Top Ten Movies: 1960

1960 Psycho

Much to my many failed attempts, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on this site. A year-and-a-half as a matter of fact. It’s safe to assume that Waterfront Cinema was beginning to look like quite the drought (and here’s hoping that it continues to rain for the one that actually matters in California). So I thought it would be interesting to develop a project, one inspired by a blog page I frequent. Robert Horton’s “The Crop Duster,” which is a collection of beautifully written reviews by the Seattle-based film critic who has a knack for wit to compliment his ingenious sense of film analysis. And just like his “Year by Year Best Movies” list, this one will be a categorization of films from a given year that have left the biggest impression in my viewing experience. Of course, it’s all subjective and you can take it anyway you’d like, but I always find myself attracted to lists. I feel like the need to create order is something innate in us all, like cleaning up a cluttered room. In the end, we might realize that the carpet is a different color than what we had originally imagined, or that an object we had given up for lost was actually stashed away amidst the mess. In other words, making lists can reveal a little bit more about us than what we originally thought composed our taste and outlooks. That and this project is one heck of a way to prevent getting rusty. Write. Write. Write!

So I’ll start off with the year 1960. Seminal in its transition from an older mode of filmmaking into one of complete freedom and experimentation. This is the decade where the “Waves” flourished (i.e The Japanese New Wave, the Czech New Wave, and of course, the French New Wave already kicking it off the year before). The studio system was beginning to collapse. And yet, my number one pick comes from a master of the craft who thrived under studio discipline. Psycho is as honed a genre piece as you can get; perfected through the expertise of artists and technicians taught, where else, but the on blood, sweat, and tears of the backlots in Hollywood. Still, Psycho is different. The shift in protagonists midway through the plot, the dark and disturbing psychological subject it chooses to portray, and of course, that infamous shower scene, are characteristics that would have been unheard of in the movies just a couple of years before. You can even compare Rebecca, Hitchcock’s first film in Hollywood, with this one and see how far movies had truly come. So here it is, solidly cemented as my number one spot.

1. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock)
2. L’Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni)
3. Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard)
4. La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini)
5. Rocco and his Brothers (Luchino Visconti)
6. Shoot the Piano Player (Francois Truffaut)
7. Peeping Tom (Michael Powell)
8. The Apartment (Billy Wilder)
9. Wild River (Elia Kazan)
10. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Karel Reisz)

A couple of Italian landmarks at the top challenging those brazen and restless French directors catching their first wind (this was also the year of the wonderful Les Bonnes Femmes and Zazie Dans Le Métro). And as assured as I am that Rocco and his Brother is one of my absolute favorite films – of all time, so the saying goes – there it sits at number five.

Those that were close but didn’t quite make the cut include the kinetic Cruel Story of Youth and the not-so-kinetic When A Woman Ascends the Stairs. Strong turns by bonafide masters (Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well, Ozu’s Late Spring, and Bergman’s The Virgin Spring) and Purple Noon, adapted from a Highsmith staple that I believe holds up even better than Minghella’s very good 1999 film version.

Below that tier are two Robert Mitchum vehicles (Minnelli’s Home from the Hill and Zinnemann’s The Sundowners) that prove that the studios still had it in them (See The Apartment and Wild River). And then there’s Spartacus, which apart from being very entertaining, also made for one hell of a funny Pepsi commercial.

Next week (I sound like an old episodic show) will be the year 1991. Think again before taking a bite of those fava beans and nice chianti.

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6 thoughts on “Top Ten Movies: 1960

  1. You may know this, but you mentioned the Czech New Wave, and though he is of course a deeply British filmmaker, Karel Reisz is actually Czech and fled to England as a child on the eve of WWII as one of those saved by Nicholas Winton in the “Kindertransport.” His parents were subsequently killed in Auschwitz. I always wonder, despite the fact his films are so thoroughly British in style and temperament, what impact this might have had on his work.

    Of course, a very interesting list, well rendered, though I, of course, would have personally put The Innocents at #1, not tired for tenth.

  2. I didn’t know that at all about Reisz. It’ll be interesting to go back and watch his films with that in mind now. And yes, my original source for The Innocents was misleading. 1961 for sure. But it’s nice and cozy here for the moment being.

  3. If you’re “into” Reisz, it’s important to see LOVES OF ISADORA, which is a compendium of all of his virtues and vices in one place (the same can probably said about centerpiece performance by Vanessa Redgrave). Unfortunately, there are NO authentic versions of the film: I have two from TV which are about as close to a proper version of the 138 minute cut you can get (minus trims for TV). In the 80’s, Reisz recut it and expanded some. That version is a mess with scenes oddly truncated and meaningless bits extended. Music is changed, and some of the cuts are jarring. Then, there’s the version that came out in the UK, which is a version of the 138 minute version… but is missing scenes in the TV version! Oh well.

    • I do remember you mentioning the film before somewhere on Facebook. I read up on it afterward and immediately wanted to watch it. That’s when I found out how hard it was to find a good copy.

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