So, I've been doing a lot of digging into the year that was 1962 lately (yes, the Fist Awards for 1962 are coming very soon) and in the process of doing so, I realized something; 1962 may actually be the greatest year in cinematic history. Now, I know that this is a really big title to lavish onto any given year, and personal taste is going to play in a lot here, but in condensing my ballots and trying desperately to make heads or tales of what films I was inevitably going to snub, I realized that it was actually paining me to leave off such spectacular films. The variety this year as well is so beautiful. From comedies (such rich comedies) to crushing dramas to inventive science fiction and sweeping epics, controversial tales (ahead of its time in some respects) and memorable coming of age tales, foreign and even short films; 1962 has it all.
And this isn't even including Oscar's Best Picture winner, because it wouldn't make my Top Twenty!
So, while I may have to snub so many great titles from my personal ballots (and even my extended Top 12), I wanted to give them their due. So, here are the 20 best films of 1962* and all the proof you need to be convinced that this is the greatest year for cinematic treasures...you know, until I explore another great year in this much depth.
Also, these are in alphabetical order because I'm trying to leave some mystery in my personal ballots coming later.
*Due to release dates for some foreign films, I understand that some of these films will not be considered 1962 releases by everyone, but for me they are counted in this particular film year.
Truffaut's sequel to The 400 Blows, this short film (which was part of a collection of shorts known as Love at 20) picks up a few years after the close of the first film and finds Antoine attempting his hand at love with a girl he meets in a record store. It's brisk and yet heartfelt, earnest and so honest; and that finale seems like a beautifully rendered (yet brutally honest) springboard for the films to come (Truffaut explored this character in a total of 5 films).
Mastroianni had a real knack for portraying seemingly despicable men in a light and endearing way, capitalizing on his tremendous charm (sex on a stick, with a grin to make you weak at the knees) to make these men feel likable. It doesn't hurt that he was often handed delicious dialog and sharp screenplays that helped him develop these men, making them more than just a series of stereotypes. This is yet another example of how sharp writing paired with a sharp actor can pierce through an audiences initial inclinations.
Stabs at society in the form of satire (sometimes even macabre) was not uncommon in the 60's, but there are few films that stick out as memorably as The Exterminating Angel. The way that Bunuel attacked the 'upper crust' with this slickly centered character study is remarkably inspired, and in the end creates an experience unlike any other I've had with cinema. Bizarre is one way to describe this. Brilliant is another.
Buddy comedies are a dime a dozen these days, but there is something so sharp about the way that Dino Risi and his stars (Vittorio Gassman and the incredible Jean-Louis Trintignant) spin this tale is something special. I think a lot of that has to do with how well these two actors compliment each other here. Gassman's childish charm and suave ability to command a situation matched perfectly with Trintignant's sheepish reluctance and almost adolescent wonder makes for such an enjoyable adventure, and one you won't soon forget!
I've mentioned many times that films that explore childhood are often very close to my heart, to my soul. This is one of those films that unearths something in me. It is rare to find a film that so accurately captures that thin line that runs between a child's innocence and an adult's corruption, but Ivan's Childhood does just that. This film very much explores an adult's world through the eyes of a child, and in the process us adults can learn a thing or two.
If I've said it once, I've said it a million times; Jules and Jim is perfect cinema. It's charming, funny, witty, honest, heartbreaking, bold, controversial, progressive, cautionary, poignant; such weight told with a light air that causes the film to settle so beautifully on the viewer. Truffaut had a great year in 1962, delivering such remarkably astute depictions of love that are still so relevant today.
Science Fiction is a genre that is quite popular. It's not always smart, but it's always at the box office. What Chris Marker does with this genre in about 30 minutes is more than most any other director has ever done with it, period. In this short film (and mostly using photographic imagery and nothing else), Chris Marker redefined an entire genre of film!
A blogger recently poised the question; "Can you love a movie you don't understand?" This is the answer to that question, because I'm still processing just what the fuck is happening in this movie and yet I love it to pieces! So atmospheric, so organic, so fluid, so dreamy; this film is just a slice of cinematic heaven from start to finish. It lingers, which is something any great film desires to do.
Intense, frenetic, chaotic, explosive, dynamic, unforgettable; those are all words I'd use to describe with crime thriller with serious edge. It also doesn't hurt that it's French!
There is a beautiful ease about Lola, a film that explores a love triangle that turns into a love square that continues to splinter due to the differing variations of love explored, and yet it always feels so tightly focused regardless of all the areas it attempts to flesh out. One thing it nails, though, is tone. It's so effortlessly watchable!
