Official Nominations: The Sound Of Music. Dr. Zhivago. Darling. A Thousand Clowns. Ship Of Fools.
1965 saw the unfortunate (and hugely successful) return of the musical, with Robert Wise’s hideous The Sound Of Music darkening our minds for ever more. Cut and pasted from the Broadway hit, simply watching it will force your teeth to decay due to an onslaught of Saccharine – naturally, this is to expected given the subject matter- WWII. As all humans with brains will remember, the Second World War was a wonderful time, full of frolicking, singing, and care-free sun-filled days romping through the hills. Sure there was genocide, rape, murder, and intestines flying through the air in most countries – but that only provides more reason to be cheery. The film is essentially swine mix; a series of happy jingles which a lazy advertiser could use to sell ambivalence. The acting is mostly smiles and winks; the script is hijinks filled nonsense, but at least it all looks very pretty. Well done to the crane operator. Obviously it was the official winner.
Schlesinger’s Darling is the age-old, but never more relevant than now, story of a young, beautiful woman driven by the desire for fortune and fame. Julie Christie plays Diana in her first major and award-winning role – a woman who sells her beauty and self to climb the ladder only to find that, surprise upon surprise, happiness is not at the top. Christie gives a standout performance in this funny and refreshingly dark film which shows that then, as today, it is very easy to be a whore but difficult to get rid of the stench. Christie caps off a momentous year appearing as Lara in David Lean’s typically huge Doctor Zhivago. Thanks to Christie, Lean’s all encompassing eye, and to Omar Sharif’s commanding performance this is the definitive screen version of the story. Add Jarre’s score and the film has epic stamped all over it. However, like most Lean films it is too long and can be accused of glossing over many of the novel’s subtleties and sub-plots. For a beast of a book though this is understandable. Kramer’s Ship Of Fools was a dark horse, featuring Vivian Leigh’s final performance. It tells of a cruise liner to Germany and the various people on board, foreshadowing the dark days of the War which were to come. It is gentle and slow-paced, but with strong performances and enough variety in the characters and plot – the overall message of the film isn’t hammered in either, but is there for the viewer to mull over like most Kramer movies.
So, from a personal standpoint this was a pretty poor year with nothing particularly deserving of my all important praise. I leave my prize to Fred Coe’s virtually unknown A Thousand Clowns as it is both funny and touching with solid performances and an endearing story about parenthood, responsibility, and conforming not for society, but for those who need you.
My Winner: A Thousand Clowns
1965 is not a favourite year for movies for me, but as with any year a few goodies always shine through. For this year’s nominations I’ve gone with 5 different films, none of which is truly an American film. Leone and Eastwood partner again for their explosive pseudo-sequel to A Fistful Of Dollars. The story is more of a revenge tale than the original and increases its focus on the supporting characters played by Lee Van Cleef and Gian Maria Volonte. More action, an updated score, and the same inventive direction from Leone ensure this is another hit. Seeing his films being remade with great success in the US, Akira Kurosawa unleashes an altogether different beast from what his foreign audiences were used to. Toshiro Mifune stars in Red Beard, his last partnership with Kurosawa, telling the story of a weathered Doctor and a student taken under his wing. It is a compassionate tale about mortality, humanity, and the lengths some go to to care for the ill.
Leaping over Continents to the UK for the final 3 films we once again encounter 007 with his latest effort Thunderball. While not as exciting or inventive as previous Bonds, the film still has many classic moments, particularly in the action scenes. Michael Caine tries his hand at being a more realistic, downbeat secret agent than his fellow world-saver, and helps to make The Ipcress File a genuine pretender to Bond’s crown. While there remains a wry humour, Harry cares less about saving the world and drinking Martinis and more about his salary and supermarkets, and the plot is delivered more as a thriller than an action movie. Rounding up the list is Roman Polanski’s first English language film, and one which arguably remains his best. Repulsion takes horror, on a gender level, to places it had never been near before. Catherine Deneuve stars as an awkward young woman who withdraws into herself and her apartment, slowly becoming engulfed by vivid hallucinations which lead her on a path of murder and destruction. This was, and is groundbreaking stuff, the scenes of carnage are nightmarish and awful, yet brutally real, and the fact that it happens to a beautiful young woman in a normal house, in a normal street makes everything more shocking. After years of fear being expected from outside sources, the 60s saw cinema, and art as a whole, internalize; violence, darkness, and fear were not something caused by distant countries, but were coming from next door, and often from within. It almost seems cheap to label this as horror, given how most people view that genre, but this is horrific stuff and should be seen by anyone with an interest in cinema’s darker side.
My Winner: Repulsion
What do you think of my nominations? What is your pick for the best film of 1965? Let us know in the comments!