and received an unexpected Oscar at the lowest point of her popularity with middlebrow America. But her showcase performance as Bree, a prostitute stalked by a psychopath, wouldn’t work without Donald Sutherland’s contrasting portrayal of John Klute, an introverted detective drawn into Bree’s world when he taps her phone and follows her. It’s a very subtle and self-effacing performance in which Sutherland finds a way to portray basic decency without becoming sentimental. The gradual development of the love affair between him and Fonda is beautifully handled by both actors. read more

The French Connection
William Friedkin
1971 | 104 min | Colour | Digital

"Exploring the strange symmetry between policeman and criminal, Friedkin's Oscar-winning 'policier' codified the screen syntax for an entire genre of hand-held, off-the-cuff, obsessive crime dramas, most notably TV’s fecund Law & Order series. Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider are the simmering, cynical pair of New York detectives who single-handedly set out to stop Fernando Rey's dapper French drug smuggler from bringing a huge stash of heroin into Manhattan. Based on an actual – and eventually closed – narcotics case, The French Connection extends its startling documentary-style realism even into its incredible action sequences, highlighted by quite simply the greatest car chase of American cinema." – Harvard Film Archive. read more

The Panic in Needle Park
Jerry Schatzberg
1971 | 110 min | Colour | Digital

"One of the quintessential expressions of early 1970s American cinema, Schatzberg’s second feature centers around a fragile woman who, like the characters its co-screenwriter Joan Didion’s early novels, has been set adrift by recent trauma and overly dependent relationships. Shot on location in a wintry and desolate New York City, Panic in Needle Park offers an undaunted and fascinating vision of the secret world of drug addicts with an electrifying Al Pacino – in his first starring role – as a small time hustler and addict and newcomer Kitty Winn as the naive Midwesterner enraptured by his energetic charm." – Harvard Film Archive. read more

Fat City
John Huston
1972 | 98 min | Colour | Digital

"John Huston returned to the arms of critics and the public with the inconspicuous naturalism of his version of Fat City. Acutely rendered shadows and light describe the dingy edges of desperate lives who accumulate around the gym, the bar, flophouses, onion fields – nonetheless flickering with ideas of something grander. A faded, unglamorous boxing film with no precise rises or falls, Fat City instead observes the repercussions of the perpetual expansion and deflation of egos battered by more than fists. Huston – also a one-time fighter – invisibly directs a cast of unprofessional actors and actual boxers with Stacy Keach’s washed up fighter, Jeff Bridges’ conflicted neophyte and Susan Tyrell’s uncannily channeled alcoholic." – Harvard Film Archive. read more

The King of Marvin Gardens
Bob Rafelson
1972 | 103 min | Colour | 35mm

"Director Bob Rafelson and actor Jack Nicholson’s follow-up to their Oscar-nominated Five Easy Pieces didn’t meet with the same level of critical or commercial success, but 40 years later it endures as an even darker, more bleakly poetic portrait of bottomed-out lives in Vietnam-era America. Set during winter in the run-down resort town of Atlantic City, New Jersey (in the days before legalized gambling), The King of Marvin Gardens stars the electrifying Bruce Dern as a small-time hustler who attempts to lure his estranged brother (Nicholson), an all-night Philadelphia radio DJ, into a sure-fire, get-rich-quick real estate scheme. The result is a real-life Monopoly game in which everyone goes bust and no one gets out of jail free." – Film Society Lincoln Center. read more

Mean Streets
Martin Scorsese
1973 | 112 min | Colour | 35mm

"Scorsese’s breakthrough third feature gave audiences an electrifying and unforgettable portrait of small-time thugs in Little Italy that established so much of what was to come in his filmmaking: gangsters and the mafia, outsiders as antiheroes, popular music as a narrative device, and the lasting partnership with Robert De Niro. Harvey Keitel, an alum of Scorsese’s student feature Who’s That Knocking at My Door?, is Charlie, an aspirant gangster seeking a middle ground between his profession and his efforts to lead a morally upright life with his epileptic girlfriend Teresa (Amy Robinson). When he intervenes in a dispute between his irrepressible friend Johnny Boy (De Niro) and a loan shark, he loses any control he had over the course his life was taking." – Film Society Lincoln Center. read more

Sidney Lumet
1973 | 130 min | Colour | Digital

"Lumet’s classic thriller is a mesmerizing character study of the eponymous Frank Serpico, modeled on a real-life New York City patrolman who made headlines in the late 1960s for risking his life to uncover systematic and festering corruption at the heart of the NYPD. The film that crowned Al Pacino as the leading actor of his generation, Serpico contains the key elements of 1970s American cinema – a vehement distrust of authority, a dystopian urban setting, complexly ambiguous anti-heros.Serpico also rehabilitated the reputation of Sidney Lumet, whose skill at taut realism and nerve-wracking tension found in this material its fullest expression since Twelve Angry Men fifteen years earlier." – Harvard Film Archive. read more

The Last Detail
Hal Ashby
1973 | 104 min | Colour | Digital

"Naval petty officers 'Badass' Buddusky (Jack Nicholson) and 'Mule' Mulhall (Otis Young) are assigned to escort 18-year-old seaman Larry Meadows (Randy Quaid) to a naval prison, where he’ll serve eight years for stealing $40 from his Admiral’s wife’s charity. Taking a shine to the luckless lad, the two career sailors decide to show him a good time in the major cities between Virginia and New Hampshire. Notable for Robert Towne’s foul-mouthed screenplay, which held the record for expletives in the callow pre-Tarantino days – Columbia Pictures stalled production for years hoping Towne would clean up the language. Nicholson’s zesty performance won Best Actor at Cannes; he, Quaid, and Towne received Oscar nods; and Andrew Sarris praised Hal Ashby’s 'sensitive, precise direction.' Look fast for Gilda Radner as a Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist in her movie debut. Echoes of this New Hollywood classic resound throughout Apatow’s films." – Film Society Lincoln Center. read more

