The eighteenth chapter in "32 Days of Movies", an audiovisual tour through 366 films
(2015 update: included Vimeo embed after the jump)
Shadow of '68
For four chapters, the energy of the sixties built and built, until yesterday it exploded, the sort of explosion that only builds upon itself, growing larger and larger. Today, in the chapter representing 1968 - 1969, we might expect to find its climax. After all, the whole world was in the throes of uprising, revolution, war, changing consciousness, rebellion - from the Tet to May '68 in Paris to the Prague Spring (and subsquent repression) to Chicago to...well, you all know the litany.
But on this screen today you'll find few Molotov cocktails, little long hair, no drugs. There'll be plenty counterculture tomorrow, in the last sixties entry, but today's chapter embodies cool restraint, dark intensity, and collected contemplation. Several scenes feature suited squares acting as if the whole world isn't falling down around them. This is not the surface tumult we are all familiar with, but rather its shadow, in several senses.
First of all, these clips represent a world overshadowed by the major events of the day, but no less a part of reality. Yet the selections also give a deeper sense of the malaise, uncertainty, and darkness underlying the youthful revolt - reminding us that it wasn't limited to one generation and may even have had its roots in the war of two decades earlier (if not even further back in history, as the unflappable K Clark reminds us). These moments mix modern existentialism with classical grandeur, radical style and extreme violence with familiar genre settings, and the heightened mood of the times with a very adult sense of restraint and proportion. This is the calm in the center of the storm, though as it turns out it isn't very calm at all.
"Once more upon the water, and the waves bound beneath me, as a steed that knows his rider! Welcome be their roar, swift be their guidance, where soe'er they lead..."
NSFW (possibly): violence 4:42 - 5:17
While not quite a spoiler, at 4:12 - 4:45 there is an important emotional/psychological moment which you may prefer to see in context. The "spoiler" arrives after the title, so you can start watching and then decide if you want to skip ahead instead.
I have covered today's films here and here.