The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Friday, December 22, 2006
THE CINEMATIC SPIRIT OF '76: Time to continue our rundown of the best movies released in years ending with a 6. We've already done
1996 and 1986; now we've reached the '70s.

1976 was a terrific year for filmgoers. The three pictures at the top of this roster would be on my short list of the best movies produced in any year.

1. Seven Beauties
Written and directed by Lina Wertmuller

A pitch-dark comedy about sex, fascism, domination, submission, cruelty, conformity, and machismo.

2. Taxi Driver
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Written by Paul Schrader

The lost bridge between John Wayne and John Hinckley.

3. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
Written and directed by John Cassavetes

The oddest, least predictable gangster movie I've ever seen. Quite possibly the best as well.

4. The Outlaw Josey Wales
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Written by Philip Kaufman and Sonia Chernus, from a novel by Forrest Carter

An anarchist western.

5. Television Assassination
Directed by Bruce Conner

The death of John F. Kennedy as a televised dream.

6. Harlan County U.S.A.
Directed by Barbara Kopple

Anyone who thinks actually existing capitalism is a product of purely peaceful trade should watch this documentary. Anyone who thinks unions are uniformly devoted to the interests of the working class should see it too.

7. The Tenant
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Polanski and Gerard Brach, from a novel by Roland Topor

Paranoia, claustrophobia -- Polanski at his most Polanskian.

8. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane
Directed by Nicolas Gessner
Written by Laird Koenig, from his novel

Just try to imagine a studio making this picture today.

9. Network
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Written by Paddy Chayefsky

No, it isn't all that prophetic; and yes, like most of Chayefsky's efforts, it's absurdly overwritten. But it still carries more laughs in any given 15 minutes than most comedies can conjure in two hours. My favorite scene: when the host of The Mao Tse-Tung Hour renegotiates her contract.

10. Mikey and Nicky
Written and directed by Elaine May

Contrary to rumor, co-star John Cassavetes did not ghost-direct this film. But he sure left his fingerprints all over it.

N.B.: Once again, I'm including a movie that was technically released too early to qualify. According to the IMDb, Seven Beauties made its European debut in 1975, a year before it came to America. If I had realized that when I made my 1975 list last year, it would have appeared in first place.

posted by Jesse 5:03 PM
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