June Highlights on TCM
In partnership with The Film Foundation, Turner Classic Movies is proud to bring you this exclusive monthly column by iconic film director and classic movie lover Martin Scorsese.
CELEBRATING THE COUNTERCULTURE: THE FILMS OF 1969 (6/4, 6/11 & 6/18) - For many obvious reasons, it's a bracing experience to look back at the late 60s from the perspective of America in 2019. Right now, there's a lot of energy invested in turning the clock back to the way things were before those years, which is odd: how can a whole society go back in time? The America of 50 years ago now seems like another planet. Back then, it felt like the world could go up in flames at a moment's notice. The assassinations, the ongoing horror of Vietnam and the looming threat of nuclear war cast everything under the sun in life and death perspective. Everything mattered, everything needed to change and there could be no turning back. The cinema was no exception, of course. By 1967, the old Hollywood was truly coming to an end, and the contrast between traditional studio filmmaking and newer approaches became increasingly evident and dramatic--sometimes you'd see wild variations in style and tone in one single movie. The old Production Code restrictions were abandoned in 1968, and one year later the massive success of Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider turned the American film industry upside down. Here was a picture, beautifully shot by Laszlo Kovacs, with hippie drug dealer anti-heroes and a rock 'n' roll score, that was visibly and proudly inspired by not only the French New Wave but by the American avant-garde, Bruce Conner's work in particular. Easy Rider certainly defined its era, but so did Cactus Flower, a conventionally made adaptation of a Broadway comedy hit that was itself an adaptation of a 1964 French stage hit. Both pictures are included in TCM's three-part series, Celebrating the Counterculture: The Films of 1969, a program that reflects that year not as a series of cinematic milestones but as a field of ceaseless change as it actually occurred, affecting different films and filmmakers in different ways. Paul Mazursky's directorial debut, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, took a satiric look at the kinds of characters that John Cassavetes dealt with in Faces, which had come out a year earlier, but it looked more like Cactus Flower. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which was the highest-grossing picture of the year, was essentially a beautifully acted and very old-fashioned picture, but it looked as beautiful as Easy Rider (it was shot by Conrad Hall, another great DP). The programmers have also included Michael Wadleigh's Woodstock, a 1970 film of the 1969 concert event (in the interests of full disclosure, I was an editor on that picture); Model Shop by Jacques Demy, one of the handful of films made by directors brought over from Europe in hopes of catching the "zeitgeist"; Haskell Wexler's documentary-fiction hybrid Medium Cool, co-starring my dear late friend Verna Bloom; Fellini Satyricon, which Fellini referred to as "science fiction in reverse" and which astonished us all. And, there's Sam Peckinpah's extraordinary Western epic The Wild Bunch, which seemed to contain all of it: all the change, all the disillusionment, all the horror...all of 1969 caught like lightning in a bottle.
by Martin Scorsese