The Conversation
Francis Ford Coppola
1974 | 113 min | Colour | 35mm

"Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation hit a deep social nerve in the proto-technological Watergate era, when political intrigue, taped conversations, and concern with surveillance loomed large in the public consciousness. Gene Hackman delivers a brilliant performance as a pathologically private wiretapper who – despite his detached disposition – is preoccupied with a previous assignment that ended in murder. On a new case, he gradually extracts the words of a conversation from the dense background noise, yet their meaning only grows more elusive and ominous, ultimately compelling him to intervene." – Harvard Film Archive. read more

The Parallax View
Alan J. Pakula
1974 | 102 min | Colour | 35mm

"Willis collaborated with director Alan Pakula on a trilogy of films that established the paranoid thriller as one of the touchstones of 1970s American cinema. The Parallax View offers perhaps the most perfect example of the genre through its tale of a sinister and far-reaching conspiracy of ruthless political assassination. Willis is a master at conveying omnipresent yet invisible menace in scenes alternately wrapped in his signature shroud of darkness and bathed in a cool, cruel, blinding daylight. The harrowing climactic sequence of The Parallax View – an incredible example of what the 'pure cinema' championed by Hitchcock in which the story is propelled by expressive image and montage over dialogue – contrasts the made-for-TV brightness of a political rally with the nebulous, pulsing shadows in the wings, whispering behind the lights and the cameras." – Harvard Film Archive. read more

Dog Day Afternoon
Sidney Lumet
1975 | 125 min | Colour | Digital

"Still the standard by which many New York movies are compared, Lumet’s terrific telling of a true-story Brooklyn bank robbery gone way out of hand is just as captivating as ever. In an Oscar nominated role, Al Pacino is winning as Sonny, the young man leading the job to fund his girlfriend’s sex-change operation (Chris Sarandon, also Oscar nominated) and becoming a media sensation in the process. By turns funny and suspenseful, Dog Day Afternoon remains disarmingly uncanny in how easily we confuse news, spectacle, and entertainment, relishing the vicarious thrill at the expense of others. With John Cazale and Charles Durning lending first-rate supporting performances." – Film Society Lincoln Center. read more

Taxi Driver
Martin Scorsese
1976 | 114 min | Colour | 35mm

Suffering from insomnia, disturbed loner Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) takes a job as a New York City cabbie, haunting the streets nightly, growing increasingly detached from reality as he dreams of cleaning up the filthy city. When Travis meets pretty campaign worker Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), he becomes obsessed with the idea of saving the world, first plotting to assassinate a presidential candidate, then directing his attentions toward rescuing 12-year-old prostitute Iris (Jodie Foster). Screenwriter Paul Schrader drew on the mythology of 1940s film noir thrillers for this story of Vietnam vet Travis Bickle’s increasingly psychotic disgust at the nocturnal New York street life he observes from his taxi. Brought to vivid life by director Martin Scorsese – then one of Hollywood’s hot-property new filmmakers – the film is one of the 70s’ most strikingly original works. read more

James Toback
1978 | 90 min | Colour | Digital

"The debut film for director-writer James Toback features Keitel as Jimmy 'Fingers' Angelli, a low-level gangster who collects debts for his bookmaker father but who dreams of being a classical concert pianist. The bipolar tensions he embodies as he wavers between a life of brutal extortion and auditions at Carnegie Hall provide Keitel with a range of unusual and edgy emotional territory to explore. Balancing a portable cassette player in one hand and a gun in the other, Jimmy lives in a world of contradictions in which his artistic frustrations fuel the violence needed for his professional obligations. This cult classic provides spare compositions against gritty New York locations and is an exemplar of the kind of urban psychological drama that underpinned the independent film movement of the 1970s." – Harvard Film Archive. read more

The Deer Hunter
Michael Cimino
1978 | 182 min | Colour | Digital

The Deer Hunter was an early attempt by Hollywood to process traumatic memories of Vietnam. It is split into three parts: the calm before a group of Pennsylvania steel-workers leave for their tour of duty, the men’s harrowing spell in a POW camp where they are forced to play Russian roulette, and the return home of Michael (Robert De Niro) without his missing buddy Nicky (Christopher Walken). The film was accused of xenophobia for its depiction of the Vietnamese, while a closing rendition of "God Bless America" only inflamed left-wing dissent. But there is unexpected compassion and tenderness here, particularly in Vilmos Zsigmond’s cinematography, and in understated performances by De Niro, Walken, Meryl Streep and the late John Cazaleread more

Cutter's Way
Ivan Passer
1981 | 101 min | Colour | Digital

"Cutter’s Way feels like a farewell to the ’70s: to honest political activism, social responsibility, excessive but essentially good-natured drug and alcohol abuse, Vietnam, California and the young Bridges. His character, Richard Bone, clings to his fading prime the way his best friend and mentor, crippled war veteran Alex Cutter (John Heard) clings to his walking stick. Together, the two men attempt to solve a murder, but that’s window dressing: this is a tale of friendship, endurance and loss, and one of the saddest movies ever made. Everything in the film feels tuned to capturing this spirit: Czech director Ivan Passer’s use of late-summer light is rich and entrancing, while Bridges and Heard give their all: the latter delivers a performance of spectacular rage and intensity. The result is nothing less than a modern masterpiece, and a film ripe for rediscovery." – Tom Huddleston.  read more