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The stark adult nature of many 70s films

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The stark adult nature of many 70s films

Old 06-07-08, 10:06 PM
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The stark adult nature of many 70s films

So I'm flipping channels and I come across "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest" and a thought that I have been having for a while struck me and I thought I would come here and try to explain it.

Many 70s dramas seem to have this casual "adultness" to them that you never see in films today. And I do not mean dirty words, or nudity, though they seem to be portrayed differently as well. There is just a certain "quality" to these films, a very organic very real portrayal of stark reality. It is never forced or exploitative, it's just an overall feel and maturity that these films possess that you just do not have anymore.

And it is not in content either, it is evident in camera angles and cinematography. Scenes seem "wider" with less close ups and tricky camera angles. It's more real and immersive. Characters seem more subdued even when they are very dramatic. The "feel" of these films is so apparent you can almost immediately know the decade the movie was made in after just a few minutes.

It struck me that "Cuckoo" would never be made today. Ratchett would never be allowed to be so subdued and subtle. Murphy would never be portrayed as so 3-dimensional. Ratchett would be overtly psycho, Murphy would be perfectly sane, and at least something would blow up.

I had the same feeling the other day watching the "Taking of Pelham 1 2 3". It is just so natural feeling. The scenes on the city streets seem real almost documentay-like. It's very adult, but never over the top or melodramtic.

I miss films like these. I really don't know if I am making sense. It is an overall feel to the movie. Even a horror-genre film like "The Exorcist" has it.

Other films that pop to mind:

French Connection
Dirty Harry
Last Detail
The Conversation
Dog Day Afternoon
Serpico
Freebie and the Bean
Jaws (even)

Many more that I am sure I will think of a minute after posting.

Not sure it makes any sense but would be interested if anyone else has this impression.
Old 06-07-08, 10:16 PM
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I agree with you. American cinema in the late 60's and 70's was such a big contrast to previous decades. They had just come out of the Hays Code and were able to push the envelope for the first time since the early 30's. The conservative 80's and the politically correct 90s and 00s have dulled that artistic freedom down quite a bit.
Old 06-07-08, 10:20 PM
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i agree 100% and that is probably why the 70's is my favorite decade for dramas
Old 06-07-08, 10:41 PM
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Blame Spielberg
Old 06-07-08, 11:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Rockmjd23
The conservative 80's and the politically correct 90s and 00s have dulled that artistic freedom down quite a bit.
It has nothing to do with anything conservative or PC. When was the last time there was wide political furor over a movie? Maybe an Oliver Stone movie, but nothing on the level of music or video games.

The dumbing down of cinemas has to do with audiences.
Old 06-07-08, 11:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Rockmjd23
... the politically correct 90s and 00s have dulled that artistic freedom down quite a bit.
If you're only talking about Hollywood then yes.
Old 06-07-08, 11:11 PM
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Originally Posted by The Bus
It has nothing to do with anything conservative or PC. When was the last time there was wide political furor over a movie? Maybe an Oliver Stone movie, but nothing on the level of music or video games.
I didn't mean politics. The conservative and PC trends were societal moves as well. The major studios today are shaped by those trends, imo which leads to:
The dumbing down of cinemas has to do with audiences.
Old 06-07-08, 11:13 PM
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Originally Posted by visitor Q
If you're only talking about Hollywood then yes.
When I said American cinema, I meant Hollywood but yes there's a distinction.
Old 06-07-08, 11:31 PM
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I thought the 90's showed a huge shift in films. We got more bold and daring films like the 70's unlike the "stupid 80's". Then this decade came along and it's more of an combination of both. We don't have the huge indie explosion, all our action films are rated PG-13, yet we also have more intelligent films being produced by the big studios.
Old 06-07-08, 11:33 PM
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Originally Posted by riotinmyskull
i agree 100% and that is probably why the 70's is my favorite decade for dramas
For me, not just for dramas. If you check the link in my "Sig", you'll see that a majority of movie-relishing cinema worldwide spread like wildfire during the 70's. Filmmakers were finally given the freedom to experiment with their ideas and about 80% of them had no idea that their works would make a lasting impact upon the decades to come. This includes the works of:

Hal Ashby
Kenji Misumi
Alejandro Jodorowsky
Joe D'Amato
Cheng Cheh
Paul Bartel
Teruo Ishii
Jean Rollin
Arthur Marks
Walerian Borowczyk
Jack Hill
Kinji Fukasaku
Bill Gunn
Lucio Fulci
James William Guercio
Norifumi Suzuki

This also set the grounds for well esteemed names to flourish like:
Romero
Scorsese
Argento
Speilberg
Herzog
De Palma
Lynch
Copolla

The 70's was just all good. Pure & Simple.

Last edited by Mondo Kane; 06-07-08 at 11:40 PM.
Old 06-07-08, 11:40 PM
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anyone else has this impression?...

many, many cinephiles and critics praise the 70's as an all-time high point in US films and cinema... i've seen many say it was the best decade for movies yet...

i'm not surprised at all you noticed this...

and yes, the likes of 'pop' directors like Spielberg and their 'Blockbusters' changed the film industry very much for the worse...

the very late 60's and 70's was, i think and many agree, as good as we've done in the US as to truly classic films...

i would add to that list...