I'm not sure how this movie got made, but it did. Thank god for that. This controversial subject was a daring topic for Kubrick to undertake (the novel was banned and still is banned in many places) and yet, Kubrick is known for being controversial, so it fits. Sharp, witty, daring and poignant, Lolita does more than exploit a fetish or play to a gimmick, relying solely on it's 'subject' to carry it through, but this film is anchored by a real drive and magnificent storytelling. It could have been trashy, but instead it's thought-provoking genius.
Stage to screen stories were not uncommon in the 60's. There were so many plays that got their cinematic due, and so many of them suffered from feeling too cramped, too stilted, too condensed. Long Day's Journey Into Night thrives because of those very aspects. It's a searing family portrait, and it takes full advantage of it's setting, creating such tensity in the air and delivering unforgettable dynamics that haunt long after the film has ended.
A mother's love. Many films try and capture just what that means. Few films are this successful. Anchored by a tremendous performance by Anna Magnani, Mamma Roma feels like the 1960's version of Xavier Dolan's Mommy, and we all know how I feel about that movie! No, this film is not as good as Dolan's masterpiece, but watch this movie and I dare you not to find the similarities.
Sweeping Hollywood epics came and went. They were, at one time, a huge draw. If only we could capture that feeling of old. Swashbuckling films are even rarer these days. There is something timeless about this particular presentation, though, and something so rewarding about how well it's been preserved. The performances, the sets, the cinematography, the whole package just glistens with such authentic Hollywood wonderment and awe.
There is such earthy heart here, such desperation seeping into this tragically beautiful presentation of a man lost in his profession and unable to break out of it. It feels, in texture and scope, much like Aronofsky's The Wrestler, but with the harshness of a film like The Harder They Fall to round out those edges. It's dire. It's depressing. It's honest.
Here we go with the effect that children have on me, but Sundays and Cybele wrecks me. It literally breaks me down. There is such organic honesty here, such beautiful rendering of the childlike innocence and the way that the heart of a child can mend a broken soul. The ending will destroy you, so be forewarned, but the beauty on the screen is not to be denied.
There was a time when I was obsessed with Tennessee Williams. His point of view was so expressive and controversial and so unique. He said things and exploited things and got to the heart of things that so many others were afraid to broach. This is probably the most 'cinematic' or 'Hollywood' of any of the adaptations of his work. It's sensationally played and so watchable; indulgent even. And, like, Page and Newman are a perfect pair!
Whenever I realize that To Kill a Mockingbird didn't win Best Picture in 1962, I'm kind of shocked. I know that I'm in the minority when it comes to my feelings about the actual winner, but this film has reached such iconic status that it almost feels like the winner, even though it wasn't. It's a beautiful and touching coming of age story that broaches a, sadly, still relevant subject (racism) with such grace and delicacy. Like being read a bedtime story from a parent, this film tucks us in nice and easy and assures us that there is good in the world, even if we have to dig to find it.
Before you balk, I have a personal connection to this film, as it was the first 'horror' film my mother introduced me to, and so it colors my love of this a little richer than for others, possibly. That being said, I think most would agree that this is such a splendid example of camp-horror, especially with Davis's deliciously demented turn and the incredible backstory of seething hatred between the film's stars.
Oh, Ingmar Bergman. Always bringing the heightened drama in such a restrained and deliberate way, and the inflections of religious torment (like, this guy's relationship with God must have been very...confused) are always played out so effectively. Couple that with two of the decades finest performances (like, for real) and you have a film that is impossible to shake.
So there you have it, 20 reasons why I feel 1962 could be the greatest year for film in the history of cinema. Sure, there have been some great film years (1939, 1999 and 2007 often get cited as top tier years for cinema), but no one really talks about 1962, and they need to. I mean, I didn't even have room for films like Harakiri, The Miracle Worker, The Music Man, How the West Was Won, Billy Budd, Cape Fear and Viridiana, all of which are strong representations of the variety and quality of the year.
And yes, for many Lawrence of Arabia is also great.
So, let's talk Fisti Awards for a minute, because they are coming soon! Out of the 83 nominations, 60 of them are from these 20 films, and out of the 17 wins, only 3 go to films not on this list. So, which films do you think land on my Best Picture ballot? Any guesses as to my acting winners? Who/what do you think I'll be snubbing? My Best Picture winner snags 8 nominations and only loses one of them. Any ideas? Be on the lookout, for they should be up within the week!