It’s always difficult to decide on a golden age for cinema but the 1970's saw the emergence of a new kind of American film. Behind this revolution was the cynicism and mistrust towards authority which pervaded American culture at the time.
The 1960's was a cultural revolution in many parts of society including music, poetry, literature, race, and sex but it wasn’t until the 70s when film caught up. The 60s were all about the hippy movement, about feeling good, however it ended with the Manson Family murders, the Vietnam War, and a couple of years later, Watergate. People came out of the 60s feeling disillusioned and distrustful. people weren't interested in overblown studio pictures like Cleopatra and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Audiences were in the mood films that reflected the pessimism of the times. Throughout the decade, movies like Taxi Driver, Apocalypse Now, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, acted as echo chambers for the public's disillusionment and angst.
In the early 70’s invigorating directors breaking out, such as Francis Ford Coppola, Sidney Lumet, and Martin Scorsese for example offered an often stark but stylish selection of films. Likewise a group of exceptionally promising actors like Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep and Harvey Keitel would begin paving a way to replace the more atypical Hollywood golden stars like John Wayne and Paul Newman. They would continue along the that actors like Marlon Brando and James Dean and had begun. The method approach would become far more common through this era and firmly establish an edgy and daring approach that aspiring actors would take.
The films were not pumped out by studios looking to make a quick buck. Apocalypse Now, Chinatown and Taxi Driver were labours affairs. In Apocalypse Now, both Martin Sheen and Francis Ford Coppola almost died during the making. George Lucas had a heart attack from the filming of Star Wars. Filmmakers suffered for their art. The writer of Taxi Driver, Paul Schrader, wrote the screenplay when he had broke up with his wife and had gone broke and was living in his car.
You can look at a whole host of challenging, dark and powerful films of the era, from big budget to low-budget, films like Clockwork Orange, Marathon Man, Scipio, the beautifully raw and visceral, Badlands. Likewise when you see a film like All The Presidents Men, it showed that film-makers weren’t shying away from displaying the dark side of the States, something that was considered blasphemy in the post-war era when the country was still riding high on Second World War patriotism. They were dealing with the here and now, not allowing wounds to heal over first.
There are a lot of things which led to the arrival of New Hollywood in the 70's. The movement had a confluence of influences ranging from cinema around the world and harkening back to the days of Old-Hollywood. While the past was a source of inspiration, 70s cinema was really a rebellion of the films and the times that had come before it.
Jeridoo Productions' own Blog about our Productions, Projects and Film- and Movie-related News.