Wednesday, April 25

Random Cinematic Year in Review - 1964

A Random Cinematic Year In Review

Preface: I have decided to write this series at least in part because I don't make it out to see new films very often and I've found that I spent too much time at the end of the year attempting to see all the big releases (many of which I'm not even interested in) for no other reason than to make an obligatory 'year end list'... This is a way that I can continue writing about films without feeling the pressure to see a bunch of stuff that I wouldn't otherwise take the time to. I'll still see most of them eventually, just on my own time. I use a random number generator to pick a year and I use to determine the actual release year.


By far, the most impactful event of 1964 has to have been the passing of the Civil Rights Act. Signed into law by LBJ on July 2nd, the act made discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex or religion illegal. It also outlawed racial segregation in public spaces and schools. Although it became the law of the land when it was signed, the actual implementation of desegregation would be painstakingly slow and take about a decade to work out. This would become the framework for decades of legislation to follow, including the Voting Rights Act of ’65, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of ’72 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of ’90.

54 years later and we still have work to do. These above listed progresses made have only given us the path. It’s up to us to stay the course, and correct the recent backslides. Wage and education gaps still exist. POC are still disproportionately targeted by law enforcement, but not job recruiters. And we are seeing a recent up swell in bigoted and nationalist rhetoric promoted as policy.

These sound like disparaging times but I remain optimistic and encouraged more and more every day. Because it’s the spirit of the Civil Rights Act, and the Selma March, and Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech that we find guiding today’s Americans to the streets and to the polls. The cries of insecurity: “YOU WILL NOT REPLACE US!!” by men whom for far too long have been far too comfortable in their privilege, are being drowned out by marches for women, marches for science, walkouts for education and gun control. Those policymakers that have enabled and abetted this backslide have themselves been backsliding in the polls, many have chosen an early retirement. And we’ve seen resurgence in investigative journalism not known since the days of Watergate. These gears turn slow, but they never stop. And in 50 years, when I write an essay looking back at 2018, this is what we will be remembered for.


10 – MARRIAGE, ITALIAN STYLE (Directed by Vittorio De Sica)

Before watching this film, I had only seen a few of De Sica’s earliest films. This is a huge departure from his Neorealism days. It’s one of many collaborations between him and its two stars, Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. This might be the most charismatic and attractive couple in cinematic history. Loren’s performance is the film’s clear highlight but I think the script deserves its fair share of credit as well. The story takes place over the course of many years and the dialogue really feels as lived in as it should.

9 – THE NAKED KISS (Directed by Samuel Fuller)

Fuller’s filmography took on subject matter that you just didn’t see in other American films from that timeframe and this is probably the best example. When grading on a curve, this film has a hard time measuring up to some of his best stuff from this era but it still makes a perfect B flick to double-feature with Fuller’s masterpiece, SHOCK CORRIDOR (1963). Both films star Constance Towers and while I think this one is inferior, it is probably a more challenging roll and she nails the performance.

8 – AT MIDNIGHT I’LL TAKE YOUR SOUL (Directed by José Mojica Marins)

I can’t promise that you will like this movie…. at all. This is a low budget production from a low budget time and region. Known as Brazil’s first horror film, it definitely has a certain charm. And if you’re at all interested in cinematic history, world cinema history and/or horror film history, I think this is kind of a must watch. Writer/director Jos­é Mojica Marin also stars as the plot’s villain, Zé (or “Coffin Joe” as he is more commonly referred to). This was the first of what is now a very long series of “Coffin Joe” films that are still being made by Marins over half a century later.

7 – INTENTIONS OF MURDER (Directed by Shôhei Imamura)

I consider this to be one of the most beautifully photographed pieces of film ever made. And it is by far my favorite Imamura film. He always seems to make interesting films but this one is his arthouse classic. Every scene is impeccably and sparingly lit showing off the dark shadows on each character’s faces that mimic their past, future and the very plot unfolding.

6 – THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (Directed by Ubaldo Ragona & Sidney Salkow)

I’ve heard it claimed that Vincent Price lacked range. I guess that may be true. But he never had any trouble making up for it with loads of charisma. He carries the hell out of this film. He’s just insanely watchable. This is the original adaptation of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and as far as I’m concerned, it’s the best. If you think you know the gist of the story based on the Will Smith vehicle from 2007, you don’t. Watch this one.

5 – SEDUCED AND ABANDONED (Directed by Pietro Germi)

This may be the darkest of all comedies. Part of the Commdedia all'italiana period this film tells the story of a Sicilian family scrambling to avoid the scandal of an unwed, pregnant daughter. What follows is a complex plot of break-ups, weddings, kidnappings and murder. The funniest thing about it may be that the characters think that they are fighting to protect their honor. Unfortunately, what they are actually fighting to protect is prestige, honor’s bastard cousin.

4 – ONIBABA (Directed By Kaneto Shindô)

Just in case you were wondering, foreign arthouse classics don’t always have to be sappy dramas. I mean, I love sappy dramas but this Japanese classic quickly trades in its poverty stricken class struggle tale for one of the creepiest horror films of its time.  Even the picturesque landscape of tall reeds blowing in the wind will end up haunting you.

3 – WOMAN IN THE DUNES (Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara)

I’ve really responded to all four of the Teshigahara films that I’ve seen but this one is by far the best. It’s a surreal story of a Sisyphus like struggle in an oppressive setting. The whole thing reads like a dark moral tale without any actual morals. The fact of its own absurdity makes its visceral nature all the more impressive. The empathetic portal switches between our two leads magnificently throughout the film as their power struggle teeters to each brink. All the while, beautiful close-up shots cut in between give us the perspective of the same tribulations, on a much smaller scale.

2 – SOY CUBA (Directed by Mikhail Kalatozov)

It appears that 1964 was a mammoth year for achievements in cinematography. This one is the crème de la crème of black and white moving photography. Seriously, this is top 3 all time for me. If you are familiar with Kalatozov’s previous Russian films like THE CRANES ARE FLYING (1957) or LETTER NEVER SENT (1960), you know that he was no stranger to amazing camerawork. I can only imagine though, how insanely motivated he must have been, showing up in the tropics of Cuba and exploring the limitless beauty of the people and places.  This 141 minute film is compiled of mostly 3-5 minute long complex tracking shots that are as beautiful as they are inspiring.  


This is my favorite Kubrick and among my favorite all time comedies. The film is pretty much flawless. Peter Sellers was a comedic genius so it made sense to have him play 3 different characters. I think it was probably a little surprising however at the amazing performances we got out of Sterling Hayden and George C. Scott. Neither one has ever been known particularly for their comedic timing but both here are absolutely hilarious. I especially love Scott’s work here. I don’t think I can really say anything new about this film, but it’s important to express my love here. I think that when discussing Kubrick, this one tends to get lost among his more prestigious dramas.

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