Maximilian Bercovicz said, “And, of course, I agree about Lucas, but in the ‘70s alone I’d call him one of the best American filmmakers, with THX, Graffiti and Star Wars. In fact, I think the only American filmmaker who outdid him in the ’70s was Coppola.” in another thread and I find this to be an interesting statement.
While I agree that Coppola had the most impressive decade of any American filmmaker in the 70s — and I personally believe the greatest decade by any one filmmaker in any single decade — I’m not sure I can agree with Lucas as second on that list.
While Lucas had two iconic films in the 70s in Star Wars and American Graffiti, I just don’t think the quality measures up with some others, like possibly Woody Allen or Robert Altman or Scorsese.
So, which American filmmaker had the greatest 70s decade (and please, let’s bring in filmmakers from all over the world and discuss their 70s output as well, and compare and contrast that to whom we feel the top American director was). And state Why; Discuss, defend.
George Lucas – 2: American Graffiti, Star Wars.
Steven Spielberg-3½: Duel, Jaws and CE3K. Plus he did an excellent Columbo.
Coppola -4: Godfather 1, Godfather 2, The Conversation and Apocalypse Now.
Four great films in the 70s is the target to beat.
doesn’t anyone remember the sugarland express? :’(
Peter Watkins’ Edvard Munch and Punishment Park alone in the 70’s (and I’m not referring to his other TV work as well) demolish everything Spielberg and Lucas and Coppola ever made (really Yakult, Columbo??? and Duel wasn’t that good as they said it was) except Apocalypse Now! which is on the same level as those post-apocalyptic and biographical respectively themed titans of films. Watkins ability in Munch in particular to retain a sense of history and preciseness regarding Munch as both a subject and an artist is not only remarkable but a seminal example for all future and past biopics in order to manufacture the material in favor of the thematic catalogue of the film and not the biopic subject in hand. It’s the environment that’s the real protagonist, not the one who’s been biographed.
A director to begin with since we’re speaking of 70’s directors in a general essence. (really, Spielberg and Lucas, the heathens of current blockbuster summer trends and popcorn crunches?)
i’d still go with altman :)
3 womenmccabe & mrs millernashvillemashthe long goodbyecalifornia split
altho coppola gave him a run for the money ;)
Outside of America there’s a lot more to choose from:
Satyajit Ray beats them all with 5: Days & Nights In The Forest, The Adversary, Distant Thunder, Company Limited, and The Middleman. Both Herzog and Fassbinder made a ton of great films in the 70s.
Tarkovsky would win if all his films had been made in the 70s, but he only made 3 films in the 70s.
Angelopoulos wouldn’t make the list as all his films are bad from what I’ve seen ;)
I already mentioned a non-American Yakult, unless of course you think Watkins as a British is part of American filmmaking, heh…
“Satyajit Ray beats them all…”
Theodoros Angelopoulos and Andrei Tarkovsky and Miklos Jancso have also made MASTERPIECES that period, equal to Herzog and Fassbinder and Ray. Chantal Akerman as well and here is a short film delight for anyone who hasn’t watched it yet, her first film attempt in the late 60’s which is a premonition of what arrived later on with Je, Tu Il, Elle and her clinical analysis of male-female-bisexual relationships and the factual loneliness of the being:
Prove me otherwise with some of my choices.
Seriously, I think George Lucas’ only good film is THX 1138. Lucas is far, far from “Greatest of the 70s” consideration, considering the relative strength (and fame) of much of the other work coming out during that decade.
Speaking of American directors, Ruby’s choice of Robert Altman is the best of the 4 named so far and this scene below is one of the few examples of Altman “guiding”…Keith Carradine to sing..and truth be told, damn fine too, heh:
In terms of non-American directors, Jacques Rivette is a serious contender.
Out 1 (the 750 minute ‘produced for French television but never broadcast’ Noli me tangere)
Out 1: Spectre (the 225 minute ‘compiled for cinema release’ version)
Celine and Julie Go Boating
I second the suggestions of Altman and Coppola for American cinema.
And neither can we forget about Sidney Lumet with Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon and the brilliant Network. Anderson Tapes was not bad at all, I still need to see The Offence, but he must be in the conversation for American directors
One of the reasons why I’d go with Lucas is the amount of variety between the three films.