'Night Moves'...
"Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia'...
'Chinatown'...
'Prime Cuts'...
'3 Days Of The Condor'...
'Network'...
'The Onion Field'...
'The Sting'...
'Rocky'...
'Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore'...
'The Godfather'
'The Godfather Part 2'...
'Mean Streets'...
'The Deer Hunter'...
'All The President's Men'...
'Jeremiah Johnson'...

i mean there are too many to list, and those are just the higher profile films...
Old 06-07-08, 11:41 PM
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I remember really enjoying Network and Assault on Precinct 13. Just recently watched The Laughing Policeman on Netflix Instant View and enjoyed it as well. I have to agree the '70's were a great decade for movies.
Old 06-07-08, 11:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Rockmjd23
When I said American cinema, I meant Hollywood but yes there's a distinction.
Ahh .. sorry Rock .... missed that. ... and not out of opportunity.
Old 06-08-08, 12:01 AM
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We've become a more juvenile-oriented society across the board, but with Hollywood in particular, the PG-13 demo guide the artistic decisions about films being produced these days. As a result, millions of dollars go toward faithfully rendering children's books, adapting comic books (that's right, I said comic books) as if they were great literature, and sequels to the power of ten. The only artist in Hollywood is the bottom line. Like johnnysd, I miss that era as well, when even the most mundane film seemed more "grownup" than nearly anything being produced today.
Old 06-08-08, 12:04 AM
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I would suggest reading the book "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls." Goes into detail on the director/artist atmosphere at studios in the 70's that ended with the blockbusters mentality.
Old 06-08-08, 12:16 AM
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Come to think about it, a lot of my favorite films are also from the 70's. Cukoos Nest and Dawn of the dead are on my top twenty favorite films. Might be why I love Tarantino movies as he seems to refreence a lot of 70s movies. And the whole idea that movies back then would never be made the same way today is completely true. Just look at the original Dawn of the dead and the remake. It had much more real characters and a very depressing and bleak world. The remake has cookie cutter characters all throughout.

I would also say that Romeros original Night of the living dead may have influenced a lot of 70s films. It was made in 1968 and had one of the biggest shock/twist enidings ever. Correct me if i'm wrong:
Spoiler:
Killing the main character was never done


Another example of a film from the 70s that would never get made today: Pretty Baby. The film would be ripped to shreds.

Last edited by mhg83; 06-08-08 at 12:22 AM.
Old 06-08-08, 01:41 AM
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Originally Posted by pjflyer
I would suggest reading the book "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls." Goes into detail on the director/artist atmosphere at studios in the 70's that ended with the blockbusters mentality.
Seconded, one of my favorite books on movies (and it turned me on to several great '70s flicks I hadn't seen).
Old 06-08-08, 02:05 AM
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Chinatown might be the epitome of 70's cynicism on film. I love how Towne parallels the corruption of the city with the mindset of Watergate and the aftermath of Vietnam.

No one's mentioned Taxi Driver yet?

Let me add:

MASH
Charley Varrick
Badlands
Days of Heaven
California Split
Joe
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (What a GREAT and underrated movie, just saw this recently)
Scarecrow
A Woman Under the Influence
Performance
Straight Time
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
Two-Lane Blacktop
Death Wish
Sorcerer
The Long Goodbye
Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

And arguably the original film that established the defiance of conventions, Bonnie and Clyde.

Also, some 60's and early 80's movies which IMO follow the criteria:

The Wild Bunch
Midnight Cowboy
Easy Rider
Cruising (a film WAY ahead of its time)
Blow Out
Cutter's Way
Prince of the City
Raging Bull
The Verdict
The King of Comedy

I even think Blade Runner would fit its way in as well.

And Easy Riders, Raging Bulls is a fantastic freakin' book.

Last edited by Zen Peckinpah; 06-08-08 at 02:08 AM.
Old 06-08-08, 03:24 AM
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the best period of film unquestionably. i'd also increase it from mid-60s to early-80s, starting post-JFK/MPAA formation and ending when blockbusters and Reaganism fully set in which basically translated to beefy folks shooting a lot. It must have been a great time to live then as a film fan, when cinema learned to live again. I'd also suggest viewing European/Japanese movies which have always had that adultness to them from the 50s and on.
Old 06-08-08, 06:04 AM
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My brother and I were talking along these lines after we had just watched The Deer Hunter about a month ago. There is no way in hell that Hollywood would let a film like Deer Hunter be made today. And I think that even back then there was major problems with getting the film made about a subject that was still very fresh and hard to deal with in many Americans minds. And that goes for half the films that were made in the 70's. Copolla talked one time in an interview that the 70's was the right place and the right time for filmmakers because you could get away with so much and have a major studio back you because most of the films that were pushing the limits were the ones that were making the most money. People knew that after what had happened in Nam and what was going on with Watergate that no one was safe anymore. I think thats why most of the horror films from that time work so much better than the ones that have came out today. You look at most of the work that Romero, Argento, and Cronenberg did at that time and it all comes from that were not safe here anymore because the horror is right here with us.
Old 06-08-08, 06:57 AM
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Modern films have a certain polish that 70s films didn't have.

