The first feature film directed by Jean-Luc Godard and one of the seminal films of the French New Wave, Breathless is story of the love between Michel Poiccard, a small-time hood wanted for killing a cop, and Patricia Franchini, an American who sells the International Herald Tribune along the boulevards of Paris. Their relationship develops as Michel hides out from a dragnet. Breathless uses the famous techniques of the French New Wave: location shooting, improvised dialogue, and a loose narrative form. In addition Godard uses his characteristic jump cuts, deliberate "mismatches" between shots, and references to the history of cinema, art, and music. Much of the film's vigor comes from collisions between popular and high culture: Godard shows us pinups and portraits of women by Picasso and Renoir, and the soundtrack includes both Mozart's clarinet concerto and snippets of French pop radio.
Endlessly imitated and parodied, Ingmar Bergman's landmark art movie The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde Inseglet) retains its ability to hold an audience spellbound. Bergman regular Max von Sydow stars as a 14th century knight named Antonius Block, wearily heading home after ten years' worth of combat. Disillusioned by unending war, plague, and misery Block has concluded that God does not exist. As he trudges across the wilderness, Block is visited by Death (Bengt Ekerot), garbed in the traditional black robe. Unwilling to give up the ghost, Block challenges Death to a game of chess. If he wins, he lives – if not, he'll allow Death to claim him. As they play, the knight and the Grim Reaper get into a spirited discussion over whether or not God exists. To recount all that happens next would diminish the impact of the film itself; we can observe that The Seventh Seal ends with one of the most indelible of all of Bergman's cinematic images: the near-silhouette "Dance of Death".
Jacques Tati’s gloriously choreographed, nearly wordless comedies about confusion in an age of high technology reached their apotheosis with PlayTime. For this monumental achievement, a nearly three-year-long, bank-breaking production, Tati again thrust the lovably old-fashioned Monsieur Hulot, along with a host of other lost souls, into a baffling modern world, this time Paris. With every inch of its superwide frame crammed with hilarity and inventiveness, PlayTime is a lasting record of a modern era tiptoeing on the edge of oblivion.
Trickery. Deceit. Magic. In Orson Welles' free-form documentary F for Fake, the legendary filmmaker (and self-described charlatan) gleefully engages the central preoccupation of his career-the tenuous line between truth and illusion, art and lies. Beginning with portraits of world-renowned art forger Elmyr de Hory and his equally devious biographer, Clifford Irving, Welles goes on a dizzying cinematic journey that simultaneously exposes and revels in fakery and fakers of all stripes-not the least of which is Welles himself. Charming and inventive, F for Fake is an inspired examination of the essential duplicity of cinema.
One of the discoveries of the groundbreaking production company BBS was director Henry Jaglom. The fiercely idiosyncratic filmmaker—who would go on to have a decades-spanning career making independently produced female character studies—was first revealed to the film world with A Safe Place. In this delicate, introspective drama, laced with fantasy elements, Tuesday Weld stars as a fragile young woman in New York, unable to reconcile her ambiguous past with her unmoored present; Orson Welles as an enchanting Central Park magician and Jack Nicholson as a mysterious ex-lover round out the cast.
Fresh off of his Five Easy Pieces success, Jack Nicholson mounted his enormously irreverent directorial debut. Based on the best-selling novel by Jeremy Larner, Drive, He Said, free-spirited and sobering by turns, is a sketch of the exploits of a disaffected college basketball player (William Tepper) and his increasingly radical roommate (Michael Margotta), as well as a feverishly shot and edited snapshot of the early seventies (some of it was filmed during an actual campus protest). Fueled by Vietnam-era anxieties and perched on the edge of utter insanity, Nicholson’s audacious comedy (also starring Bruce Dern and Karen Black) is a startling howl direct from the zeitgeist.
For his electrifying follow-up to the smash success Five Easy Pieces, Bob Rafelson dug even deeper into the crushed dreams of wayward America. Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern play estranged siblings David and Jason, the former a depressive late-night-radio talk show host, the latter an extroverted con man; when Jason drags his younger brother to a dreary Atlantic City and into a real-estate scam, events spiral toward tragedy. The King of Marvin Gardens, also starring a brilliant Ellen Burstyn as Jason’s bitter aging beauty-queen squeeze, is one of the most devastating character studies of the seventies.