How many debut efforts are as “out there” as THX 1138? A world in which emotions are controlled by androids, overseen by the mysterious OMM, is genius in my book. The relationship between THX and LUH is one of the most in-depth relationships I’ve seen in film… the complete lack of interest they have for basic human desire is so damn terrifying. And the attention to detail in this world is just brilliant: the mystery behind the assigned name, the phonebooth-like “unichapels” and personal interaction with OMM, the concept of the “superstructure” outside the suppressive world… just brilliant.
His next film, American Graffiti, is basically the exact opposite: in 1962 Modesto, four guys hang out one last time before two are set to leave for college. The tone and atmosphere of innocent pre-‘60s America is pitch-perfect, and the interaction between characters is excellent, basically down to each word. The soundtrack feels like it was written specifically for the film, as each song is a perfect match for the mood of each scene. There’s so much more I could talk about, like the teenagers’ cross-radio relationship with the mysterious, almost God-like Wolfman Jack, and, of course, the main point of the film: is it really time to move on?
Then, a dive straight into Star Wars. Much like the previous two, there is so much more than first meets the eye, and there are similar themes present… but we all know how different this is in it’s own way.
So I have to go with Lucas, because, for me, no other ’70s filmmaker has gone into such depth in such a range of themes and concepts. Yes, other filmmakers of the ’70s have covered a wide range, but none have done it with such attention and intricacy as Lucas.
what, sorry? two sci-fis and a coming of age thingie?
let’s see: altman made a psychological drama, a war film, a western, a musical, and a noir detective story, a study of addiction, also a crime drama (thieves like us) and even a horror film (images). hands down. i’m out
Ruby, cannot THX also be considered a psychological drama? Isn’t Star Wars a coming of age tale and a war film?
Come to think of it Star Wars isn’t even that good. I’m with Uli – as far as American directors go it looks like Coppola wins.
and when u think about it star wars is also a western! but it isn’t that good and we’re still talking about 3 films vs 8. c’mon now, altman was the most original american filmmaker in the 70s and u know it. he reinvented entire genres. sure, coppola wins the box office, i’ll give u that
Altman’s very hit or miss for me Ruby – from the ones you mentioned I haven’t seen 3 Women – I’ve been meaning to watch it for a while now, but as it stands there’s only 2 great films on that list and 3 good ones, (or maybe 3 and 2) imo. I definitely agree he was the most original American filmmaker though.
well then it’s all just a matter of opinion, isn’t it. coppola’s films are very popular and i love them myself so whatever u guys decide, i will still know the truth ;)
^ Exactly :)
“as far as American directors go it looks like Coppola wins.”
You obviously haven’t seen anything from James Benning.
Ruby, make more of a case. There is no right or wrong, just varying degrees of correctness. What about the films do you feel made them great? What speaks to you about those films?
i don’t know how to explain, uli. for me, their rather ramshackle structure gets at the truth. they’re extremely life-like. and how is that possible in so many different genres? it’s genius. i remember seeing mccabe & mrs miller for the first time as a kid and it was mesmerizing. it’s certainly like no other western. and yet it’s probably more true than any of them. altman’s characters are alive. take a film like california split, a minor altman to some. this is one of the greatest films about addiction ever made. no preaching, just life. i don’t think i’ve explained very well but i don’t feel i need to defend altman. his films do that well enough. sure, he’s hit & miss. that’s because he took so many chances. he went to the mats with the studio heads more than once and was fired more than once. but when it works, it REALLY works
The ’70s was a golden age for Philippine cinema as well.
Officially it started with Lino Brocka’s Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (You Were Weighed But Found Wanting, 1974), which is his I Vitelloni or Last Picture Show, a panoramic view of a small town, but Ishmael Bernal had done his debut film only two years before, the astonishingly assured Pagdating sa Dulo (At the Top, 1972), which effectively and hilariously skewered the local film industry. Tinimbang, however, was a hit, Pagdating not, so it was with the latter film that people took notice, and the age was officially underway.
Actually Celso Ad. Castillo was doing a Robert Altman, in that he’d been doing films way before any of these brash upstarts. His Asedillo (1971) is a classically formed and unusually understated action film, and its popularity at the boxoffice helped form the star Fernando Poe Jr.‘s champion-of-the-people persona. In 1974 he did Return of the Dragon, a kind of Bruce Lee pastiche—but with more visual flair than I’ve ever found in any Bruce Lee film.
