Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Ordinary Beauty of Seventies Film

I make no bones about my love of 1970s American film.  It was a short, blessed era (really over by the late 1970s, actually) where challenging, "small" films made by directors reared on world cinema got Hollywood backing. So many of these films were about regular people living in everyday, non-glamorous environments.  You can compare this to modern film, where everyone is attractive and no one is poor.  Most people's homes look spacious, stylish, and way too clean.  The exceptions, like the cluttered interiors in Nebraska, are notable for how much they stand out.  Although so many of them place in such everyday environments, seventies films are not a grim immersion in reality, but a kind of enhancement of it.  It's sad to say we live today in a world where we are afraid to have the world of our daily lives reflected back to us.  Here are some of my favorite examples of regular interiors in seventies film:

The Friends of Eddie Coyle

This crime flick featuring an aging but perfect Robert Mitchum spends a lot of time in antiquated working class kitchens with outmoded appliances, dusty dive bars, and low end diners.  That last is beautifully pictured in this clip.

The King of Marvin Gardens

This great overlooked classic mostly takes place in a down at heels Atlantic City, and director Bob Rafelson wrings maximum seediness out of the scenes shot in once grand hotels.

California Split

Robert Altman's unflinching look at gambling addiction is so much more real because it goes inside of smokey, divey Reno casinos and sticky-floored racetrack bathrooms full of desperate characters in cheap clothes.

The Long Good-Bye

Here's another Altman classic, which shows us our hero in a crummy, messy apartment, then going out to a flourescent-lighted, run of the mill supermarket for cat food.

Slap Shot

This is my favorite sports movie ever, partially because it recreates the atmosphere and broken-down daily landscape of the Rust Belt, all the way from dive bars to once beautiful train stations to streets full of brick rowhouses in the first light of dawn.

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