New Hollywood Retrospective

in 32nd Torino Film Festival

by Alberto Castellano

One of the most important events of the 32nd Torino Film Festival has been the second part of the retrospective dedicated to the New Hollywood. It is supported by a book edited by festival director, Emanuela Martini, with ten texts from many critics on the  subject, its filmography and bibliography. After the program of last year, this edition has proposed many other films (the entire retrospective includes about 70 titles) fundamental to our understanding of American cinema which from the second half of the 1970s through to the early 1980s. It extends its influence on style, topics, the Star System, and innovations of the subsequent Hollywood productions. After the deep crisis which hit the American film industry starting in the 1950s, generated by competition from television and the Studios’ inability to satisfy the demands, tensions and solicitations of a radically changed public, the “New Hollywood,” as it was later dubbed, was the spontaneous response.

The new public was basically “young people,” a true “intermediate class”, made of people between fifteen and twenty-five years of age, who studied and lived on university campuses, and had their own music, books, slang, way of dressing, and ideas about the world and its politics. It took on a precise philosophical and political value in the early 1970s, with the hippy movement, the student protests at Berkley, and the participation of young white people at demonstrations for the civil rights of blacks in the South. Political assassinations like those of the Kennedy brothers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, and the Vietnam war did the rest: the proverbial American way of life – the idea of a country in which everybody has the same opportunities – was challenged to its core. Hollywood also felt the effects of this and the Mecca of cinema discovered antidotes to the crisis among the fringes of marginal independent cinema. Right from the beginning of the decade, new narrative models emerged, expressed by independent companies like the Corman Factory, new interpre tations of reality and history, new faces and behavior that addressed the young public. In 1967, two Studio movies, Bonnie & Clyde by Arthur Penn and The Graduate by Mike Nichols, overturned gangster movies and romantic comedies, respectively.

In 1969, Easy Rider was released; a low-budget movie by Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda. It brought new rhythms, topics and anti-heroes to the screen and, thanks to its enormous success, it paved the new path Hollywood was to follow, giving work to young directors, screenwriters, actors, producers, and to more mature filmmakers like Altman and Peckinpah, who, until that moment, had been marginalized because they were considered too unconventional. Stories, styles, faces – everything changed in America’s self-narration on film: optimism, perfection and heroism disappeared and were substituted by doubt, a desire to flee, maladjustment and, as the 1970s progressed, anxiety, fear and defeat. The selection of movies in this edition, through different genres, is a perfect radiography of the 1970s, when the Vietnam war seemed like it would never end and the Watergate scandal was enveloping the country and its cinema in a climate of paranoia and growing insecurity: The Graduate; westerns like The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970) by Sam Peckinpah, Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here (1969) by Abraham Polonsky, Little Big Man (1970) by Arthur Penn, and The Culpepper Cattle Co. (1972) by Dick Richards; the films noir by the misunderstood John Flynn, The Outfit (1973) and Rolling Thunder (1977); the low-cost war movie Go Tell the Spartans (1978) by Ted Post; the horror musical Phantom of the Paradise (1974) by Brian De Palma; and the sci-fi Phase IV (1974) by Saul Bass.

Other emblematic titles include: Klute (1971) by Alan J. Pakula, The Conversation (1974) by Francis Ford Coppola, Three Days of the Condor (1975) by Sydney Pollack,  Carnal Knowledge (1971) by Mike Nichols, The Panic in Needle Park (1971) by Jerry Schatzberg, Welcome to L.A. (1976) by Alan Rudolph, The Jericho Mile (1979) by Michael Mann, Taking Off (1971) by Miloš Forman, Save the Tiger (1973) by John G. Avildsen, Harry and Tonto (1974) by Paul Mazursky, and in The Late Show (1977) by Robert Benton, Melvin and Howard (1980) by Jonathan Demme, The Big Fix (1978) by Jeremy Paul Kagan, Return of the Secaucus Seven, (1979) by John Sayles, The Big Chill (1983) by Lawrence Kasdan, Who’ll Stop the Rain, (1978) by Karel Reisz, Duel (1971),  The Sugarland Express (1974), Jaws (1975) by Steven Spielberg, The Last Waltz (1978) by Martin Scorsese.

Edited by Tara Judah