Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pray For Us Sinners 1974 - 1976 • "32 Days of Movies" Day 22


Twenty-second chapter in "32 Days of Movies", an audiovisual tour through 366 films
(2015 update: included Vimeo embed after the jump)


View "Chapter 22: Pray For Us Sinners"


Pray For Us Sinners

The social spillover from the sixties continued into the mid-seventies. Whereas initially the frustration and alienation had been countered by a sense of excitement and community, by this time it just felt like rot. Watergate exemplified the United States' disillusionment with itself and its institutions, yet perhaps the country's misfortune was the cinema's good fortune. After focusing on Europe and Asia for several entries, today we return to America; for the first time in ten chapters, Hollywood films dominate the selections. But what a difference! If in 1959 the clips seemed to be quietly escalating their style and tiptoeing toward a more adult content, fifteen years later the American cinema has passed completely into a dark, radical maturity (fair warning: much of today's chapter is not safe for work).

(continued below, along with NSFW & spoiler warnings)


A nosy snoop nearly loses his nose, a high school outcast turns prom into a battlefield, and a bizarre propaganda piece subverts our conceptions of home, love, family, and country. Even the quieter moments seem fraught with malaise or danger: a veteran recounts a chilling massacre (in which nature, rather than humanity, is the enemy), a singer seems to tell off every woman in the room, and a ruthless criminal wraps his brother in a cold-blooded embrace.

A documentary moment, contrasting Cold War propaganda with latter-day disillusionment, grounds the violence, subversion, and pessimism in its proper historical context, and even the comedic clip has a churlish godhead scolding his (admittedly British) subjects. The chapter ends across the sea in Spain, where the ghosts of history were also stirring after a political shift. Laugh, cry, try to sing a song, but all the while murmur incantations to a withdrawn God: pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our...


NSFW: sex & nudity 0:35 - 1:20; violence 2:45 - 3:05; profanity 4:10 - 4:50; violence 5:50 - 6:40. Maybe you should just wait till you get home...

Spoilers: Minor spoiler 2:40 - 3:10; spoilers 6:10 - 6:40 in terms of who "gets it" in this already pretty famous scene. Both spoilers appear after titles so you can wait to see if you want to keep watching.

I have covered today's films here, here, and here, and featured a longer clip from one here.





Visit the Video Gallery for a complete list of the chapters so far.

2 comments:

Shubhajit said...

Thought of seeing another video before calling it a day - such is the beauty of the videos you've been making :)

Here's what I've seen from among the current lot:

Godfather Part II - There was a time when the first part was my favourite of the Godfather series. Lately however Part 2 has taken the top spot, and by some distance. What a stupendous masterpiece this was! And the scene you've shown here gives me goosebumps every time I see it.

The Parallax View - I liked it but didn't love it.

Chinatown - Yet another movie that classifies as one of my all-time favourites. Nicholson was superb here as the "nosy" P.I.!

Jaws - I don't place Spielberg among the all-time great filmmakers, but he did make a number of highly enjoyable films - this being one of them.

One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest - Nicholson's gave a truly unbelievable performance in this unforgettable movie.

Joel Bocko said...

I go back and forth too, but Part II is consistently the one I prefer. It feels like Coppola made a great movie with the first one, but a masterpiece with the second if such distinctions make sense among films I would both include in my top 10, haha. To me the opening shot of Part II says it all - it feels like the film of a European master, unfettered by the demands of Hollywood storytelling.

And that scene gives me goosebumps too, just incredibly, overbearingly powerful. For me, the Godfather films are not just icons of cinema but films I connect with on a deep personal level - among the greatest portraits of human nature and family relations I've ever seen.

Parallax View is tough for me to position myself on since the second half is so much better than the first, and plus the way I discovered it was one of my greatest cinema viewing experiences ever (at home on a dark TV, tuning in right at the start of the propaganda screening without knowing what the hell I was watching). I described my experience in a review of the film a few years ago:
http://thedancingimage.blogspot.com/2008/12/parallax-view.html

I like Spielberg quite a bit, but am also surprised whenever people knock Jaws even if they don't like him; it seems like a Spielberg film even non-fans should like, since it doesn't contain a lot of the qualities that people feel hinder his other movies. I'd say it's in some ways his most grown-up film, and that's including Schindler's List, Munich, and the rest. It's almost certainly his least sentimental and most wry. And a lot of that's down to the magnificent Shaw - which is why I switched from a shark attack scene (my original pick was when it eats the kid, a great Hitchcockian moment) to that memorable monologue before putting this piece up. Plus it fit in well with the other New Hollywood clips and served as a reminder that whatever its influences, in some ways Jaws has more in common with the films of its time than the blockbusters it spawned. Glad to hear you enjoy it.

The Nicholsons are both excellent. My take on Cuckoo's Nest is that it's a very good movie, and I love seeing Forman's touches on the material (his favorite films for me are probably his Czech ones, but after discovering those I could see Cuckoo's Nest from a more auteurist perspective which was interesting). I prefer the book because it's more ambiguous - the Chief is a somewhat unreliable narrator - and also because it feels more charged with a sixties-anticipatory energy (being written right before Kesey went off on his Merry Prankster binge) whereas the movie is more timeless, which works too in its own way.