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

Tuesday, January 11, 2011
A GOOD YEAR FOR HORROR: In the last few posts I've reeled off my favorite movies of
2000, 1990, 1980, and 1970. You can probably guess what comes next.

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 1960, it gave its Best Picture award to Billy Wilder's The Apartment. I don't often say this, but the Academy got it exactly right.

1. The Apartment
Directed by Billy Wilder
Written by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond

A comic drama -- or dramatic comedy? -- about the corrupting effects of hierarchy, and what it means to actually assert your freedom. The best American director's best film.

2. Psycho
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Joseph Stefano, from a novel by Robert Bloch

It's hard to believe it now, but this once was widely condemned in the terms now reserved for films like Saw.

3. Cruel Story of Youth
Written and directed by Nagisa Oshima

The Japanese Rebel Without a Cause, which I actually like better than the original Rebel Without a Cause.

4. La Dolce Vita
Directed by Federico Fellini
Written by Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Pinelli, Brunello Rondi, and Pier Paolo Pasolini, from a story by Fellini, Flaiano, and Pinelli

"Don't be like me. Salvation doesn't lie within four walls."

5. Jazz on a Summer's Day
Directed by Bert Stern

There's more here than just a concert film.

6. The Little Shop of Horrors
Directed by Roger Corman
Written by Charles B. Griffith

There's a lot to admire in this low-budget horror-comedy, including a very young Jack Nicholson in the role Bill Murray would play in the musical remake. But my favorite part of the picture is the pair of cops on loan from Dragnet and their deadpan conversations. "How are the kids?" "Lost one yesterday." "How'd that happen?" "Playing with matches." "Well, those are the breaks."

7. Peeping Tom
Directed by Michael Powell
Wirtten by Leo Marks

Like Psycho, this was widely condemned in the terms now reserved for films like Saw. But while Psycho was a huge hit for Hitchcock, Peeping Tom practically destroyed Powell's career.

8. The Virgin Spring
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Written by Ulla Isaksson

Unlike Psycho and Peeping Tom, this highbrow revenge flick was not widely condemned in the terms now reserved for films like Saw. But this is the one that was remade as The Last House on the Left.

9. The Young One
Directed by Luis Buñuel
Written by Buñuel and Hugo Butler, from a story by Peter Matthiessen

Much more complicated than the typical racial message-movie.

10. The Housemaid
Written and directed by Kim Ki-young

A dark and stylish thriller that progresses steadily from film noir to horror before revealing it belonged all along to a larger genre: the male fantasy disguised as a nightmare.

Honorable mentions:

11. Testament of Orpheus (Jean Cocteau)
12. Shoot the Piano Player (François Truffaut)
13. Rocco and His Brothers (Luchino Visconti)
14. Tunes of Glory (Ronald Neame)
15. Village of the Damned (Wolf Rilla)
16. The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang)
17. Zazie Dans Le Métro (Louis Malle)
18. Jigoku (Nobuo Nakagawa)
19. Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard)
20. The Your Name Here Story (The Calvin Company)

Footnote: Someone really ought to remake Tunes of Glory as a catty backstage musical with an all-girl cast.

Of the films of 1960 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in The Bad Sleep Well, The Entertainer, Night and Fog in Japan, and Purple Noon.

posted by Jesse 9:59 AM
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