1975 Ten Best Movies

Barry Lyndon was playing at the Cinerama theater in downtown Seattle in 1976, perhaps on the very day I applied for a job there. I had friends who worked at the Cinerama; how hard could the job be? You wore an orange sportcoat (the uniform of an usher at SRO-owned theaters back then), you sat around and goofed off during the movie, you occasionally wandered through the auditorium and told people to get their feet off the seatbacks. You got to see free movies, too. A pretty good job in high school.

Nobody told me about the phenomenon of the job interview, or that you were supposed to have some bullshit answer all ready when the manager asked you why you wanted to work for the company. I mean, it was selling popcorn — wasn’t it enough to show up? I think I even tried on the orange sportcoat, just to get that SRO feel. But no job. When you can’t get hired for a movie-theater ushering gig, your job-interviewing skills need polishing up. Must make a note to do that.

barry4None of this has tarnished my feeling for Barry Lyndon, which my friends still let me in to see for free. Stanley Kubrick’s cool, measured masterpiece just outpoints a very dissimilar picture, Robert Altman’s Nashville, as best of 1975. The Altman film is perhaps the loosest, most casual-feeling Grand Statement ever put on film, and it always looks a little unfinished, as though relying on the viewer to complete the shambling mosaic. Nothing in Barry Lyndon is out of place. I go on at greater length about it in a separate posting (click here for that). In the meantime, the ten best movies of 1975:

1. Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick)

2. Nashville (Robert Altman)

3. The Man Who Would Be King (John Huston)

4. The Passenger (Michelangelo Antonioni)

5. The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser/Every Man for Himself and God Against All (Werner Herzog)

6. Night Moves (Arthur Penn)

7. Jeane Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman)

8. Fox and His Friends (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)

9. Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir)

10. Love Among the Ruins (George Cukor)

This list makes accidental neighbors of The Man Who Would Be King and The Passenger, two stories of Westerners who get lost in the Middle East; the Huston film is a gloriously traditional example of ancient storytelling techniques, while the Antonioni sets off into the wide-open spaces of the New. The Cukor title is an absolutely lovely TV-movie with Katharine Hepburn and Laurence Olivier; and as long as TV gets in there, what about Fawlty Towers, a near-perfect exercise in serial farce, which debuted in 1975? The Akerman domestic epic (currently being shown again) contains a few of the most astonishing time-bombs ever detonated in movies, and the Fassbinder could be joined by Fear of Fear, a little-known number from RWF that shows off his love of Douglas Sirk. Some good U.S. films miss the cut: Jaws and Shampoo, for instance. The Story of Adele H. isn’t at the top of my favorite Truffaut movies, but it could be on there, and maybe Tarkovsky’s The Mirror if I remembered it better. Also Ousmane Sembene’s Xala, a raucous political satire for the pre-Viagra era.

Next week: 1964.

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One Response

  1. What’s your opinion on Dog Day Afternoon? It certainly would have been near the top of my list if not #1.

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