1967 Ten Best Movies

The Trip: Michael Snow's Wavelength

If 1967 was a year in which people opened themselves to experiences, then maybe it makes sense that the movies of the year were all about seeing in new and different ways. Experimental films, experimental films masquerading as mainstream films (all right, Blowup was technically released in 1966), Surrealists working at the top of their game, film noir and gangster movies existentially re-invented, Godard times three – even Roger Corman offered up The Trip.

Thus it’s as good a year as any (except 1929) to insist on an actual avant garde picture as the #1 for the list: Michael Snow’s Wavelength, that spellbinding exercise in re-thinking what it is to watch a movie (and bane of many an unsuspecting Hey-I-think-I’ll-take-a-film-class-this-quarter-that-should-be-easy undergrad). Wavelength travels across a room in the course of its 45 minutes, proposes a possible storyline or two, then disregards them; it offers an “answer” to itself by arriving somewhere, but the answer fails to actually answer anything. It is an experience you decide to live through, or you get up and walk away in search of a story.

You also have the option of walking out during Belle de Jour and Point Blank, but don’t.  And it wasn’t all summer-of-love craziness in the movies; Howard Hawks’s El Dorado stands as a classical model that is still stubbornly distinctive as a film only Hawks could make. The ten best movies of 1967:

1. Wavelength (Michael Snow)

2. Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn)

3. Belle de Jour (Luis Bunuel)

4. Mouchette (Robert Bresson)

5. Weekend (Jean-Luc Godard)

6. Point Blank (John Boorman)

7. Accident (Joseph Losey)

8. El Dorado (Howard Hawks)

9. Young Girls of Rochefort (Jacques Demy)

10. La collectioneuse (Eric Rohmer) and The Graduate (Mike Nichols)

The Graduate might place higher with someone who was in college at the time, which isn’t hard to understand. Two other Godards from this year that could be on the list are Two or Three Things I Know About Her and La Chinoise; Jacques Tati’s Playtime I haven’t seen in a long, long time; Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai probably deserves a slot, too. The latter film provides contrast to Seijun Suzuki’s Branded to Kill and Blake Edwards’ Gunn, if we can open up the argument to other stylish hired gun/gumshoe pictures. And, just as much as Wavelength or The Graduate or Point Blank, if you want a touch of 1967 attitude and aesthetics, see Richard Lester’s How I Won the War, a bitter comedy that doesn’t mind alienating the audience to make its point.

The Establishment stuff? In the Heat of the Night, In Cold Blood, The Dirty Dozen – although all of those films sampled the new ideas/styles. Two films directed by Stanley Donen meant a lot to me at a tender age: Two for the Road, a grown-up portrait of a marriage that set certain images about traveling in Europe in my impressionable mind (I hope I never get over them); and Bedazzled, the glorious Peter Cook/Dudley Moore comedy. One other favorite from the afternoon TV movie: The Flim-Flam Man – I wonder whether I’ll ever watch that with grown-up eyes? Or want to? And finally a drive-in triple bill, and a splendid time is guaranteed for all: The Sorcerers (part of the tiny output of doomed young filmmaker Michael Reeves), Hot Rods to Hell, and Curtis Harrington’s Games.