1975 was a career high for Brocka; he did Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Neon) to most people the greatest Filipino film ever made (I don’t agree, but never mind). This was also the year of Mario O’Hara’s debut feature, Mortal, which is the story of a a schizophrenic man slowly regaining his sanity—told from INSIDE the schizo man’s head. I think in terms of imagery and just plain stubborn storytelling integrity, this film has it all over Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind (small praise, I know). 1975 was also the debut of one Mike De Leon, whose Itim (Rites of May) is an eerie Gothic gem, and possibly influenced Hideo Nakata’s Ringu (he was an apprentice at the same studio at around this time). Of all the names I’ve mentioned, he comes close to being considered a genius.
1976 was some kind of high water mark; Brocka came out with what I consider his masterpiece, Insiang (you’ll find some admirers of this film—Tony Rayns, Dave Kehr, Elliot Stein, Pierre Rissient, to name a few). O’Hara’s film (Mortal) had flopped badly the year before, mainly because the idea of telling a schizo’s story from inside the schizo’s head pretty much flew over audience’s heads. His second effort, however, I believe to be a quantum jump in reach, ambition, and quality: Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (Three Years Without God). Of this I’ve written about enough elsewhere, in other threads. Brocka, prolific bastard that he was, came out with a second film, Tatlo Dalawa Isa (Three Two One), an omnibus of which the third is I believe a Gothic gem of a short masterpiece.
1977 O’Hara attempted a second epic, Mga Bilanggong Birhen (The Captive Virgins)—but walked away when it was 90% finished because of the producer. This was the year of Celso Ad Castillo’s great Burlesk Queen (Burlesque Queen) arguably the most lyrical film I’ve ever seen.
1978 is arguably an off season. Maybe the most notable film to come out here is Celso Ad Castillo’s epic Pagputi ng Uwak, Pagitim ng Tagak (roughly: When the crow turns white, when the heron blackens), his period epic about the Huk rebellion.
1979 is one of Brocka’s most prolific years—Ina, Kapatid, Anak (Mother, Sister, Daughter) is a cross-generational melodrama; Ina Ka ng Anak Mo (You are the mother of your child) is an adultery melodrama (some consider this his best work); and Jaguar is his great noir film—based on Nick Joaquin’s The Boy Who Wanted to Become Society, this is about a young man hired to be a rich man’s bodyguard, and the price paid for the privilege. Bernal also came out with Salawahan (Capricious), a fine sex comedy about a man who must choose between two women.
That’s just off the top of my head; there are more, many more, and even more titles of aforementioned directors I haven’t bothered to mention.
I submit any of these filmmakers can give Coppola and Spielberg and Lucas a run for their money. Not as confident pitting them against the likes of Altman, Scorsese, Burnett, Hellman, Herzog, Rivette, Angelopolous, but I think they wouldn’t be embarrassed by the comparison…
I have a list of films here, with links to articles whenever possible:
Wow, great references and individual accolades Noel, great to see more promotion for Brocka around of whose films I’ve on;y seen 3! Indeed, even in my country, Manila by Brocka is considered a “defining” moment for Filipino cinema which is far from it but it’s a start and if it makes people watch more Filipino perfections like I did, then I’m all for it. All 3 of the Brockas I’ve watched were 70’s, so yes, I’ll also include him in the list above with Akerman, Watkins, Angelopoulos, Ray and Herzog too. I’m having high hopes for Mario O’ Hara too!
“what, sorry? two sci-fis and a coming of age thingie?”
“let’s see: altman made a psychological drama, a war film, a western, a musical, and a noir detective story, a study of addiction, also a crime drama (thieves like us) and even a horror film (images).”
You could just as easily say Lucas made a sci-fi mystery/thriller dystopia film, a coming-of-age comedy/drama film, and a sci-fi action/adventure war fantasy film. Plus, you could say Altman made a musical, dramas and comedies.
It’s pretty hard to define the “genre” of a film.
If you look at it from your point of view though, Altman may have covered more of a range than Lucas, but variety isn’t everything: “One of the reasons why I’d go with Lucas…”
I’ve seen five of Altman’s ‘70s films, and I thought one was good, one was decent, and the other three were forgettable. I’ve seen all three of Lucas’ ’70s films, and I thought they were all masterpieces.
deal. i’m not into director death matches ;)
“Come to think of it Star Wars isn’t even that good. I’m with Uli – as far as American directors go it looks like Coppola wins.”
Yeah, Coppola wins – I think Lucas is just behind.