Now, everyone's hair is perfectly coiffed, they dress like they stepped out of a catalog, the sets are all immaculate. Even the scripts feel polished to the point where everything has been buffed over and witty quips -- that no one would ever actually say in real life -- are peppered into the dialog.

The 70s films have a voyeuristic feel. People don't have their hair perfectly styled. They're wearing street clothes. Their living spaces look lived-in. They don't always have a witty retort. The characters are ambiguous.

And, regarding political correctness and conservatism, I can see how both philosophies have had a negative impact on cinema. Go back and watch an 80s comedy like "Revenge of the Nerds." You would never see a movie made today that portrayed an Asian or homosexual character like they way that movie did. Or would a modern movie have a "You mind if we dance with yo' dates?" scene like Animal House?

And, for the past twenty or so years, mainstream movies have shied away from portraying nudity. (Unless it's some guy's hairy, flabby ass shown for a cheap joke.)

"Knocked Up" is a perfect example. It's supposed to be a "sex" comedy, but there's very little actual sex and the women keep their bras on while they're fucking? And note how they danced around the idea of her considering an abortion shmshmortion?

Last edited by Josh-da-man; 06-08-08 at 07:00 AM.
Old 06-08-08, 07:23 AM
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Even though it is my favorite movie of all-time, Star Wars pretty much ushered in the big budget summer movie, and ended the gritty realistic movies of the 70's. The reason of this shift is simple: Getting kids and teenagers in the audience to see these movies multiple times, and then buying all the merchandising that goes with it.

Before Jaws & StarWars there was no summer blockbuster season, as movies were released throughout the year, they would build their audience through good reviews and word of mouth. Now the movie calendar has 2 seasons: Summer for all the action movies, and the end of the year for all the academy movies.

All the 70's films had a gritty realistic aspect to them that just won't get teenagers and little kids fannies in the seats, so the majority of movies that are made now steer far away from that style, simply because they are afraid the movie won't make money. It is a shame cause the pre-StarWars 1970's movies really hold up well today as everyone has pretty much listed them.

Seriously guys, Lucas and Spielberg are to blame in alot of ways for the way movies are today, and I don't mean they did it intentionally. From 1975-83 they held the #1 movie of the year with Jaws, Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET, and Return of the Jedi, which led to the shift of tone from gritty realistic movies to fantasy, scifi, action movies we all see today.
Old 06-08-08, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Josh-da-man
Modern films have a certain polish that 70s films didn't have.

Now, everyone's hair is perfectly coiffed, they dress like they stepped out of a catalog, the sets are all immaculate. Even the scripts feel polished to the point where everything has been buffed over and witty quips -- that no one would ever actually say in real life -- are peppered into the dialog.

The 70s films have a voyeuristic feel. People don't have their hair perfectly styled. They're wearing street clothes. Their living spaces look lived-in. They don't always have a witty retort. The characters are ambiguous.

And, regarding political correctness and conservatism, I can see how both philosophies have had a negative impact on cinema. Go back and watch an 80s comedy like "Revenge of the Nerds." You would never see a movie made today that portrayed an Asian or homosexual character like they way that movie did. Or would a modern movie have a "You mind if we dance with yo' dates?" scene like Animal House?

And, for the past twenty or so years, mainstream movies have shied away from portraying nudity. (Unless it's some guy's hairy, flabby ass shown for a cheap joke.)

"Knocked Up" is a perfect example. It's supposed to be a "sex" comedy, but there's very little actual sex and the women keep their bras on while they're fucking? And note how they danced around the idea of her considering an abortion shmshmortion?
I agree. So many movies are safe nowadays. Although it's almost kinda shocking that No Country for Old Men won Best Picture.
Old 06-08-08, 10:56 AM
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Don't forget that Star Wars was gritty. Up until then, science fiction movies were shiny and clean. Luke drove a speeder with a dented grille and dirty fenders. The Millennium Falcon didn't start when you pushed the button. It was a whole new aesthetic. I'd never seen anything like it before.
Old 06-08-08, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Zen Peckinpah
Badlands
Days of Heaven
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
Sorcerer
The Long Goodbye
Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

And arguably the original film that established the defiance of conventions, Bonnie and Clyde.
yeah all of these are spectacular...

i forgot one of my own favorites, and my pick for the best work Robert Altman did...

'McCabe & Mrs. Miller'...

i liked 'The Parallax View' also... like 'Condor' it REALLY captured that paranoia thing well... the ending is really something in that film...

'Deliverance'... talk about gritty adult realism...
"Midnight Express'... this was gritty stuff...

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